Top trainers

Meet the city's best drill instructors and win a private session.


Adja Diarra

Age: 37

Where to find her:
 Teaching classes and training private clients at the 14th Street Y(344 E 14th St between First and Second Aves; 212-780-0800, Hour-long private session $60 (members only). E-mail
Specialties: Kettlebells, CrossFit and working with pregnant and postpartum clients
Her shtick: "I'm not doing this to make money. It's more about how you can share the knowledge, empower people, educate them. It's something I love. Every time I have a client do an exercise, they have to understand why they're doing it. If you know why you're doing it and you feel what I'm talking about, it's something you're likely to stick with."
Do this now: "Work out smarter, not harder. Say you're going to do squats. You can cut down on time if you hold a weight and do a bicep curl when you come up from the squat. Then add a shoulder press to that and you can't tell me lack of time is an excuse. [Laughs]"

The client: Jeanie Engelbach, 41, photo archivist and interior designer: "I've been through a series of trainers, and they never seemed to take the person they were working with into consideration—which is especially important with someone like me, who hates working out. Adja noticed things about me immediately—like where I tend to put on weight—and made things simple for me. She's so warm and so knowledgeable that you just trust her, and trust that she's doing the best thing for you."

Mention TONY and get two free one-hour personal training sessions when you sign up for a membership at the 14th Street Y.



David Simmons

Age: 43
Where to find him: Teaching classes and private clients at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Ave at 92nd St; 212-415-5500, Four sessions $308. E-mail him
Specialties: TRX training, kettlebells, functional training
His shtick: "I do functional training with my clients: developing core strength and stability, having people use their own body to emulate what they do in real life—climbing stairs, playing with their children, putting groceries away—and making those things easier. We set little goals so you can get a sense of accomplishment." 
Do this now: "Lift your chin, put your shoulders back, look to attain proper alignment. That changes everything."

The client: Claire Marx, "in my fifties," psychiatric social worker: "However many times I've seen David in three years of working together, I don't think we've ever had a session with the same set of exercises."


Lacey Stone

Age: 30 (right)
Where to find her: Teaching classes at Equinox ( and training with private clients in Manhattan ( Hour-long private session $175.
Specialties: Interval training, boot-camp-style drills, cardio, strength training and weight loss
Her shtick: "Training with me can change not just your fitness level but also your life. [Laughs] No, really. I keep on you. I push you out of your comfort zone. Once you succeed at that, you feel like everything's possible. Then you start going for it in your relationships and career. It's my mantra: Anything is possible. I'm trying to create a culture of people who are going for that in their lives."
Do this now: "If you're not getting results, change your routine. If you're doing a Spin class five days a week, add a boot-camp-style class or, say, running to your regimen. I work out all the time, and my body wasn't changing. I was like, What the hell? So I added running and I lost six pounds."

The client: Erin Crandall, 29, online fashion buyer: "I've been working out with Lacey for the past five years. She has more positive energy than a quarter of Manhattan put together. She is genuine—which in itself is amazing. And she genuinely wants every person she works out with to be successful at everything that they do. Her way of helping people toward that is through working out. I think that's why people stick with her for so long. You have to get to her Spin class 20 minutes before sign-up starts to get a spot. She has the most amazing following."

Try Stone's signature boot-camp-style class, TheBigGame, or take her Spin class, for free, at Equinox. E-mail


Jason Strout

Age: 32 (left)
Where to find him: Teaching classes and training private clients at Church Street Boxing Gym (25 Park Pl at Church St; 212-571-1333, Hour-long private session $100.
Specialties: Boxing and Muay Thai, for both professional fighters and regular people
His shtick: "I am not nice. [Laughs] And I focus on technique. There are tons of boxing teachers out there that have no idea what the hell they're doing. I pride myself on having clients who know what they're doing. Whether you're going to be in the ring or you're just doing it for fitness, you will have good technique. Also, I'll make you laugh. It has to be fun for both of us."
Do this now: "Make a game plan and stick to it. You have to have a goal."

The client: Chris Romulo, 35, professional Muay Thai and MMA fighter:"Jason's got an unorthodox style of teaching. He's a tough guy. He has this way about getting you to learn something: He'll drill it into you over and over and over again until you're like, 'All right, I got it.' Also, he sees a lot; he can always guide me. He's like my third eye." 


Brooke Siler

Age: 41 (right)
Where to find her: Teaching classes at her studio, re:AB Pilates (,training private clients and leading workshops around the world. Hour-long private session $150.
Specialty: Pilates
Her shtick: "I don't follow a formula. Pilates is a solid foundation, but I work with the body that's in front of me. The way I work has structure, but it's organic at the same time. It's not a routine with me. And I push!"
Do this now: "Breathe. When you use your breath you can intensify your workout and change every system in your body. How do you take a proper breath? Think of the rib cage as where the action is and expand spherically, 360 degrees, side to side and front to back. To practice, get into child's pose and put a pillow onto your stomach. That forces the breath to find its true passage."

The client: Leslie Lieber, 43, studying to be a Pilates teacher: "Working with Brooke is high-energy and hands-on, which isn't true with most Pilates teachers. She really gets in there and uses her hands. You really want to hate her after the first minute, but that passes: You get a total workout, kind of without even realizing it. I've been doing Pilates for 18 years. I've had a lot of teachers but never anyone as good as Brooke."



Toure Vakaramoko

Age: 34
Where to find him: Teaching classes and training with clients at the JCC in Manhattan(334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th St; 646-505-4444, Hour-long private session $85--$115. E-mail
Specialties: Boxing, running, jumping rope, basketball and football drills
His shtick: "I make people use their own body weight to work out. Jump rope, push-ups—things that are part of a boxing regimen. It's an old-school workout. Then we spar together. Women love it. They punch me and I don't punch them back. They get all their stress out. [Laughs] I was raised by my grandma, and she always said, 'You've got nothing to prove. Just keep improving yourself and make people around you better.' "
Do this now: "Something is better than nothing. If you only have 15 minutes, go to the gym anyway. No excuses!"

The client: Dava Schub, 37, associate executive director for programming at the JCC in Manhattan: "The first thing Toure said to me was, 'I'm here to make you, not to break you.' It took any fear out of being bossed around by a 295-pound heavyweight boxer. [Laughs] He uses the gym as our playground: He feels like the things in there are his toys that he gets to share. Even just with that framing, it makes me feel like it's someplace I want to be."


Cassandra Rigney

Age: 45
Where to find her: Teaching classes at Jivamukti (841 Broadway at 13th St, second floor; 212-353-0214, and training private clients( Hour-long private session $150.
Specialty: Jivamukti yoga
Her shtick: "I'm known for being tough. I keep you moving—I'm not one of those people who goes on and on talking while you hold a pose. That makes me want to stick a knife in my head. [Laughs] Some people are afraid to be challenged; in some ways I've found over the years that I'm more a therapist than anything. I can talk to anyone about anything—if you want to talk to me about the people you're dating, I'll tell you the girl's perspective."
Do this now: "If you're going to eat sweets, don't shove a candy bar in your mouth on the way to the subway—that way you're tricking yourself into thinking you're not really eating it. Instead, sit down and allow yourself to enjoy it and then move on."

The client: Tatina de Marinis, 26, actor: "Cassandra never lectures. Just through her own openhearted vulnerability and humility she provokes awakening and joy in her pupils. She inspires you through her grace, she hooks you with her humor, she watches you try and gently helps you. Her sequencing is masterful—-she'll take you from one pose to another in the most mind-blowing, dextrous way, and your body will respond. She is a master."