Get to know Madeline

3 May 2022

An enthusiast of many styles, Madeline Dolente Peterson, lives and breathes all things fitness and health. Originally from the United States, Madeline has been teaching group fitness classes for over 24 years. You may have attended one of her many classes at our Majestic and Evans Bay fitness clubs. We had a chat with Madeline to learn more about her own fitness journey and how she became a group fitness instructor.

Where did you find your love for fitness?

I grew up with a love for sports, playing soccer, field hockey and lacrosse in school.  
During the off-season, I started going to the gym to keep my fitness up and was lucky enough to meet some world-class fitness instructors who motivated me and taught me a lot! My passion just grew from there.  

Why did you decide to become a fitness instructor?

I took a group exercise class at the YMCA gym next to my university. At the end of one class, the instructor approached me, asking me to cover for her and teach her class while she was away. At first, I thought she was joking because I was late that day (I thought the class started at 6 am, but it actually began at 5:55 am). It turns out she was serious. Maybe she sensed my enthusiasm for it.  

For the following two weeks, I taught her classes using music I borrowed from another instructor, and somehow, I managed to do it! I ended up really enjoying it and the members loved it too, even though I didn't truly know what I was doing at the time. Shortly after that, I obtained a proper group fitness certification. 

I knew I wanted to learn from the best, so I attended up to 10 classes a week from Nike Pro instructors. One day my director told me I was getting really good, which confirmed for me that I was on the right path.

Tell us about all the different styles you teach?

I teach HIIT, Yoga, Core, Power, Boxing, TRX and Spinning at Habit Health fitness clubs. Everybody has different abilities, and not everybody moves the same or has the same goals. So in my classes, I provide options to suit all levels.  

I also teach online classes, a specialised programme at Victoria University of Wellington, and I sometimes teach a TRX Master Class for trainers who want to certify in teaching TRX.  

Since I started teaching, I have chosen a different discipline to learn every year. For example, when Spinning became hot in the US in 1995, I'd take three classes a week and when I decided I liked it, I would get certified to start teaching it. I helped create cycle programmes throughout the US many years later and taught others to be certified. It's been an amazing journey and I love what I do. 

What's your best tip for people who have a hard time committing?

My favourite piece of advice is that you are worth every effort! Each effort you make will get you closer to your goals. Create a goal, determine your WHY and be consistent in your progress. A trainer can help you create a successful plan, so I recommend working with one if that's in your capacity. 

One cool way that helps me stay accountable to myself is that I sign up for running races. Committing to a big event or an exciting goal helps me stay motivated to stick with it even when I don't feel like running. Try signing up for an event with something you enjoy doing as a way to keep you motivated. 

Lastly, remember that we all have one life to live, so why not make it your very best life.  

What's your philosophy around nutrition?

Food is your fuel to thrive! Nourishing food makes a big difference in getting results. Most importantly, we are worth it, and deserve to eat great food that nourishes our body and mind!  

I love going to the farmer’s market on the waterfront on Sundays and getting tonnes of fresh veggies and fruit. The fish market is great for fish too! 

Do you ever get nervous before teaching? If so, how do you work through those nerves?

Yes, I still get a little anxious sometimes, even after teaching for 24 years. I often arrive early and ensure I'm prepared to help me get through the nerves. Being thoroughly prepared helps put me at ease and get in the zone to teach. 

What's your favourite style out of all the types of exercise you do?

While I love all styles, I mostly enjoy running and obstacle course racing.  

I recently trained to do the Hobbiton Half Marathon in April and will be doing the ELITE race in the Ultimate Athlete Obstacle Course in Mt Maunganui on May 21st.  

I love training and always make it a priority so that I can feel my best.  

What do you love to do when you're not teaching?

I love to travel and see new places. My husband and I love exploring New Zealand as we are initially from the US. Some highlights have been Rotorua, Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Tongariro, Queenstown, Christchurch and we have several other weekend trips planned in future. We also went to the Cook Islands, which was gorgeous!  

We love doing the New Zealand Great Walks and recently did the Abel Tasmin track, which was so lovely. I loved the beaches, the people we met and the physical challenge of walking every day.  

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My grandmother. She was a nurse, raised eight kids, became a lawyer at age 50 and had a gourmet cheese and chocolate store. She started working out in her early 80s after losing my mom and grandfather. I think she is amazing and is proof that if you give a lot of love and remain consistent, you can do anything!

Favourite quote?

"You don't know unless you try."
 It resonates with me and is what motivates me in my obstacle course racing. The more challenging things are, the more satisfaction I get when I achieve something.