Kim Teri coaches client Michelle Powell of Bethesda. Credit: Photo by Lisa Helfert

Most of Kim Teri’s clients already know what to do in the gym.

They just want an extra set of eyes on them. 

“It’s all about accountability,” says Teri, 59, a certified personal trainer, co-owner of Teri Fitness and Kensington resident. “I always say that people pay for the second set. Most people can do something once, but many pay for me to say, ‘Let’s do that one more time.’ ” 

A former professional dancer (in classical, modern and jazz styles), Teri began coaching athletes in 1990. She used to compete on the professional sport aerobics circuit, becoming the women’s U.S. national champion in 1994 and finishing in fourth place at the world championships the following year.  

When she started as a full-time personal trainer a year later, most clients were high-end athletes. “Now I focus on people who want to feel better, want to feel comfortable on the floor with their grandkids, or want to run a 5K instead of a marathon,” says Teri, who works out of Irons Fitness in Bethesda. “It’s about functionality, because if you can’t get through your day, what good does it do to have big biceps?” 

While each client has a different goal, there are foundational components to every workout: good focus, consistent practice and a commitment to building  upon skills along the way, Teri says. More strength means more energy, and more energy means more confidence. 


“There are a lot of people who come in and say, ‘I could never do that,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, you can. Your body just doesn’t know how yet,’ ” she says. “My job is to help people realize they can do more than they think they can.” 

Teri also became a certified health coach just before the pandemic. She plans to spend about 40% of her time over the next year helping people come to terms with their changing metabolisms and offering education on how sleeping, eating habits and recreational choices affect cholesterol, blood pressure and joint discomfort. 

The nutrition coaching comes into play naturally when gym clients announce they want to lose 10 pounds. 


“It’s not going to happen because of the workout they do with me. It’s 80% about what they do outside the gym,” Teri says. “They could blow the whole thing in two minutes at Starbucks.” 

The “use it or lose it” axiom applies to the commitment we show to our bodies, Teri says. Especially as we age, it becomes more difficult to make results stick when combined with lackluster efforts. 

“Life is like a mudslide,” she says. “If you’re not holding on to something strong, you’re going down. The goal with fitness is to feel stronger today and feel better tomorrow.” 


In her own words

Her own routine

“I try to get in cardio three to four times a week, usually on a machine—spin bike or elliptical—and I do a strength workout every day, seven days a week. It all takes me between 30 to 45 minutes. I usually squeeze in a workout if somebody cancels, or if I have some time between sessions. I want to get back into group exercise because it’s motivating and social.”

Beyond the gym

“I love being outdoors. I live close to Rock Creek Park, so I like to take walks there. My daughter just moved to a new place in New York City, so we’ve been exploring her new neighborhood. Gardening is great, but I do it for a weekend, then leave it for three months.” 

Personal style

“I have teenagers as clients and a lady who’s 92, so being flexible is huge. Every person who walks into the gym has a different mindset, and I have to make their experience both in the gym and when they’re doing their ‘homework’—such as a few strength and stretching exercises in between sessions—as tailored as possible. Sometimes things change, based on how they’re feeling on a particular day. I’ll say, ‘I know we usually do this, but today let’s try something else instead.’ I change it up.” 


Building connections

“If I know you’re stressed because of what’s going on with your job or your family, we figure out how to keep making fitness work in your life, rather than just fitting it in on the side. If I know you’re tired, I’m not going to push you really hard, because you might get hurt and it won’t be useful.” 

Ebb and flow

“Anytime you have a new set of holidays or seasons, things morph. I’ve definitely been doing this long enough to see the waves, like the one in January that subsides when spring break happens, but it picks back up at the beginning of summer. I have a revolving door. People go out, then they come back in. I have more than 100 people who are in that revolving door at any one time.” 

This story appears in the March/April issue of Bethesda Magazine.