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Lea Thornton-Allen : One Life, One Heart, One Soul

story by Katrice Williams    photos by Tonya Perry
Lea Thornton-Allen is determined to reflect the heart and soul of a champion. Perhaps that wasn’t always the case, but it sure is the way she lives her life today.
Lea has faced much adversity in her life. Although, if you didn’t know her, you would never be able to tell.  But, this determined young lady took all things ‘wrong’ in her life and turned them into something right. For that reason alone, her journey to entrepreneurship is nothing short of amazing.
At one point in her life, Lea weighed over 300 pounds. She decided to take a weight-loss journey, one that would take her down many roads and open many doors. Although it was a challenging adventure, this young lady embraced it all. Through blood, sweat and tears, she conquered that demon, losing over 130 pounds.
After making the decision to work towards her fitness goals and to surround herself with several caring, encouraging and motivating people, over time, Lea realized that losing weight would help her gain a healthy, long life. She wanted to inspire others to do the same.
Through her fitness journey, Lea knew the importance of a personal trainer.  She aspired to one day acquire her personal training certification and help others as she had been helped along the way. And, that she did. She is now the owner of One Life Personal Training.
The inspiration behind the business’ name is near and dear to Lea’s heart, as it serves as a memorial to her brother, Joshua Jackson Allen, who passed away as the result of a traffic accident. His signature line for quite some time was “Helping people: One Life, One Heart, One Soul at a Time.” Lea is proud that Joshua’s legacy lives on through her business.
“My brother is a very big part of my life today. I wanted him to be a part of the business. I wanted to celebrate him by honoring him in that way,” she said. Lea understands how precious life truly is, and she believes that no one should ever take their health for granted.
“People’s health is so serious; I can instill a little fire within them to enjoy working out for their health…for their well-being. We only have one life; together we can make it a healthy one,” Lea stated.
Lea opened her business over two years ago with the desire to help people accomplish their health-related goals, including those ‘who may be a bit intimidated to go to the gym.’ Lea offers one-on-one personal training in a relaxed setting. She uses an array of different fitness equipment that challenges her client’s potential.
“People think personal trainers are buff, cut and chiseled. I’m a real person; I still have work to do on myself. What I really enjoy is giving them the hope that where they are now is not where they have to stay. I don’t promote weight loss, because it’s all about being healthy,” she said.
Lea understands that positive change and transformation takes time. It is a process that requires patience and endurance; there is no microwave effect. She remembers a client who did not have the strength to walk very far and little hope that things could change.  Lea showed her that just by adding a few additional steps each day to her work out, her life would change. Lea remembers telling her, “Yes, you can do it, even if I have to hold your hand.”
Some clients feel that they cannot do a squat or push-up. Lea starts them on modified versions of those exercises. Over time, they realize that they not only gain strength, but also courage as they begin to do the regular forms of the exercises. “We strengthen those parts of the body where they can progress. What sets my soul on fire is showing someone, who thinks that they can’t do it, that ‘yes, you can do it,”’ Lea said.
A client, who suffered from balance issues and repetitive falls, decided to train with Lea. Lea used a step-up device every session in addition to her regular workout. “She got stronger and stronger and stronger. That’s the transformation I like to see,” she said, “You have to coach a client to trust their body.”
Another client had not sat on a floor for years after knee surgery.  She was afraid she would be unable to get up. Using some of her equipment for assistance, Lea devised a workout plan that allowed the client to continuously practice sitting on the floor and getting back up again. The client, who never thought she could do that, was absolutely elated.
Lea maintains an undeniable drive and determination. She is motivated to help others reach their health-related goals, and she is happy to share her own story and talents with other people who may benefit. She knows that clients appreciate a ‘real person’ to draw strength from; helping people is her passion.
“Some people out there know way more about working out than I do, but they don’t have that personal connection with people. God gives us gifts, and I think He gave me the gift to help other people, not just in this way, but in life. At 300 pounds and a prisoner in my own body, someone told me, ‘you have so much to offer people.’ Throughout my whole weight loss process, working out was the daily thing that helped me become healthier,” Lea commented.
One Life Personal Training welcomes a diverse array of clients, whether young children or senior citizens. Lea feels that the path to fitness is not established by a cookie-cutter philosophy, as she has no ‘typical client.’
Lea has grown quite fond of one of her clients, an eleven-year-old boy, who desired to work on his fitness needs to prepare for recreational football. “He is now playing middle school football. I recently got to see him play…what a thrill. He reminds me a lot of myself as a kid; that is one of our special connections,” she said.
Lea establishes a workout plan that works for the individual’s fitness goals, one specifically developed with their needs in mind. “I just tailor my workouts based on what the client’s needs are to meet their goals; some want to tone; some want weight loss,” she said. Some clients may even choose to come in small groups to work out together, which is completely acceptable.
Lea is very thankful for how her business has grown. As a true entrepreneur, she also has great aspirations for the future. Lea plans to welcome a new trainer on board soon. And, a long-term goal is to get a new studio. Though her current studio has ‘everything that’s needed, Lea wants to make sure she can accommodate the expected growth.
Lea has a somewhat new and improved personal perspective on life. As she loves what she does, she also found that she needs to take time to reflect on what she diligently strives to help her clients with—overall health. Lea had begun to over-commit to her endeavors; she lost some balance. She found that she needed to take a step back and re-evaluate things. She is very aware of scheduling demands and is driven to do what works best for her clients; however, she also regards what is realistic for her as well.
“I wasn’t balancing things well. Now I’m refocusing and trying to devote time to things that add value to life.  It’s one step at a time,” she said. She understands that there are certain challenges and responsibilities that come with being a business owner, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lea is presently the office manager for Independence Day Publishing (Effingham Magazine). She has held this position for nearly eight years, under the mentorship of Julie Hales. Julie has provided advice and support to Lea on this journey, always there to help with ‘the business side of things.’ Lea is also very thankful for Julie’s flexibility with her hours and overall assistance as she has worked towards ‘her balance.’
In her spare time, Lea enjoys being active, whether walking or biking in her neighborhood. She loves gardening and takes pride in her yard. She appreciates all that nature has to offer.  And, she is a huge Clemson football fan.
“I like the simple things that God created, the sun…the wind. My spiritual connection with God is in the beauty of His creations…that is how I ‘feel’ God,” states Lea.
Lea Thornton-Allen certainly plans to make the most of her life while helping countless others do the same. After all, we are all only given one life, one heart and one soul.
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