Time for a Change


Published:

Crossfit trainer Emily Beard.

The new year is always the best time to start fresh and begin new and healthier ways of living. These professionals make it their business to keep us southerners in shape both mentally and physically.

 

Claudia Deen on an early morning rum.

Running with Claudia Deen

After walking away from a promising career in advertising, Claudia Deen has reinvented herself as a self-made health and fitness guru, and she wants to inspire you to make healthier choices in the new year.

Even as a 24-year-old graduate student, Claudia Deen couldn’t avoid the dreaded “freshman 15” when she left her native Venezuela to study at Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010.

“I had access to all these things when I moved here, things I never had access to in Venezuela,” Deen recalls. “I could go to Kroger and get all these snacks and eat whatever I wanted.”

After gaining 16 pounds – a significant amount for her petite frame – and experiencing frequent skin breakouts, she decided it was time to dump the junk food. Almost two years ago, she took the next step and adopted a plant-based diet. When she cut out dairy, the breakouts stopped, and she believes leaving behind meat has helped reduce the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, which she was diagnosed with in her early 20s.

And despite her concerns that moving to a mostly vegan diet – if you’ve connected the dots from Deen to her famous butter-loving mother-in-law, you’ll understand why it’s only *mostly* vegan – she didn’t experience any setbacks to her distance-running training. In fact, she has completed five marathons since making the move away from meat, and she’s training for another one in Jacksonville in December.

“It hasn’t had any negative effect,” Deen says. “It’s been all positive. I just feel good.”

Deen feels so good about the life changes she has made that she’s carved out a career helping others do the same. When she married celebrity chef Bobby Deen in 2013 and left her advertising career to return to Savannah, she was looking for something she was passionate about that would offer flexibility to travel as much as she wished.

She started by earning a health coaching certification and has steadily added to her repertoire from there, becoming certified to teach indoor cycling and yoga sculpt and earning her USATF certification as a running coach. Now she’s working on another certification to teach TRX suspension weight training.

“One thing led to the other,” Deen says, “and now that’s what I do.”

It’s not all she does. She’s also a brand ambassador for Lululemon, representing the athletic apparel brand in the community and leading “Sweat Club” sessions, and she has a blog – The Trendy Smoothie – that she uses to inspire others to take care of themselves by posting recipes, fitness tips, and other keys to a healthy lifestyle.

Put it all together, and you’ve got a health coach – someone who helps clients identify their health and wellness challenges and develop a plan to address them, whether those struggles are losing weight, reducing stress, eating better, exercising more, or some combination of them all.

Of course, Deen has to maintain her credibility, and one look at her website or blog bears that out. She’s a brown belt in karate, has completed 11 marathons, 13 half marathons, and two 70.3-mile Ironman triathlons.

And she’s not done yet. Her goal is to complete a marathon in each of the 50 states, and she will be one-fifth of the way there when she adds Florida to the list in December.

As for what’s next for the small health and fitness empire she’s building in Savannah? You’ll have to wait and see.

“I have some things in mind, but they’re still very raw,” Deen says, “not ready to be shared with the world.”

 

Weight trainer Sam Carter

Weight Lifting with Sam Carter

Sam Carter has one question before he invites a young athlete into his gym, “Do you want to change your life?” At 27:17, the Proverbial adage that as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another transcends the weight room to develop the total person.

Don’t bother looking for information about 27:17 online. You won’t even find evidence it exists. No social media presence to speak of.

And even if you know the gym is tucked inside the back of the Victor B. Jenkins Memorial Boys Club, good luck picking the right unmarked door that leads to the space where Sam Carter lays down his sermon.

Carter isn't technically a preacher, but when he’s within these walls – which are adorned with articles of clothing representing dozens of people who have molded him into the man he is – he plays the part for his willing congregation, sprinkling nuggets of wit and wisdom into his intense motivational rants.

Even the gym’s name, 27:17, comes from a verse in Proverbs – “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” – that Carter regularly repeats.

Carter is a mountain of a man whose chiseled physique would be more intimidating if not for his disarming smile and relentless positivity. Here in the gym, he is in his element.

“If you’re good at something and you love it, but you don’t get paid, that’s called a hobby. If you’re good at something and you get paid to do it, but you don’t love it, that’s called a job,” Carter says. “But if you love something, you’re good at it, and you get paid to do it – that’s a passion.”

The story of how Carter uncovered that passion begins when he graduated from Savannah High School and enlisted in the Marines Corps Reserve while attending Savannah State University on a baseball scholarship.

A devastating knee injury ended his baseball and military careers, but it set him on a path toward his passion. He enrolled at Armstrong State University to earn his teaching certification and bumped into one of his former coaches, who set things in motion for Carter to land a job teaching at Riley Learning Center and coaching at Savannah High.

Carter immediately implemented a training plan that went beyond lifting weights, incorporating the principles of his Marine Corps training.

“We got real good, real fast,” Carter recalls. “We were just demolishing people.”

Two years later, Carter landed his first paying client as a personal trainer, and his passion was fully formed. Soon after, he left his teaching job to become a full-time trainer. Carter landed a part-time job at Savannah College of Art and Design, overseeing the newly-opened Club SCAD.

Almost no one came to the gym. Carter thought pumping iron with a former Marine might not be a good fit with a tony art school.

Then Carter’s former supervisor at Riley, Jean Hayes, invited the coach to a Bible study. Afterwards, Hayes introduced Carter to Hall of Fame basketball player Cazzie Russell, then SCAD’s men’s basketball coach, and told Russell in no uncertain terms that he needed to send his team to Club SCAD to train.

When the team showed up the next day, Carter put them through the same paces he used to whip his high school players into shape. It didn’t go over well, and Carter confided in a friend that he feared he would lose his job.

“He asked me, ‘Do you believe in the training that you do?,’ and I told him I did,” Carter recalls. “And he said, ‘Then if they fire you, let them fire you.’ The next day we didn’t go outside and run with 25-pound plates, we went outside with 45s. If they fire me, let them fire me.”

A month later, SCAD offered Carter a full-time contract, and he’s still there 16 years later.

While 27:17 has virtually no online profile, Carter himself has garnered a measure of fame, thanks in large part to his professional relationship and friendship with Savannah’s famed Deen family. Carter started training celebrity chef Bobby Deen in 2002, beginning a long relationship that has landed Carter guest spots on various television shows ranging from the Deens’ shows on Food Network to ABC’s “The Chew.”

Carter acknowledges such opportunities lend him credibility, but he really doesn’t need it. The list of people he has trained over the years includes numerous professional and high-level collegiate athletes, almost all of whom stay in touch with Carter and get back in the gym with him when they’re in town.

Still, there’s a reason he keeps such a low profile for 27:17. It’s not for everyone.

“God will send the right people my way,” Carter says.

Carter looks for a specific type of athlete – one who has potential they need help unlocking and the humility, discipline and work ethic required to unlock it. He relies on his network of contacts to connect him to potential clients, then makes his pitch.

“Do you want to change your life?”

“I introduce myself to them and at first their parents have no clue, they think it’s weird,” Carter says. “They’re skeptical at first. They think I want something. I don’t want anything. I just want to help you get better.”

That extends beyond the gym, the court, or the field. When student-athletes come to 27:17 each afternoon, they spend an hour in a small classroom space upstairs working on homework before joining Carter in the gym for their training.

“I don’t want to be a strength coach,” Carter says. “I want to help people change their lives. If you don’t want to be better, then I don’t work.”

To read the full article, subscribe now or pick up the January/February issue of South Magazine.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

South's Greatest Chefs 2018

This is the tastiest contest of the year! Nominate now!

South's Greatest Kids 2018

Nominate your kid for the cutest contest of the year!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • Camp Moon River at Savannah Country Day School

    May 29, 2018
    8:30 AM - 4:30 PM @ Savannah Country Day School

    An Overnight Experience in A Day Camp Package  Camp Moon River is a new full-day, traditional-style day camp at Savannah Country Day School,...

  • #art912, Grounded

    Mar 30, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums will feature a commissioned work titled Grounded by Adolfo Alvarado, a Savannah-based artist whose work incorporates cal­ligraphic...

  • Summer Reading Program

    Jun 01, 2018
    10:00 AM - 6:00 PM @ Live Oak Public Libraries

    Be a reading rockstar! Enjoy great books, participate in exciting activities and earn prizes. Have fun reading and learning all summer long! Check...

  • Turtle Talks

    May 16, 2018
    10:15 AM - 10:15 AM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    During Turtle Talks, you’ll learn about anatomy and natural adaptations of sea turtles, discuss Tybee’s Sea Turtle Project conservation...

  • Tybee South Beach Walks

    May 16, 2018
    2:00 PM - 3:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    South beach walks depart from the science center where you’ll join a knowledgeable marine science educator on a guided walk of Tybee’s south...

  • Tybee Marsh Treks

    May 16, 2018
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    On a marsh trek, you’ll enjoy a hands-on exploration of Georgia’s salt marsh, searching the mud for fiddler crabs, snails, and more. Learn...

  • To Catch a Thief

    Jul 21, 2018
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Cary Grant and Grace Kelly star as John Robie, a reformed jewel thief, and Frances Stevens, a rich young tourist and the target of a new cat...

  • Grateful Dead Presented by the Charlie Fog Band

    Jul 21, 2018
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    They're back! Let's sell out the house and clear out the beer cooler again! It's their third time taking over the Tybee Post Theater stage with...

  • Sportbike Demo and Track Day

    Jul 21, 2018
    All Day

    Yamaha of Savannah, Podium Motorsports Pirelli, and Lowcountry Sport Riders present the Yamaha Champions Riding School and Yamaha Sportbike Demo...

  • The Little Mermaid

    Jul 22, 2018
    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Lucas Theatre for the Arts

    Explore the beautiful underwater home of Ariel, a mermaid princess who longs to be on land. Ariel takes great risks to get her wish, but is it...

  • CLAY +

    Jul 14, 2018
    10:30 AM - 50:00 AM @ Toe River Arts Council Gallery

    This exciting exhibit will feature the works of Penland artist/potter Cynthia Bringle. Not to be confused with a retrospective look back,...

  • Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show- Hunter-Jumper

    Jul 24, 2018
    8:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Broyhill Equestrian Preserve

    Watch competitors complete the course in various Classic events! Divisions for all ages in this outdoor show adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Blowing Rock Tour of Homes

    Jul 27, 2018
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ St Mary of the Hill Episcopal Church

    This annual fundraiser opens the doors to 5 of Blowing Rock’s most special private homes to admire the special features and furnishings that have...

  • Symphony By The Lake

    Jul 27, 2018
    6:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Chetola Resort

    Experience a moving performance by the Symphony of the Mountains, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge landscape on the grass by Chetola Lake,...

  • Sue Langford returns

    Jul 28, 2018
    1:30 PM - 4:00 PM @ Marriott Riverfront Savannah

    Sue Langford returns to Savannah to sign her bestselling novels. The Marriott Riverfront hotel in Savannah Georgia is having authors from all over...

  • A Tribute to Legendary Songwriters

    Jul 28, 2018
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    It all starts with a song, and four Savannah songwriters will honor the legends that gave us some of our favorites. This one-of-a-kind concert...

  • Sphere of Influence: Glass Artists of Western North Carolina

    Aug 01, 2018
    11:00 AM - 40:00 AM @ Toe River Arts Council Gallery

    Sphere of Influence will visually document the global impact of WNC glass artists, and the research gathered from over 55 regional glass artists....

  • "The King"

    Aug 02, 2018
    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner Eugene Jarecki's new film takes the King's 1963 Rolls-Royce on a...

  • "The King"

    Aug 02, 2018
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, two-time Sundance Grand Jury winner Eugene Jarecki's new film takes the King's 1963 Rolls-Royce on a...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra -Swingin' Savannah River

The beautiful Westin Harbor Lawn was the perfect setting to enjoy the ultimate July 4th experience on the Savannah River including a patriotic concert with The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra.

JCB Mudrun 2018

As feet hit the wet mud, eyes were set on the trophies and hearts beat with adrenaline at this year’s 7th annual JCB Mud Fest. Nearly 1,500 participants showed up from around the country, making this the most successful event to date. All proceeds benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development. Participants endured a variety of new challenges, including fan favorites such as the JCB mud lake and the tire field.

Old Town Trolley's 25th Anniversary

Old Town Trolley celebrated 25 years of business!

Red, White & Blue Baseball Night

The Two Hundred Club, hosted by the Savannah Bananas, held a double header evening featuring an exhibition softball game between the local Firefighters & EMS versus Law Enforcement at Grayson Stadium.

2018 Savannah Mile

Hundreds of service members and their families joined with community neighbors and volunteers for this annual One-Mile Run yo support The 200 club of the Coastal Empire. Participants run North on Drayton Street for one mile to nd at the Finish Line on Broughton Street. The 200 club provides resources and financial support for families who have had a loved one killed or injured in the line of duty.

Lowcountry Annie Oakleys Charity Clay Tournament

The third annual Annie Oakley's Charity Clay Tournament and After Party took place on September 29. The event benefited the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children's Hospital in Savannah. The day began at 11:30 a.m. with the driven bird flurry contest. Later that afternoon, the shotgun start kicked off the 100-shot tournament. The after party that evening was open to non-shooters alike, where cocktails, drinks and hors d'oeuvres from Cotton & Rye were served.

Savannah Salutes Empower Health After Party

More than four hundred service members representing every branch of the military from all over the country congregated in Savannah to Savannah to provide no cost Health Care to thousands of Savannah residents as a part of the Empower Health Innovative Readiness Training program initiated by the Department of Defense. The Savannah Salute event was hosted on May 20 at the Savannah Civic Center to celebrate the success of the program and thank all involved.

5th Annual Nine Line Run for the Wounded 5k/10k

More than 1400 runners gathered at Grayson Stadium to participate in the 5th Annual Nine Line Run for the Wounded 5k/10k. The race raises money for the Nine Line Foundation to support veterans and their families.

Taste of Downtown Savannah

More than two thousand Savannah Chamber of Commerce members and community neighbors gathered in Johnson Square on May 17 for the highly anticipated, Taste of Downtown Savannah event. Guests enjoyed small bites and sips of favorite menu items served up by more than forty Chamber member restaurants along with live music by The Cicada Brothers and Wassaw Sound.

Empower Health Distinguished Visitor Event

A group of distinguished visitors from the Pentagon and White House joined several military members who were a part of the Empower Health Readiness Training Initiative to provide no cost healthcare to the Savannah community from May 10 -18. The event was hosted by Edgar's Proof and Provision at the DeSoto and guests enjoyed a casual evening of fellowship and fun.