I think my story starts like anyone else who is struggling to overcome an unhealthy relationship with food. Making countless attempts at trying to solve the puzzle, learning a few things along the way, but never truly getting every piece in place.
I knew based on my history, diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, so shortly after moving to the Duluth area, I joined the YMCA and decided I needed a personal trainer to help me figure out where I was fitness-wise, and how to get to where I wanted to go. That first experience I had with Anna McGee somewhere around 2007, was pivotal for me; however, it wasn’t the “light-bulb” moment that I needed to have. I went through the motions, cleaned up my diet a little, but in the end, I just wasn’t ready. I still worked out, attended a few fitness classes, tried some weight loss programs, smiled at Anna when I saw her at the Y and wondered if she had lost hope with me, as I was starting to do with myself.
Fast-forward to 2009. I had started yet another half-hearted attempt at Weight Watchers at an all-time high of 270lbs and 5’3” in April of that year. I lost five pounds and managed to keep that off until I met with Dr. James Donovan at St. Luke’s on June 30th. I started logging my food electronically with an online food journal and followed the healthy eating guidelines that were presented to me. I lost the first 20 pounds pretty easily with a mish-mash of exercising on my own. We went off to a vacation in Australia and I was thrilled that I was able to go 20 pounds lighter.
Shortly after returning from the trip in September, I got a call from my brother that indicated my 68-year old mother, who was living independently at the time, was having some serious mental health issues. After an emergency drive to the Cities and a lengthy admission to the hospital, it was determined that she was in the early stages of dementia, a form called Lewy-Body dementia that has both classic forms of memory loss but as an added bonus, symptoms of Parkinson’s syndrome as well. After many weekly visits trying to get her care established, an assisted living facility for her to live in, preparing her condo for sale, etc., I was mentally and physically fried.
I was at a medical appointment with her and for whatever reason, I had a moment of clarity, and realized that if there was any kind of hereditary aspect to her disease, what the heck was I doing living in such an unhealthy way and setting an unhealthy example for my three daughters. After that moment, I never really faltered. My diet was on-point, I had started the Couch-to-5K running program on my own in February 2010, using the track at the Y. I didn’t want to commit to Anna again until I knew this wasn’t yet another failed attempt. She was my greatest cheerleader even then.
I had heard from others that she had a new studio close to the Y and was using the TRX Suspension Fitness system in conjunction with Kettlebell training with great results. It was a small group setting, and it was infinitely adaptable to really anyone of any size using their own body weight for resistance training. I was hooked after the first class. It was effective, it was fun and it was challenging. There were many times along the way that we’d do something in class that I was unable to complete due to my size or lack of strength, and the day that I could complete it was like an epiphany. The first time I could do jack-knives for the entire segment instead of dropping down for a breather; the first time I could hold a plank for the entire time; the first time I could complete the complex lunge sequences without using my other leg/foot for support. It was so motivating, yet, with just a little tweaking, Anna makes what you could attain that much more challenging to move your fitness to the next level. The fitness gains that are achievable with the TRX in conjunction with Anna are many and just when you think you’ve got it mastered and all figured out, she comes out of nowhere with a new move or position that works you out in a totally new way you didn’t even know you needed.
I was able to complete my 5K running program and decided that I wanted to train for Grandma’s Half Marathon in 2011 as a way to test myself, but also as the exclamation point on my journey. It was challenging, but rewarding, and Anna was there the whole time giving me encouragement, tips and support. In fact, FOX21 did a report on my story. I was able to run it faster than I had originally planned and have run many events since then. I’m still running and training and got to my ultimate weight goal of 135 in November 2011.