My interview with fitness trainer Cherline (Coach Chè) Louissaint begins, fittingly, on a treadmill. Chè smiles and radiates health as she walks and talks throughout our video call without skipping a beat.
As fit as she is now, Chè says that wasn’t always the case. She suffered from asthma as a kid. Concerned about an attack, her mother kept her from playing sports. She read a lot, played the violin and eventually joined the marching band and dance line, but kept feeling the pull toward sports. In college, she started to learn about breathwork. “I figured if I could control my breathing, I wouldn’t have asthma attacks, so I took yoga classes,” she says, adding that the power to control her breathing allowed her to start weight training.
By 2015, Chè was in Miami working in entertainment PR and living an active life, working out regularly. Around that time, her mother suffered kidney failure. The outlook was grim. Doctors told them to consider hospice care, but Chè believed rehabilitation was possible with proper nutrition and exercise. She moved back to Fort Myers to care for her mother. Chè took the exercises prescribed by the occupational therapist and continued them with her mom at the local gym. She monitored her mom’s diet and cooked healthy meals for the two of them. Within a year, her mother was back on her feet. Meanwhile, Chè took up boxing as an outlet for fitness and to work out her frustrations.
She’d post about her workouts on social media. “I didn’t always know what muscle I was working, but people were watching and following me,” she says. Chè became more serious about her training, getting certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and USA Boxing, taking lessons from other trainers and grilling them on their technique, and poring over YouTube workout videos. A year or so into her journey, her workouts and challenges were getting traction. Followers were drawn to her inclusive, no-nonsense approach.
She opened Increase the Peach gym in 2019, on College Parkway in Fort Myers, with well-rounded conditioning, strength and functional training classes. Though the studio’s name references the glutes’ ‘peach’ nickname, Chè doesn’t focus exclusively on the backside. She does, however, emphasize the importance of strengthening your glutes. The body’s largest muscle is essential for posture, balance, walking and preventing injuries and aches—especially in the knees and lower back, which are common pain areas. “It’s a misconception that glutes are just an aesthetic goal,” she says. “A well-developed peach protects people from injuries.” Last year, the trainer added targeted classes to the schedule, with plenty of deadlifts, hip thrusts, and, her favorite, Bulgarian split squats, where one leg rests on a surface and the front leg absorbs most of the load. While 97 percent of her clients are women, Chè notes that her training does not discriminate: “Guys benefit from training their glutes just as much as women.”
Through one-on-one and small-group classes in an intimate, chic setting, clients train with heavy punching bags, rowers, weights, stability balls, resistance bands and air bikes. Chè has a knack for developing modifications to make exercise approachable, conveying the moves’ real-world application (“Bent-over rows can mimic picking up grocery bags,” she says.) and often hosts events to draw people into fitness. Last year’s SWFL Fit Games gathered participants on a field for a day of old-school obstacle courses and relays. “Fitness isn’t a punishment but a gift to ourselves that enhances our quality of life,” Chè says. “So it doesn’t have to be complicated or painful.” She doesn’t believe in short-term, intense training to get ready for a wedding or big trip; she trains people for life. Chè—who also shares nutrition advice with clients and is pursuing a registered dietitian degree at Florida SouthWestern State College—recently launched a line of fitness gear, with flattering leggings and sports bras in neutral colors.
The 35-year-old trainer extends her mission beyond the gym and gives back in Dunbar, where she grew up. She was inspired by Dr. Shadreka McIntosh, who opened the first pharmacy in the neighborhood. “Dunbar was an underserved community when we were growing up, and it’s still a food and healthcare desert,” Chè says. “Shadreka opening the pharmacy made me hopeful.” Last February, Chè hosted the first Heart Hustle Fest, coinciding with Lee County Black History Museum’s exhibition on Black Health & Wellness. The event returns on February 25, and she plans to host a FITMIX Fest in the fall. “Meeting people where they are is an essential part of helping them reach or even set realistic health goals,” she says.