Best-selling local author Pat Conroy is taking on a new adventure and project: opening a fitness studio in Port Royal.
He admitted in a Facebook post over the weekend that it's a bit out of his wheel house.
"It is an odd thing to be doing at my age," Conroy wrote. "There is nothing on my resume that indicates I'll be successful in this unusual endeavor. But I'm doing it because there are four or five books I'd like to write before I meet with Jesus of Nazareth as my mother promised me ... and I can't write them unless I'm healthy ... so here it comes: Mina & Conroy Fitness Studio!"
The studio is at 832 Paris Ave., and an open house is planned from 4 to 7 p.m. April 3. A website with information is in the works.
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Conroy could not be reached Monday, but in a blog, he detailed the journey that led to opening the fitness studio. He says he nearly died three years ago, and that was a wake-up call to turn his life around.
Since then, he has worked with a nutritionist, saying about his experience, "I've tried to satisfy my great interior hunger with a diet that would satisfy a full-grown squirrel but did little to conquer the hippopotamus that lives within me."
He also has stepped up his game with trainer Mina Truong, whom he met at the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal.
She clearly remembers the first time they met -- when she blew off the noted author, to the chagrin of the clients she was working with at the moment.
"I was training my clients and he said, 'Do you have any openings?'" Truong recalled. "I was thinking, 'He doesn't know me. Why is he approaching me?' But my clients were like, 'Oh, Mina, you have to go and talk to the gentleman.'"
Conroy pressed his number into her hand, and Truong went back to her clients.
She worked with him for a while, then he disappeared for a year or so. He randomly appeared at the Y one day after hearing Truong had surgery.
This time, he gave her a card. At home later that night, she cried when her son read the supportive note.
"I thought, 'This gentleman is crazy.' He is so famous, but he did that," she said.
Besides the perk of English as a second-language lessons from an award-winning author, the duo have a symbiotic and teasing relationship that's clear from how they talk about each other.
According to the blog, Truong won't hesitate to increase the intensity of Conroy's training in direct relation to the size of the whopper lies, or "jokes," he tells. When he (falsely) told Truong his brother died, "Mina then put me through the toughest regimen of exercise His Fatness had experienced in a long time. I knew that there was some kind of subliminal punishment involved, but I felt I deserved it."
When Truong quit her job at the Y in light of a pending firing, according to the blog, Conroy encouraged her to leave, and the next day they went out and rented the studio.
It's a dream come true for the Japanese immigrant who used to fantasize about the American dream from photos in her grade school textbooks.
"This is the place I imagined," Truong said. "... This is a small place, but I did it. Mr. Pat, he helped me, and now I have the opportunity to make it better."
But, Truong doesn't want to capitalize on the name of her partner in crime.
"I told Mr. Pat, 'I know you're famous, of course you are, but I want to bring in clients because of me," she said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.