Morehead’s Everybodies Gym is serving as a battleground for a very different kind of drill sergeant. Fitness model Toni Wheeler, self-titled “Drill Sergeant” Wheeler, is the founder of the Figure FIT TEAM, a group of women who meet regularly to reap the benefits of intense training and exercise.

Wheeler, a model since 2003, is a veteran of photo shoots and magazine covers seeking to show others her path to success by giving them the tools required to pursue their own fitness-modeling career.

“I’m trying to promote fitness on a more advanced level and give them (Figure FIT members) opportunities to be discovered worldwide or in the U.S. to promote fitness,” Wheeler says. “From my experience doing pageants, Kentucky doesn’t give many options. When I started I had to travel to Florida, I had to go to California, I had to go other places because it wasn’t offered here. Ideally, I plan on hosting a pageant here.”

Wheeler was already an experienced fitness and exercise enthusiast prior to beginning her modeling career.

“I already worked out a lot,” Wheeler says. “I was a cheerleader for 12 years and my college degree was in Health and Physical Education with a minor in Athletic Training. I liked to workout and do gymnastics so it took into that field (modeling).”

While pursuing her Health and Physical Education degree, Wheeler assisted with athletic training for Morehead State University’s football and volleyball programs.

Figure FIT members are hand picked by Wheeler based on their potential to prosper in fitness modeling. She says the team is not designed to be a typical workout group for individuals wishing to get in shape.

“This is for intermediate-advanced athletes, people that are already used to working out,” Wheeler says. “It may, later on, be more of a tryout thing almost like a cheerleading squad.”

Wheeler says each member is classified as “intermediate-advanced” based on previous athletic experience such as cheerleading or gymnastics.

During each workout session, each team member is referred to by a unique and individualized nickname.

Brittany Tate, nicknamed “Cougar”, explained her nickname with a smile.

“I’m from Morgan County and our mascot is always the Cougars. It’s rough but not too intimidating,” Tate says with a laugh.

Tate says she would be willing to try to fitness modeling but her main goal for joining the team was based on health.

Whitney Sibcy, nicknamed “Punky Wildcat”, is the most experienced team member. She has worked out with Wheeler for three years through personal training prior to the creation of the Figure FIT TEAM.

“I had kind of gotten a feel for how she works and the intensity of the workouts, so I figured this would be the next step in my training,” Sibcy says. “It’s really intense but it’s really motivating for me. I think I need a person like that to motivate me and get me going. I think that’s why I’ve stuck with it.”

Angela Hall, nicknamed “Mangela”, is an employee at Everybodies Gym. Hall was asked by Wheeler to join the team upon its inception last fall. Hall says the key to Wheeler’s workout method is the constantly changing exercise routine that is never the same twice.

Hall says she hopes to follow Wheeler’s advice and turn her Figure FIT experience pageant success.

“I’ve never done it before but she’s talked a lot about me going into at least one contest,” Hall says. “She wants me do a contest with a fitness routine and she also talks about me doing a bikini contest. She said I may be getting close to being ready so that could be fun—she obviously knows what she’s talking about, so I believe her.”

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