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1 in 3,000: Peter Marjamaa helps keep Perham 'firefighter fit'

I am a city boy, born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My entire world changed when I took a job at the Perham Focus as the newspaper's main reporter in December. Now, I am here, in a town of just over 3,000 people, learning what small t...

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Pete Marjamaa poses for a portrait in the PACC on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Carter Jones / FOCUS)

I am a city boy, born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis. My entire world changed when I took a job at the Perham Focus as the newspaper's main reporter in December. Now, I am here, in a town of just over 3,000 people, learning what small town living is all about. Perham started surprising me right from the start, and I quickly learned that I don't want to just report what's happening in Perham, I want to report on the people who make this town tick in the most inconspicuous of ways. Some people have a way of always attracting the spotlight, but my 'focus' will be on those who quietly go about their day making this community a better place to live. And since this is my new journey, too, and my "city" eyes are fresh, I wanted to document the adventure of discovering what this "Perham pride" thing is all about. Everybody in Perham has a story, unique in their own way...1 in 3,000.

Meeting Peter

I first saw Peter Marjamaa when he was explaining what's new at the Perham Area Community Center in the winter and spring at what's called the "Power Hour" meeting put on by the chamber of commerce. After Marjamaa spent a lot of time talking about his firefighter fit class and even more time answering questions about it from curious audience members, I knew I needed to learn more about him. Last week, I met Marjamaa in his office, which has a window facing the PACC's weight room. Marjamaa first explained he doesn't even live in Perham, so he might not be the right person for this feature story, but neither do I, so that doesn't disqualify him.

After growing up in Menahga, Marjamaa came to Perham for the jobs after getting his degree in exercise science. After working as a chiropractic assistant and as a trainer at the PACC for seven years, he became a full-time trainer in the last couple months. Marjamaa said he was drawn to the PACC right when he got to Perham. "My degree is exercise science, naturally I liked exercise and weight training," he said.

Marjamaa said the idea for his firefighter fit class, a multifaceted training class that includes battle ropes, barbells and sand bags, came after working with volunteer firefighters at the hospital. "They used to play basketball in their full firefighter uniforms, masks and everything," Marjamaa said. "They wanted to mimic some sort of cross training for firefighters, so they came to me and asked me to think of something."

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I was surprised to learn Marjamaa's love for fitness started because of video games. "I grew up in the 90s, so I was a Madden guy," he said referring to the classic NFL video game. "I always liked when you had a guy that was 78 overall and you got him up to like an 85 in one year, and you're like 'yes!' It's almost more obsessive and mechanical than that."

The addiction to progress also keeps Marjamaa in the weight room and helping others improve as well. "It's just satisfying, I get a little serotonin boost," he said. "I like seeing with weights you can put a number on and see someone's progression. If they're benching 200 pounds and they get up to 225, I feel like I played a role in that."

When he first started personal training at the PACC, Marjamaa had one client for two months before his reputation grew stronger. Now, he consistently works with over 30 clients. "You get that gratification from the client, you see a little excitement in their eyes and they act happy, so you take credit. It's almost a selfish thing, using their gratification for my gratification," he said.

Marjamaa said he loves working in Perham because of the supportive community. "It's almost a cliché, Perhamites support one another, but they do," he said. "People here are really progressive-minded, which works well for me because they want to do things for themselves. Exercise and fitness is at the top of the priority list in this community."

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Pete and Me in his office at the PACC on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Carter Jones / FOCUS)

Related Topics: PACC
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