Losing his 39-year-old father Lonnie to colon cancer in 1992 was very difficult for Victor Sykes, then 17 and the oldest son of five siblings. But what was also difficult were remarks by others that he, too, might be predestined for a short lifespan.
So Sykes began researching the symbiotic link between health and disease, and came to a different conclusion.
“I thought it had more to do with his lifestyle,” Sykes said of his father’s death. “He smoked, drank, didn’t eat right, and was highly-stressed. I researched and found out that lifestyles play a huge role in people developing degenerative diseases like cancer or diabetes. I wanted to share that, and prevent other families going through the pain I went through.”
Today Sykes, 39, is a successful personal trainer who runs the FitRanX West Valley Training Center in Tarzana. Along with helping clients reshape their bodies and promoting healthy lifestyles, Sykes involves himself in charitable fundraisers.
One such event takes place on Saturday, April 4. Sykes and younger brother Tommie, 35, also a fitness trainer, will conduct a “boot camp” to raise $1,000 for the American Lung Association. They are part of a team led by Mercy Alpert, membership director for the Woodland Hills Chamber Of Commerce, that plans to participate in the April 11 vertical road race where individuals and/or teams compete in timed races inside buildings by either running or walking up stairs. The “Climb For Air” event, another fundraiser for the American Lung Association, will be at the Aon Center in downtown Los Angeles.
The April 4 event in Tarzana is primarily a one-hour cardio-vascular workout, Sykes said, and will include exercises ranging from jumping jacks and “mountain climbers” to jumping rope and shadow boxing. The Sykes brothers are asking for a $20 donation per person.
“We’ll bring our [clients] together for fitness and exercise competitions and boot camp,” Sykes said.
He said he was an athlete in high school, playing football. But after his father’s death, Sykes eventually decided to make health and fitness his life’s work.
He graduated from Whittier College in 1999 with a degree in physical education and recreation. Sykes then began working for a 24-Hour Fitness facility in Oxnard, eventually become a manager, before opening his facility in Tarzana in 2011.
He also convinced Tommie, who had also played football growing up, served in the Army and had recently been downsized in his job, to become a trainer. In 2009, Tommie started learning the business, and became a full-time trainer in 2012. He currently trains clients for Slim Body Fitness, working out of the Granada Hills Recreation Center, also known as Petit Park.
The loss of another family member also impacted Tommie.
“I became convinced of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle when my auntie [Belinda Woods] passed away from (complications related to) obesity,” he said. “I tell people that they can influence others in a positive way, build musical and enjoy a more active lifestyle.”
The Sykes brothers have done other charity fundraisers for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Last December they raised $3,000 for another trainer’s mom who did not have health insurance and needed treatment for an illness. Last month, Sykes said, they raised $500 in an hour to help out a Woodland Hills Little League All-Star team.
Sykes said people need to develop healthier lifestyles in general to protect themselves against aging and diseases.
We have made [living healthy] a lifestyle,” Sykes said. ‘[He and his brother] want to be catalysts to inspire others to get in shape.
“It all comes back to my dad, who was the catalyst for us. Before it was working out to play sports. But when our dad passed, that gave us the understanding of how health and fitness play a part in the quality of your life. That’s our thing.”
The training center is located at 18356 Oxnard St., #9, in Tarzana. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.. Following an opening ceremony, the boot camp starts at 8:05 a.m. and concludes at 9:05 a.m. Refreshments are available following the workout. There are other activities planned along with a raffle. All proceeds will be donated to the American Lung Association. For more information, call (818) 674-7717.