After Suzanne Llano went through a divorce seven years ago, she could have just become another statistic.
After she moved from New York to South Florida as a spaghetti-and-meatball-loving Italian, she could have just been another cliche.
Instead, the 47-year-old single mother of two is living life to the fullest as a personal trainer, competitive bodybuilder, fitness model and business owner. How’s that for forging your own identity?
Llano owns and operates Hypertrophy-Fitness in Palm Beach, where she teams with her boyfriend, Greg Moormann, to provide a full range of services in coaching, fitness and nutrition.
“The divorce forced me to look inside myself and find my identity,” Llano said.
So she hit the gym. She knew soon enough that there was no going back to her old ways. Her new way of life offered rewards she had no interest in surrendering.
“You have to get control of yourself,” Llano said. “I got control of my fitness and my food and my family and my faith; all that together was pulled in as one. And I had a focus.’’
Her interest in bodybuilding turned serious six years ago. She has competed in Florida, as well as nationally and internationally.
“I love the look, the feel, the energy,” Llano said. “Now it’s just a lifestyle. Even in the offseason, I don’t gain the 10 pounds that most bodybuilders do before cutting it again. Now I compete in figure (competitions) and bikini. I just switched to bikini and finished first in a competition in Orlando.
“I like to compete at least four or five times a year, just to keep me on my game.”
When it comes to her clients, Llano gets her share of women who approach her and say, “I want to look like you.” But for the most part, she works with those looking to get back into shape, lose weight, change their eating habits or rehab from an injury. She listens to her clients’ wants and needs while offering proof of what total commitment can produce.
“When you’re 25 or 30, you really should be in shape,” Llano said. “But when you’ve had children, and you are getting a little older, you’re more of a rock star when you can stay in shape.”
Llano spent her final two years of college at South Florida, earned a degree in elementary education and elected to make Florida her home. After getting married, she taught school for 12 years while also spending time as a stay-at-home mom.
While she had always been physically active and in decent shape, she didn’t necessarily pay attention to what she ate. Once Llano reached the age of 40, she knew that no amount of exercise was going to allow her to stay fit if she didn’t change her diet.
"Most people can find six hours a week to work out,” Llano said, “but they also need the guidance when it comes to nutrition. They need to know how to prepare food, how to eat out. Watch the sugar; watch the salt. That’s how your body really transforms.
“I’ve seen the same people working out in the gym for the last 10 years. They do work hard, but there’s no transformation in their body.”
Llano received her ISSA certification as a fitness trainer in 2014. She has followed that up with certifications in fitness nutrition, group fitness and sports nutrition. She has no plans to stop adding to her areas of expertise.
“I like to study; I like to learn,” Llano said. “Especially when it comes to fitness. I don’t like the down time. I like to learn because it helps my business, it helps me, it helps my family.’’
Llano has made it a point to try to set a good example for her children when it comes to exercise and nutrition. (“They won’t see me eating Doritos,” she said.) Her daughter, Brooke, is a CrossFit athlete, and her son, Hunter, is a wrestler and weightlifter.
“It’s not a sedentary household,” Llano said.
“I thought about going back to school to get my Masters, but the deadlines and the other pressures kind of just intimidated me,” Llano said. “I just wasn’t ready. With ISSA, I can take my books anywhere.
“I can call them anytime if I don’t understand something, and they will explain it to me. And they’re really flexible with the timing and will give you an extension if you’re coming up to your maximum time. So I don’t feel the pressure to get things done within my [busy] schedule. You don’t have that stress; you can live your life with that flexibility.”
While some would suggest that Llano’s personal and professional success has afforded her the opportunity to slow down, her hard-driving approach to life leaves her thinking just the opposite, especially when it comes to her own body.
“Avoiding injury is a big thing. I play tennis and I bike and I run. I don’t want to overtrain. You definitely have to get your rest in. But it’s a hard balance. It’s hard for me to slow down, but your body needs to heel.”
So she fights the urge to go for a bike ride when she finds herself with some down time. Or to play a couple of sets of tennis. All the while, there’s the anticipation of getting back into the gym for the next workout.
“It’s like my happy hour,” Llano said.