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Feeling stronger with my Fitness Revolution family

June 5, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 395 lbs.

Last week: 396 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 75 lbs.

As I train for the Lake Placid Half-Marathon alongside physically fit athletes — some of them Olympians — walking the roadways of Lake Placid and working out at the Fitness Revolution gym, I gawk in amazement.

“I’m just like them,” I say to myself, feeling proud that I’ve immersed myself into their environment, which is totally outside my comfort zone. I’m surprised that it somehow feels comfortable. I always thought it was an exclusive club, certainly not a place for somebody who is morbidly obese. Yet many of the people I see on the road welcome me to their world, giving me words of encouragement as they speed by.

“I read your column,” one female runner shouted to me a couple weeks ago on Mirror Lake Drive. “I’m rooting for ya!”

With all the runners and cyclists buzzing around on any given Sunday, it looks as though there is a race going on in Lake Placid — around Mirror Lake, along Route 73 and up and down the River Road — but it’s just dozens of people training.

I?finally met one of them, Bob, in person at the Fitness Revolution gym this week after seeing him on the roadways with his running partner. He’ll be running the half-marathon on Sunday and said he would see me at the finish line. That’s the kind of support that’s out there for all of us.

It took a while, but now I realize these athletes are just like me. They put their shorts on like anyone else, one leg after the other. And most of the people running or bicycling the roads and exercising at the gym are not Olympians at all, just average Joes working on their health and striving toward personal fitness goals. They come from all walks of life. While they make it look easy, they’re facing similar challenges trying to live healthier.

The Olympians, by the way, are supportive as well and don’t walk around saying, “I’m an Olympian.” They blend in. A silver medalist was doing crunches before our Take It Off graduation this week. He’s always nice to me.

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Take it off, baby!

As I wrapped up my 12 weeks in Fitness Revolution’s Take It Off weight-loss challenge, I’m finding it difficult to imagine life without my new family of friends. It’s amazing how close you get to someone when you’re sweating alongside them, pushing each other toward new physical limits and sharing stories of pain and suffering, weight-loss triumphs and everyday challenges of living with the extra weight.

The title of the program says this is a challenge, which makes it sound like a competition, but not once did I feel I was competing against anyone else. The support and respect for each other is the glue that binds us. I was only challenging myself.

Congratulations to Jennifer Daunais Friel, who was chosen by her Take It Off peers as the challenge winner and received a basket filled with gift certificates and items donated by local businesses. Unlike the Biggest Loser television program, weight loss was not the sole requirement for winning. It was more about leadership. The group gave me the second-place prize, and I think someone else should have received it because I get enough attention in the newspaper. It makes me feel guilty because everyone deserves awards. I’m just one member of this incredible family. We all keep each other going through the good times and the bad.

During the program, we’re required to record our weight every Tuesday, but the words “weight loss” hardly ever come up in conversation at the Take It Off sessions. It’s more about the workout and pushing ourselves harder each week.

In fact, the workouts were so hard for me at first that I dreaded Tuesday and Thursday nights because I knew I’d be pushed to my physical limits every time. But as the weeks passed, I accepted my new reality and began looking forward to the workouts.

When one new member joined us in May, I said, “Welcome to hell,” as if it was my home away from home. I’m proud to be part of this group. We struggle together, and when I’m faced with a workout I think is impossible, I’m comforted to know that I won’t be suffering alone. A quick high-five and word of encouragement gives me the strength I need to keep going. Many times I’m surprised by how much I can actually do — even squats!

Truth be told, if I wasn’t working out, I’d be at home in front of the television, most likely eating and gaining weight. So going to the workout was a much better choice, even if it meant a couple hours of hard physical work. After all, I’ve been trying to get away from the monotonous and unhealthy lifestyle of a couch potato and food addict. Scheduling the Take It Off program every Tuesday and Thursday forced me away from those bad habits for a couple days a week. And I’m looking forward to scheduling more workout nights to get away from my old lifestyle.

When I’m in the middle of a workout, almost at the breaking point, and I think of an easier way to complete an exercise on the trainer’s workout list, I remind myself about the real reason for being at the Take It Off program. It’s supposed to be hard.

“I’m not here for easy,” I say to myself, and move on to the difficult task at hand.

It’s a complete waste of time — for me and the trainer — if I don’t try my hardest. Full motion reps. Technique. These are words to live by because each exercise is designed to work out specific muscles. If those muscles aren’t getting worked out, you’re just going through the motions and wasting time. You might as well be on that couch watching TV and eating a bag of chips.

I don’t like to use the phrase “No pain, no gain” because it’s a cliche. But it’s so true. I look in the mirror and see a body with more muscle and strength and less body fat (down to 44 percent from almost 49 percent in March), and I see the benefits of those tough workouts.

It may sound trivial to most people, but I can now walk up and down stairs like a normal person instead of having to hold on to a railing. That happened within the past 12 weeks at Fitness Revolution because my legs are now stronger. And it’s only one of my achievements this spring.

While 26 pounds came off during the Take It Off program, I did not reach my goal of 50 pounds. And I haven’t yet hiked to the summit of Cascade Mountain, which was second on my list of goals. The third and final goal — successfully train for the June 8 half-marathon — is certainly within reach. One out of three sounds like a failure, and believe me, most of the nights I worked out in the program I felt like a failure because I couldn’t do everything.

But this program taught me to look at the positives, not the negatives. Even though I didn’t finish all my goals in 12 weeks, the transformation is clear.

We’ve all gotten stronger. Many are wearing smaller sizes in clothing as inches have been shed along with the weight (I’m down to a 4X instead of a 6X shirt). We all have more energy and are in better physical condition. And we all have more confidence in our abilities because we’ve endured those workouts and lived to tell the tales of burpees, thrusters and wall balls.

The credit for this successful program goes to Fitness Revolution trainers Jason McComber and Janis Atkinson. They declined an association with the Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss franchises and decided to create their own weight-loss program. And — I’m just guessing here — I think it’s been more successful than they ever imagined. Jason and Janis started with nothing more than a desire to help people get healthy by losing weight, and they’ve created a new family that grows each month. I’m hoping that family will grow into a movement.

All six members of the first Take It Off group joined the second group this spring. In all, we had 14 people to start in March, and even though a couple couldn’t finish, they’re all considered part of the family.

A third session will be held this fall. I don’t know how large this family will become, but I’m hoping to see some new faces when I rejoin the group in September. Like many people, I’m taking the summer to hike and do some outdoor things while the weather is warm. Yet I’ll still be working out in the gym two to three times a week because I need it.

I highly recommend the Take It Off program for anyone who needs to lose weight. Members get one-on-one time with the trainers, workouts with the group twice a week, access to the gym 24 hours a day every day throughout the program, and information about nutrition and exercise. While there is a price attached to the program, it’s well worth it. Members also get the support of a new weight-loss family, and you can’t put a price on that benefit.

My message to each Take It Off member — the vets and the newbies — is “Thank you for everything.” (Cue the tears.) You’ve given me the support I needed to lose more weight and get stronger. You gave me strength to fight through the tough workouts and the challenges associated with weight loss. I am so proud of all of you and thankful to Jason and Janis for giving me this opportunity to be part of the Fitness Revolution family.

It has changed my life forever.


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Blog Photos

TAKE-IT-OFF GROUP: In the back row, from left, are Jason McComber, Andy Flynn, Jason Winch, Beth Sweet, Kimberly Corwin Gray, John Nicholson, Janis Atkinson, Robin Miller and Jeff Letson. In the front row, from left, are Jenny Reich Winch, Jennifer Daunais Friel and her two daughters, Merry Barney, Susan Taylor Wittmer and Eileen McGlynn.