Teacher eats her words in bet with student; enters bodybuilding competition
He's quitting smoking, she's bodybuilding
By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe
May 28, 2010 2:00 AM
EXETER ó In a pact based on friendship and respect, an Exeter Alternative School teacher will compete in her first bodybuilding contest on Saturday and one of her students will soon extinguish his last cigarette.
During a casual conversation, teacher Christina Leonatti mentioned to senior Cody Waldron that she'd always thought about bodybuilding but never pursued it.
"We were talking about how hard it is to quit smoking," Leonatti said. "I'd worked out before and always wanted to do it, but never had. I agreed to do it if he would quit smoking."
That was in January. Since then, Leonatti has been working out at the gym for two to three hours every day after school. She has a personal trainer and longtime friend Larry Scarlotta of Seacoast Sports Club, with locations in Portsmouth and Newmarket.
"I've been doing this for a long time, and she is one of my most rewarding clients," Scarlotta said. "One of my biggest frustrations with training people is that they don't want to do the work. But Christina does 90 percent of the stuff on her own. She does it to drive herself.
"I just hope (Waldron) follows through with his end of the bargain."
According to Leonatti, her bodybuilding and Waldron's quitting smoking have been equally hard goals but in different ways. They are both relying on sheer willpower.
"The way I look at it, if I can quit cold turkey, I can do anything," Waldron said with a sheepish grin. "I've been smoking for three years now. It was a stressful time in my life when I started smoking; it's also an expensive habit."
So far, quitting on his own, without smoking cessation aids such as nicotine replacement therapy, is working. Caldron explained he started at two packs a day in January and is now down to a pack every two days.
Leonatti has been there every step of the way, and continues to remind him.
"A couple of weeks ago, I drove by and saw him starting to light up a cigarette," she said. "I showed him this (flexing her arm muscles) and he stopped."
The decision to quit wasn't easy for Waldron, but he's lost several family members to smoking-related diseases.
"It's heartbreaking to think about the effects of me quitting. If I quit, then my mom will quit, and my roommate," Waldron said. "Most of my family smokes now."
His drive to quit hasn't been lost on Leonatti. She confesses that he is her favorite student.
"He is an amazing person," Leonatti said. She described him as a talented dancer and a volunteer at the teen center.
For Waldron, finding a teacher he can trust has been an eye-opening experience.
"I feel like it's been a very rough life in my eyes," Waldron said. "Finding someone I can relate to who will listen to me has been cool."
Both agreed they will stay in touch after Waldron graduates next month. His plan is to join the U.S. government-sponsored Job Corps and find work and training as a welder.
For now, they'll continue to encourage one another.
Leonatti's competition, Old Man on the Mountain, sponsored by the Organization of Competitive Bodybuilding, will be held Saturday, May 29, at Oyster River High School. Tickets are $20 per person.