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The Strength for Life® Fitness Center

The Strength for Life® (SFL) Health and Fitness Center resides on the wide main corridor of the first floor of Eastworks, a 100-year-old mill building in Easthampton. Massachusetts.  Eastworks was revived from vacancy in the late 20th century and reborn as a center for artists, businesses, professional services, and spectacular top-floor residences. Just as Eastworks has regained its vitality, so do adults of all ages revitalize their lives by learning how to perform strength-building exercises safely and well at SFL.

From the main hallway of Eastworks, if you look through the windows of Strength for Life,® it appears to be a typical gym or athletic club.  There is a wide array of sturdy strength training machines, dumbbells, barbells, benches, cardiovascular machines, exercise balls, stretching mats, etc.  The trainees wear the usual gym garb—tee shirts, sweat pants, and sneakers—and they appear to be doing many of the same exercises you would see at any health club.




What Makes Strength for Life® Unique

In spite of external appearances, however, one feature distinguishes SFL from nearly all other gyms and health clubs—we teach everyone to regard and practice strength training as an essential form of healthcare. Each trainee undergoes an initial case history and physical examination to determine his or her beginning level of health and fitness.  Based upon information from this evaluation, we develop a

training program for that individual.  The trainee then completes at least six one-on-one training sessions before becoming eligible to train independently.   The major reasons for this thorough approach are as follows:

  1. Exercising safely and effectively is not easy.  There are many precautions and subtleties of vigorous exercise, especially strength training, that demand guidance, awareness, and experience, if we are to succeed.  Our initial training program introduces trainees to many essential concepts of strenuous exercise that most people never learn.
  2. As we age, our health histories become more complex; we develop new health conditions that must be considered in our personal exercise routines.  “Just do it,” is not exercise healthcare;  it is an invitation for injury.  Instead, we must all learn to “Do it with excellence.” Therefore, we endeavor to help every trainee learn how to do every exercise smoothly, gracefully, and with great concentration.
  3. In order to enjoy fully the many health benefits of strength training, we must continue to practice this art-of-movement skill for as long in life as possible.  Most people who start at other facilities give up after a few weeks or months because they never really develop an understanding of what strength training is and why they are doing it.  Those who do survive the first several months usually do not learn how to change their programs as they progress; so they eventually stop training as well.  Strength training is not a simple mechanical activity.  If performed poorly, strength exercises can cause serious injuries.  If performed well, the same exercises can make us incredibly healthy and vigorous.  At Strength for Life®, each trainee receives a compact-disc copy of our textbook for adult strength training,  Stronger After 40. Our purpose is to give everyone the opportunity to understand what they are trying to accomplish when they do strength-building exercises.
  4. We all need ongoing guidance in our training in order to make it enjoyable, exciting, and efficient for a lifetime.  Through our educational publications and staff support, we help each trainee learn how to strive continuously for better health and fitness.  To emphasize this point, we provide periodic physical re-evaluations and training reviews to help participants update their training plans as they attain higher levels of fitness.

History of Strength for Life®

The Strength for Life® program was developed by Dr. Josef Arnould in the early 1990s.  It was an extension of the Back to Work Rehabilitation program he developed in the 1980s to help injured workers recover and return to their jobs without reinjuring themselves.  He took many of the principles of evaluating and treating injured employees and applied them to a developmental strength-training program for adults.  The result is a comprehensive program that can be adjusted to the needs of almost any beginning trainee.  What this requires, first of all, is a thorough assessment of a candidate’s current health and fitness status.  If someone has had knee surgery, a hip replacement, or a previous heart attack, such factors must be considered in developing his or her training program.  He or she must be trained carefully and thoroughly in how to perform all exercises in a manner that will not aggravate any pre-existing conditions.  Considerations such as these inspired Dr. Arnould to create a system in which each beginning trainee starts at a relatively easy level of physical demand and then progresses to a level of challenge commensurate with his or her personal goals and capabilities.

How the Strength for Life® Program Works

The Strength for Life® program begins with an initial health and fitness evaluation.  Each trainee completes a written health history that is reviewed with Dr. Arnould during an oral interview.  At this first session, the trainee’s personal goals are discussed and a fitness examination is performed.  The exam includes not only standard vital signs, such as blood pressure, height, and weight, but also measurements of body fat percentage, waist circumference, chest expansion, and testing of strength in all major muscle groups.

This evaluation has three very important functions.  First, it is a guide for developing an appropriate initial training plan.  Second, muscle testing often reveals any underlying joint problems that must be considered in a training plan.  Third, these measurements establish a baseline of vital statistics that can be remeasured at the trainee’s subsequent training re-evaluations, the first of which usually occurs after three months.127 - Copy-003

After the initial evaluation, a Strength for Life® trainee typically completes six one-hour individual training sessions supervised by Dr. Arnould and/or one of his professional staff.  The trainee also receives a compact-disc copy of Dr. Arnould’s comprehensive strength training textbook, Stronger After 40, which was published first in 2005 and which contains detailed descriptions of every aspect of the Strength for Life® program.

In the six one-on-one training sessions, a trainee is introduced to the fundamentals of safe and effective strength training, such as: warming up, breathing properly, using correct body position and posture, setting up the equipment, and maintaining an accurate training plan and log.  At the completion of these six one-hour sessions, most trainees are capable of exercising independently with only general supervision, although always with the opportunity to ask for additional assistance.  Those who are not ready to train independently usually complete 2 to 6 additional one-to-one training sessions before reaching independent status.

After three months of training independently, trainees complete a re-evaluation session in which vital measurements are performed again for comparison with the initial evaluation.  Most trainees show significant decreases in body fat percentage and waist circumference as well as an increase in lean body mass.  Likewise, muscle testing almost always reveals significant strength gains in major muscle groups.  Based upon these improvements, trainees are instructed in how to increase the intensity and variety of their workout programs to reach even higher plateaus of health and fitness.  New exercises and training techniques are introduced and reviewed.

For Life

The educational process for every one of us at Strength for Life® never stops.  As we age, exercising consistently and intelligently every day becomes more and more important.  If we concentrate upon what we are feeling as we perform every repetition of every exercise, we become more and more attuned to our physical capabilities and well-being.  Through ongoing re-evaluations, updated training programs and nutritional advice, as well as supervision and encouragement, our SFL staff endeavors to inspire each trainee to continue training for as long in life as possible.  Striving to achieve strength for life is essential to realizing one’s maximal potential to interact positively with those for whom we care the most.

In summary, the Strength for Life® program is unique in many ways.  Our goal is to help each trainee learn and practice the art of strength training safely and effectively for better health throughout life.  We strive to create a supportive environment in which we can all experience the independence of personal exercise healthcare and the joy of feeling strong in every physical task of daily life.

Our Professional Staff

Amy Dawn Kotel, Personal Trainer, M.Ed


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Amy Dawn Kotel has been working and playing the fields of fitness, dance and education since the mid-1990s. She has taught fitness and movement to people of all ages and abilities. Her compassion and positive attitude comes from her experience recovering and thriving from her own injury and her passion to be part of the answer. She feels blessed to use her talents, humor, experience, and skill-set to best serve Trainees of Strength For Life.


Personal training certifications

  • Through both AFFA and Holyoke Community College

Other Certifications and specialties

TRX, Pilates, Water Aerobics, Group Exercise, and Myofascial Rolling Technique, Conscious Eating

K-12 Dance Teacher Certification through MA Department of Education

  • BA in Women Studies, Minor in Dance, SUNY New Paltz, NY

  • MA in Education, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA

Strength For Life

Strength For Life