In the words of Charles Buxton “Sometimes success is due less to ability than zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body, and soul”. I can truly say I’ve pretty much lived my whole adult life by that quote. I may not be the strongest or fastest person in the huddle, but I’ve never given up a fight or quit even in the face of adversity, and even if that meant finishing last. My life has been defined not by the destination, but by the paths I’ve taken and journey itself. Every day of my life presents new challenges and experiences, some good some bad, and some ugly. I savor and bask in the good but when the bad and ugly rear their ugly head, that’s another story. Battling with my weight and nutrition has terrorized me since my mid teens and had become a dark side to my life, an emotional rollercoaster if you will. I will begin with what got me here today.

September of 99, I retired from the Navy. I was fit and a healthy 145 pounds ready to face my new life as a civilian. While in the Navy, I was never alone when it came to physical fitness. I always had the support of those who pushed me and held me accountable for my actions. Now 10 years later that weight had ballooned. During those 10 years I often wondered at times how I got that way, so I realized I had to do something. I tried many diets, worked out sometimes, and went on with life. In July of 09, I was starting a new job, so I went out and spent a lot of money on new clothes, size 16 and 18’s and X Large to be sure. At that time, I was tipping the scales at 170 and figured that’s just what it’s going to be. Convinced myself that I wouldn’t gain any more weight, life went on. Fast forward to January 2010. Woke up one morning, put those size 18 slacks on and could barely button them. All those new clothes I bought were fitting tight and became uncomfortable. I stood in front of my mirror, shoulders slumped, stomach sticking out, and thighs bulging. I put my head down, began to cry and couldn’t stand looking at myself. I jumped on the scale and it read a hefty 180. This was the major tipping point that led me to Anytime Fitness and my personal trainer and savior, Tonya (Jillian).

First and foremost, I entered this challenge in a last ditch attempt to save my life. Winning the challenge would be a wonderful bonus and achievement, but I had to focus on me and was desperate and willing enough to make the positive changes that would keep me buoyed. I was self-destructing at a rapid pace and the only person that could save me was me. All I needed was a support system around to push and motivate me and remind me occasionally why I was there. When I entered through the doors at Anytime Fitness in January, I immediately knew I was in the right place at the right time. I sat down with Tony and we conversed about why I was there and what I was feeling inside physically and emotionally. I told him I was at a loss for words for my demise. Explained to him it felt like the wind was taken from my sail and that I had failed. Tony was compassionate but yet firm enough in telling me that if you want it bad enough, you got to work for it. There was no magic pill and it will not happen overnight. It was at that point I briefly started to question my mental and physical toughness to compete in a challenge. He looked right at me and said “You can do it Karen; you did 20 years in the Navy”. That was the second personal tipping point that drove me to hire a personal trainer and enter the challenge. I was now more than ever determined and motivated to prove myself wrong and that I could really do this for all the right reasons.

I asked Tonya to be my personal trainer and it was a done deal. I explained to her what I wanted to accomplish, my near term and long term goals. I gave her the rundown of my past with food and exercise. I told her I wanted the Boot Camp treatment and to run me into the ground. She took good mental notes and even chuckled at a list of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” foods I’ve been stuffing in my mouth the past several years. I told her that I liked the good stuff on the list but it didn’t necessarily mean that I consumed them in mass quantities.

And so Tonya received her assignment and we went to work. My first session with Tonya shocked my body into a frenzy. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was until after that first workout. All I can remember is being winded, sore, sweating profusely, and falling off machines from fatigue. Embarrassed, I would just get right back up and ask her “what’s next”. Sometimes I crawled to the next station. She told me this process starts with small steps and in no time, my muscles will bounce back. I said back to her “what muscles, all I can feel and grab is fat”. I’m sure at this point, Tonya had to be wondering what the heck she got herself into with this lady. Throughout this transformation, I learned to not question my trainer or what I was doing. I just did it because I trusted Tonya knew exactly what she was doing with me. If she said “just try to give me 10”, translation to me was … go for 12. That is the approach I took the past 12 weeks of the challenge. If I did those few extra reps, then I knew I could overcome some of my fears and begin rebuilding my self-esteem and confidence. Her feedback to me has been invaluable. After week two of the challenge, my body starting shrinking. Seeing the fruits of my labor made me a believer in finding success in small steps. By the time week five arrived, I was feeling revived and energized. With my new found confidence and the Will to be the best I could be, I began to push myself harder. Week eight week is where I could really see the changes. Everything I was doing made perfect sense. I was starting to glow and life in general was so much better. This challenge has taught me so much about myself. I won’t lie, I hit some emotional lows during this process. There were a few times I became discouraged and defeated. Because of Tonya’s tenacity, those thoughts were short lived. To complete this challenge, I resolved myself to remain committed, focused and persevere through the most difficult challenges. By the time week ten arrived, I had shed the skin of doubt and defeat. There was no looking back.

My goal for this challenge was to finish and finish strong. Finishing this challenge means a great deal to me. It will become my foundation to continue building on. I believe I’ve reached my weight goal, but if I didn’t, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing until I get there. I’ve made huge leaps and bounds since that first day in training. This challenge is only the beginning. I have a lot of work left to do, but I believe in myself and will accomplish my goals. Having a positive attitude is a great start and will carry me a long way. Attitude is a large part of figuring out if you want to succeed and be happy whether it be at home, work, or in the gym. I learned early on that there are three S’s to success; Sacrifice, Study, and Share. I made the necessary Sacrifices to complete this challenge, I Studied and practiced what my trainer taught me, and I Shared that knowledge with others in the gym struggling to find their way as I did back in January.

I especially want to thank CJ, Tony, Joe (Hollywood), fellow challenge participants, and the staff at Anytime Fitness for their unwavering support and advice during this challenge. Thank you for pushing me when I needed a push and for the encouragement to keep fighting. You guys at USA Elite Trainers are awesome.

Lastly and most importantly, I want to recognize and thank Tonya from the bottom of my heart for being there and saving my life. She took this wounded soul under her wing and helped breathe new life into these old bones of mine. Because of you Tonya, I have a renewed sense of commitment, determination, and energy to stay the course. I now have the wind back in my sails and it feels great. You taught me resilience in the face of adversity. You’re an angel and I look forward to continuing my journey with you.