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Maggie Tanielian, owner of Polystrength Fitness & Lifestyle. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

For several years, Maggie Tanielian worked and lived in North Hollywood, but San Pedro caught her eye because she and her fiancée wanted to buy a house.

The owner of Polystrength Fitness & Lifestyle in Downtown San Pedro, in the La Salle building just south of 7th and Centre streets, was drawn to the water after years in the Valley and Hollywood. It reminded her of her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where half of her time was spent near the ocean.

Polystrength Fitness studio. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

Soon after she moved to San Pedro in 2020, Geri Gioiello, a dockworker who is Tanielian’s client and friend, contacted her after seeing her online listing. Gioiello had undergone major life changes and was ready to take charge of her health. Once she and Tanielian began working together, the need for a studio workspace created itself. 

Polystrength Fitness is a cozy, upscale, strength training, nutrition, and Pilates studio. When you enter, there’s no one other than you and Tanielian. All of the warm, energetic focus of its owner is for you. Tanielian does one-on-one sessions primarily and, over time, builds trusting relationships. 

“I feel uncomfortable around others at the gym,” says Gioiello. “I feel like this is a safe zone.” 

Polystrength Fitness opened in November and was constructed with the help of local businesses like The Carpenter’s Son Construction, Labonte’s Flooring, Blinds & Shutters, and Anchor Glass and Mirror. Tanielian made these conscious choices as she laid down new roots and intentionally positioned her business near the waterfront. 

Tanielian is in her early 50s and is no stranger to life lessons from illness or injury. Hers is a compelling story about second chances and living your best life at any age.

In her late 30s, she started entering fitness competitions and winning awards. Athleticism runs in her family. Her father was famous Argentine wrestler and celebrity Martín Karadagián, who blazed a trail for several decades. 

Tanielian was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s. She pushed her strength training even harder while getting chemotherapy and radiation.

“You have radiation therapy, and it goes through your everything and burns you in pieces, and my body was really, really weak. I was doing a lot of cross step and box jumping to feel better, and my cervical spine collapsed,” she shares.

Her right and dominant arm became paralyzed. “I could not pick up this arm at all. It was dead, like completely dead,” she remembers. “They did my spine surgery and discovered that my discs were broken, and it compressed my shoulder nerves. I couldn’t brush my teeth or my hair.” 

Tanielian demonstrates on the reformer. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

Ultimately, it was Pilates that gave her hope. It allowed Tanielian to begin to use and strengthen her limp arm. And she thought, “If this helps me, then it’s going to help someone else.”

“I’ve done yoga,” says Tanielian. “I’ve done all that stuff, but my favorite is strength [training] because it gives me peace of mind and peace of heart and takes my anger out if I ever had any frustration. Pilates calms me down.”

Pilates strengthens and elongates your muscles, increases flexibility, develops muscle tone, and conditions the whole body. It also reinforces your joints so that there’s less chance of injury.

Tanielian offers free consultations to assess your eating habits and physical challenges. She plans to have free sessions on Saturdays to come and learn tips on eating better and how to prepare your week food-wise. “Coach Maggie” also likes working with those who’ve never done much with their bodies. 

Be willing to take direction because, as Gioiello puts it, Tanielian is “lovingly firm” in how she works with you. “Another thing, too,” says Gioiello, “I can’t do a lot of jumping because my knees aren’t so quality. So, Pilates is really good. I like how [Maggie’s] always there.” 

At the outset, people were curious about why she was here in San Pedro, a long way from North Hollywood. “It’s important. People are like, ‘I don’t know if I belong here,’ and actually, yeah, you do belong because I did it for you,” she says. “I came here to work and to make you feel good.” 

All the amenities, like eucalyptus towels, low lighting, beverages, and personal attention, they’re for the person working at the Port and those who crave change and want to feel better (and pay non-Hollywood prices). 

“All you have to do is apply yourself just a tiny little bit,” says Tanielian, “and that tiny little bit is going to give you a result.” spt

Polystrength Fitness & Lifestyle is located at 251 W. 7th Street. For more info, visit polystrength.life. 

Julia Murphy