Terri Reiff

Workin' It!

Terri-Reiffby Hilary Kraus
Photography by Anne, Inc. – Sloan Bragg

It’s only fitting that Terri Reiff manages a fitness center called Powerhouse Gym Family Facility, because among the best words to describe her, “powerhouse” is perfect. Her energy level is off the charts, her dedication to health and fitness is enviable and her devotion to her job is of the highest standard.

“I only work about 45 hours a week. Nothing like I used to,” said Terri, who has been the managing partner at the Bluffton gym (across from Moss Creek) since it opened in January 2010. “And, I work Monday through Friday.” The cutback refers to Terri’s many years in the fitness business, where sleeping in her office at a gym was not out of the ordinary. It also comes from a voice inside her head that reminds her to allow herself “me time,” an important lesson she learned after being treated for breast cancer 17 years ago.
 But is wasn’t always cardio and weight training for this 5-foot, 3-inch, 120-pound dynamo from Kentucky.

Life as an overachiever dates back to construction work, where Terri learned how to operate excavating equipment in order to better herself financially. “I remember putting my kid in the front seat of a U-Haul, in a car seat, and putting my car behind the U- Haul and moving to Pensacola (Fla.), where I didn’t know a soul except the guy who hired me,” Terri said. That was in 1986, when Terri took a business administrative job with a company that was building high-rise condominiums.

 “I was always fascinated with what was going on out there (in the field). I remember one day I wanted to see if I could drive a backhoe,” she said. Soon after, her boss gave her the opportunity to make more money as a machine operator.
 Terri also met her husband in Pensacola. His job as an executive with PepsiCo led the couple from Pensacola to Tampa to Boston to Bangor, Maine. “What the heck are you going to do in Bangor, Maine?” Terri said she remembers asking herself. “I had to find something I was passionate about. And that’s how I got involved in fitness.” Terri first taught classes at the YMCA in Bangor, which led her to becoming a personal trainer and eventually to running the Y.

When the family relocated to Atlanta, Terri started going to Ladies Workout Express. True to form, Terri was running one of the franchise gyms before too long, where she also did counseling and taught nutrition. “I remember coming home one day and telling my husband, ‘I’m buying a gym,’ ” she said. Turns out, Terri eventually bought three Ladies Workout Express gyms in Duluth and Alpharetta, Ga., which proved financially successful.

Life took a terrible turn in April 1997 when Terri found a small lump in her breast while doing a monthly self examine. “You need to do them because that’s what saved my life,” she said. “I had a mammogram six weeks before, and they didn’t find anything.” The diagnosis was breast cancer, which led to a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Although she took a year off from work, her fitness regimen included running and working out up until her third chemotherapy session. She also made the decision to sell her gyms. “I said to myself, ‘I am not going back into the business. I’m just not doing it.’”

But the allure of island living and a great business opportunity pulled her back in years later. “A friend of mine, Von Hardin, asked me, ‘How would you like to go to Hilton Head and look at a gym?’ I said, ‘Where’s Hilton Head.’ ” After her stay at a beachfront hotel during a time of year the weather was a perfect 80 degrees, Terri’s decision was easy. She gave the owner of Powerhouse Gym a six-month commitment. That was four years ago.

Today, the profitable gym has expanded from the original 8,000 square feet to 17,000. Three pink CybexTM treadmills, to recognize breast cancer awareness, are among the many machines at the gym. Every October, Cybex donates money in Terri’s honor based on the number of miles compiled on the machines. Although Terri claims she’d scaled back her hours, she’s typically found at the gym overseeing her staff.

“She (Terri) connects with her employees on a personal level not just in the workplace. She legitimately cares about people,” said Christel Inacker, sales and marketing manager at Powerhouse Gym. “She’s the best boss I’ve ever had.”

Up Close:

Son Chris Hart, 37, lives in Cumming, Ga.; daughter Ashley Reiff, 25, lives in Dunwoody, Ga.

What is your usual workout regimen?

 “I work out three days a week with my trainer, Chris Hobbs. We do 45 minutes of weight training and 15 minutes of stretching. Four days a week, I do 30 minutes of cardio and elliptical. I usually take Saturday and Sunday off.

What is your typical daily diet? “Egg whites and oatmeal in the morning. Protein shakes at 9 and 11 a.m., a salad at 1 or 2 p.m. and dinner at night.”

What are your downfalls? “I love my wine and I like Mexican food. But come Monday, I’m back on it.”

What are food tips for women, especially when they reach a certain age? 
“It’s very important to eat enough protein. . . chicken, fish, tuna, good fat like avocados. And eat ‘free food,’ broccoli, kale, cauliflower, salad."