1. “I started running—and lost 50 pounds.”
Before going to college, now-37-year-old Mary Arnold says she was in good shape. But her father’s death right before her high school graduation “really messed me up,” she says. She started drinking to cope and, before she knew it, she had lost control. Soon, she was 200 pounds, due in large part to drinking 10 to 12 beers a night and maintaining a fried-food-heavy diet. “The weight had crept up slowly, and since I mostly wore baggy, grungy clothes, I hadn’t really noticed that I wasn’t fitting into my clothes.” But Mary lived in a walk-up apartment, and started to realize that getting up the stairs was harder and harder. “I worked around it by ordering more delivery and going out less,” she says. “But one morning, I realized I couldn’t see my feet while I was standing up, and I knew I needed to make a change.”
Mary decided to give running a shot. “I remembered running from youth sports leagues and I enjoyed it,” the marketing manager from New York City says. “I ran around my block as fast as I could and came back puffy and coughing. But I went back the next day and tried again, and again, and again, adding another block or another street each time.” She kept running, and eventually settled into a plan of running four to five days a week, plus an additional day of cross-training. “I lost 10 pounds quickly, and the rest came off more slowly,” she says. After a year and a half, Arnold was down 50 pounds. “Most people didn’t notice right away because I’m tall,” she says. “But even though the results weren’t super visible at first, the ability to run longer and more comfortably happened quickly.” Now, Mary runs ultramarathons. NBD.
2. “I shifted my focus from skinny to strong.”
Before she started working out, Courtney Collins, 30, considered herself a pretty sedentary person. “I would ‘run’ for 20 minutes maybe twice a week,” she says. “But when I did that, it was to lose weight.” She lost around 20 pounds that way—but she also found herself embracing unhealthy eating patterns. “I went from wanting to lose weight and then realizing I was trying so hard to be thin that it was making things worse,” she says. “I would starve myself during the day and then binge at night.” She decided she needed to first readjust the way she perceived her body. “I realized I didn’t want to be skinny as much as I wanted to be strong.”
First, Courtney, a photographer and studio manager from Queens, New York, decided to do less cardio and to start researching how to lift weights. “I would cut up dumbbell workouts from magazines and take them to the gym,” she says. She took what she calls an old-school approach to lifting by keeping it simple with dumbbells every other day. “It taught me how to really focus on the mind-body connection,” she says. Courtney does 15 to 20 reps of three different exercises with a minute rest between each, and repeats that sequence three times. “I wanted to get more out of my workouts in a shorter period of time,” she says. “I’m usually out of the gym within 45 minutes. After a year, Courtney could see visible arm definition, and she’s still building and tweaking. Best of all, her work performance improved. “I noticed a huge difference in my job,” she says. When I’m shooting a wedding or an event, I can have 10 pounds of gear on me for up to eight hours. I’m able to handle the load and keep my energy up. I feel so much healthier—and I’m now the official can opener at work!”
3. “I joined an online fitness program and am down 115 inches.”
Jen Cayer, 34, always considered herself to be active—until she realized she was 53 pounds overweight, asthmatic, and unhappy. “I did track and cross-country in high school, and have always enjoyed walking and hiking,” she says. “I had a gym membership and did Zumba—but I just wasn’t doing the right things I guess.”
When she saw a photo of herself at a party and didn’t even recognize herself, Jen knew she needed to make a change. So the stay-at-home mom of two from Hopkinton, New Hampshire, turned to the internet. “A friend was doing a 90-day challenge, and it was free,” she says. “I was able to do it all at home, and it only took 15 to 20 minutes, six days a week. All I needed was a small set of weights and my willpower.” The program had Jen alternating between cardio and strength days, utilizing bodyweight exercises or five to 12-pound dumbbells. Eventually she also added in five-mile walks a few days a week.
“I noticed a difference after the first 30 days,” she says. “I was losing weight and inches, had better balance, and was able to do the workouts without stopping, which was the biggest change for me.” Today, Jen is down 44 pounds and 115 inches. She just ran a 5K without stopping or using her inhaler, and averaged a 9:40 pace per mile—besting her previous 15-minute-mile time that included asthma-induced stops and walk breaks.
4. “I turned to BodyPump and running.”
Jeanie Tinnelly, 33, ran track competitively in high school and college—and she was fast. But after college, she started working as a restaurant manager, where the long hours and lack of accountability from being on a team caught up with her. Soon, she weighed 195 pounds. Then, after ending a nine-year relationship and starting over on her own, Jeanie found her turning point. “My best friend was getting married, and my maid-of-honor gown was a size 14,” she says. “I always loved my body, but I never realized how much it had changed until I had to go dress shopping. I wore a uniform to work, and would just buy bigger pants if needed.”
Jeanie decided to start taking Les Mills BodyPump classes three times a week, and got back into running. “I did interval workouts on the local track once a week,” she says. On the weekends, she would do an eight mile or longer run. After six months, Jeanie dropped from a size 14 to a size six. Now, at 145 pounds, Jeanie runs a 1:37 half marathon, recently raced a 5:52 mile, and is a co-leader of New York City’s November Project fitness group.
5. “I spent a summer hiking.”
Senior Digital Marketing Manager When Brittney Kleinfelter Lickdale, Pennsylvania, traveled overseas for a year, she earned 50 pounds. “I gasped upstairs and knew something had to change,” she said. After her death, one of her best friends from the heart attacked her through a break-up while at the same time starting full-time work on a full academic course. “I need an outlet to release my stress,” she said. So she turned to a book.
“I read A Tetrix after a man and his dog and they tried to hike all 48,000-foot-tall mountain peaks in the winter,” she said. “I started pursuing the same list before the winter came to complete its goal.” No weight lifting, no heart, no plans to set just Brittney, her bag, and raised from eight to fifteen miles. “Slowly and steadily improve my physical and mental work through natural wonders,” she said.
Before July she lost 20 pounds, another 30 July to the end, falling. “Not long after, people noticed,” she said. “Even though the weight did not fall in.” Soon, her legs were also strong, but her stance was better to carry 30-pound bags, and clothes she did not wear and healthy again. “At the start of the summer, I could barely finish an eight-mile hike,” she said. “But by the end of the summer I could easily finish the weekend with an altitude of more than 10,000 feet.I lost this 50lb dress size and gained a lot of confidence and pride.
6. “I decided I wanted to be able to do a pullup.”
As the CEO and co-founder of the popular Fit Bottomed Girls site, 35-year-old Jennipher Walters has always liked to work out, and has always been relatively fit. But a CrossFit-style gym changed the game for her. “A colleague suggested I try a gym in town called The Fit Pit,” she says.
“It was kind of like CrossFit, but with longer workouts and more bodyweight moves, and was really intense. I took one look at the website and was totally intimidated.” It took months, but Jennipher eventually found the courage to try a class. “Everyone was nice and welcoming, and it felt really good to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself,” she says. “Plus, there were tons of women doing pullups, and frankly that just seemed badass. I wanted to do that.”
Jennipher didn’t return to The Fit Pit again until months later—but when she did, she was hooked. “I was so inspired by those women doing pullups,” she says. “I got a new taste and idea of what fitness could be. It woke a beast inside me—a beast that really wanted to train and work on something to get better at it.” Because of her job, Jennipher had never had a consistent workout schedule before. “I’d run, do yoga, go to Zumba, lift some weights—whatever I felt like,” she says. But going to The Fit Pit regularly yielded huge results. The HIIT-style workouts include strength and cardio, and each session is different. “I lost 13 pounds according to the scale, but I gained so much more than that,” Jennipher says. “I went from being healthy to feeling like an athlete inside and out. My confidence in the gym has increased to a level that’s hard to describe. I loved myself before, but I had no idea what I could do if I put my mind to it—and now I’m the one banging out pullups!”
7. “I ran 12 races in 12 months.”
“Two and a half years ago, I was 50 pounds overweight and was extremely shapeless and would then pant any and all of the stairs,” 27-year-old Chloe Lewis said of comedians from Chicago, Illinois. “Then, my boyfriend almost deceived me for two years, and my entire life collapsed.” Forward, Chloe turned to fitness. “I started to exercise, do not go back to him or lose weight I get unhappy in our relationship, but put all the anger, anxiety and frustration I feel back to myself, not to others,” she said. “I want to be the strongest, best version of myself, for myself,” he said.
Chloe, which means enrolling in competitions, including 5km, 8k, 10k, triathlon. “I ran back to myself,” she said. “If I feel anxious or nervous or grieving with my shoes rather than grabbing biscuits, ice cream, or a lot of wine, I just go out.” A year later, she lost all the weight gained in the relationship and was committed to running 12 races for 12 months. “It’s an investment for me for a whole year,” she says. “I can now run six miles without thinking I might die. I can finally see my abs ..” But the most obvious change is the ability to do 30 push-ups while the Chloe lifts 10 to 15 pounds instead of weight She used to use air not just how good she looks, this is how strong she felt. “My strongest version of Chloe has been to me,” she said.