After years of going through physical therapy and numerous surgeries, Sophia Gigante, 19, has managed to overcome her own physical limitations and wants to help others do the same.
Gigante, a personal trainer from the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon, received her National Council on Strength and Fitness certification in April 2017. Up until five years ago, when she began going to the gym, Gigante didn’t realize the things her body was capable of doing.
She was born with hypotonia, or low muscle tone, which affected her strength and endurance, and required leg braces to help her walk. This, coupled with an additional diagnosis of hydrocephalus, a condition that makes fluid collect in the brain and can cause seizures, made physical activity extremely difficult.
Gigante explained that growing up with such a diagnosis, she had to have four surgeries to help relieve pressure the excess fluid was causing on her brain.
“That was a big part of my life, and the reason I couldn’t do a lot of things,” Gigante told the Review. “It just slowed me down.”
After the seizures had finally subsided during her freshman year of high school, Gigante started exercising and visiting the gym as an overall means of improving her health. “I just [wanted] to go to the gym like any other freshman in high school,” she said. “I just wanted to go on the treadmill [and] lose some weight.”
Gigante said that she initially didn’t think working out was going to be something she liked.
But once she started, she was hooked, and saw herself growing stronger as she continued to exercise.
“I started building up all this strength I didn’t know I had,” she said.
Gigante explained that for her, it’s not just about getting a “good body,” but since she was once physically incapable of working out, now, she doesn’t want to stop.
As she continued to exercise, she became the person other people at the gym would go to for advice.
“I was always helping people,” she said.
Gigante now works as a personal trainer at her gym in Yonkers and at the Tuckahoe Community Center. The NCSF certificate also qualified her to teach boot camp classes, which she holds both at her gym and in Tuckahoe.
“I like teaching because I was once somebody that didn’t know what to do [at the gym],” she said.
Her boot camp classes involve 45-second circuits of different activities based on each person’s physical abilities.
“[Sophia is] just an unbelievable trainer,” said Irene Gizzo, of Fleetwood. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Gigante talks about expanding her business, and eventually wants to open up her own gym, and also obtain a degree in physical therapy.
“I’ve been starting to work with people with special needs and I really like it because I feel like I can sympathize with them,” she said.
Gigante hopes to be able to help people realize that while the gym can be intimidating, it’s also quite rewarding.
Karen Degouveia, of Fleetwood, explained that before she started going to Gigante’s boot camp classes in Tuckahoe, she had never worked out before. “[Sophia] is aware of individual limitations and works with [them],” she said. “She’s amazing.”
While teaching is a big part of her life, Gigante is also in her sophomore year at Manhattan College where she studies biological and allied health sciences. “I just want to show people that no matter what, you can work out,” she said.