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Success Stories


Matt K. - Plymouth, MN 

Sometimes it takes a while for lessons to take hold. That was the case for me. I had been told many times that you can't out-train a bad diet. I tried. I couldn't.

What caused me to finally get the message?

I had mechanical failure for the second year in a row at the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.

Obviously, there is nothing you can do about your bicycle breaking down. However, because I was so heavy and had to expend so much extra effort to barely make the cutoff times necessary to remain on the course, I had ZERO margin for error. After battling back to the aid station on a rigged up single speed bike, I took the SAG wagon (pickup truck) to the finish line. I was thrown in the back with bikes, boxes and other broken down riders. Watching people finish was hard. It was doubly bitter since I had high hopes of finishing this year. 

After that disappointment, it clicked. If I wanted to continue to race mountain bikes (and by race, I mean participate in mountain bike races) I needed to make a significant change. This was just the most tangible signal of how bad things had gotten with my weight - easy rides and an otherwise sedentary life of a computer programmer tends to mask such things.

So what did I do?

I set a goal: The Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race. I've dubbed it "Operation Leadville."

The primary task was to get my weight from 280 to WAY under 200 pounds (I'm 5'10" tall.) but retain my leg strength and to build up more general strength.

One evening, after the weekly Tuesday night ride at Plymouth Life Time Fitness, we all met up at a local restaurant for dinner. I happened to be seated across from Stephan Roufs, someone whom I had never met. During the course of our conversation, I recounted my Lutsen 99er experience and how I really needed to get a handle on my weight. He told me that he had lost over 100 pounds a couple of years prior and was keeping it off. He offered to mentor me if I wanted to give it a shot. I did.

After 2 months, I was down approximately 40 pounds. During that time I was mountain biking every evening at Elm Creek Single Track (my second home). Pushing the limits of the plan. The first week was rough.... I was way out of my comfort zone as far as eating. For me, it was a major mental exercise, but I decided I needed to trust the plan.

I have a fondness for my original plan since it was the tool I used to get started. I did have to modify it to increase the amount of protein I was taking in, but it got me used to eating small meals frequently and broke my familiarity with Culver's Crispy Chicken sandwich baskets. I'm not kidding... I used to walk into Culver's, and they would put in my order before I made it to the counter. It was bad.

I made a deal with myself when I started the initial program that the purpose was to break the inertia and move forward, but I didn't want that to be my permanent solution. So, after the first 2 months I began to do some research. Here is the thing, I thought I needed to gather a whole lot of new information. But I didn't. I already knew what was going on, and I knew what I needed to do.

Previously, I had worked with Keri Anderson at Life Time Fitness. She had given me the tools already. I just had to put it into practice.

I began to swap out the packets/prepackaged meals with whole foods that fell into the same basic nutrition profile. I upped my protein intake gradually, I still felt like I was behind the curve there with the amount of riding I was doing. The weight continued to come off. I just kept adjusting little by little - being mindful of what I was doing.

I would get asked a lot, "Wow! You must feel amazing!" I couldn't really say that though - at least not right away. Even fairly quick weight loss is a gradual process. Your "normal" changes. For me, I was still very heavy. It will probably seem strange when I say that I "suspected" that I felt better. My knees didn't hurt anymore, nor did my back. My laps at Elm were getting easier and faster, but I didn't have an epiphany until a few months ago.

One evening as I was leaving Life Time Fitness in Plymouth after my Performance Plus Cycle class (a small group, intensive program getting you ready to race) I was doing my usual inventory of "what hurts." Nothing. Nothing hurt. It's such a strange (wonderful) feeling, and it actually took me by surprise. My legs were fatigued, since I had murdered myself in class, but there was no pain. I felt light, I felt more upright. My clothes fit.... I had armpits.... Nothing was rubbing. That last bit might seem like a super bizarre statement, but anyone who has been significantly overweight will understand what I'm saying. I think the best way to describe what I felt is “free.”

I look at things very differently now, particularly things that involve athletic effort. I used to joke saying, "I only run when chased" or "Why run when there are perfectly good bicycles around?". (OK. I still believe that one - I LOVE cycling.) To date I've run 4 5Ks and participated in 2 Life Time Indoor Tris. I'm enrolled in an intensive race preparation training program at Life Time. I participated and finished the Barn Burner in Flagstaff, AZ (40 pounds ago). This year I'm slated to race in 3 Leadville Series races (the Austin Rattler in TX, the Wilmington Whiteface in NY, and the Barn Burner in AZ). I'll be returning to the Lutsen 99er and am considering the Telluride 100. All of them are physically demanding, long distance cross country mountain bike races. I no longer look at them and think, "I'll throw myself into them and see if I can drag myself across the finish line." I fully intend to show very well in my age group. It's exciting.


This kind of thing isn't done alone. I'm a fairly introverted person by nature. I like to do things on my own. But this was a group effort, and some of the people involved probably didn't realize they were a part of it.

I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Keri Anderson, my trainer at Life Time. She laid the foundation, and I use that knowledge every day. I owe great thanks to Stephan Roufs for getting me re-kickstarted. I needed a plan. He had one, and it worked.

Tiffany Berenberg factors monumentally in this process. She kept me engaged though cycling, which first became my lifeline and is now my passion. I thank Jon Knutson for frequent encouragement and ass kickings.

Thanks to the crew at Erik's Bike Shop in Minnetonka/Ridgedale for being my pit crew, technical advisers and support crew. And to my friends (who I consider family) at Plymouth Life Time Cycle, thank you all for challenging and inspiring me.

So far...

In June of 2014, I weighed 282 pounds. As of today, I weigh 177 pounds. That's what? 105 pounds lost (or 2+ bags of water softener salt.) At this point, I still weigh myself, but weight loss is no longer my primary goal and that feels great. I am stronger than I was then - physically, emotionally and mentally.


Leila M. - Rochester Hills, MI

I always enjoyed training and going to the gym. The whole lifestyle always made me feel good in the past. When my husband and I moved from Brazil to the U.S., the story changed - mainly because I had to leave behind a part of my heart, my oldest daughter. Now a teenager at 15-years-old, she lives with her biological father. Besides moving to a different country with a different culture and a language I haven't mastered and being without close friends and family, the worst part was leaving her there and bringing with me the worst possible baggage: a broken heart.

That situation sucked the life out of me. I stopped going to the gym. I ate more and more, and I was beginning to lose the battle against depression.

Then we moved here to Michigan, close to a Life Time club. Almost by chance I joined and rediscovered the joy in exercising and eating healthily. There, people told me about the 90-Day Challenge, and without too much expectation I enlisted. It was mostly to fight my depression, I see now. With that came the Boot Camp Team, the best squad I could have become part of. 

It is hard to find words to describe how supportive my fellow team members and, most importantly, my instructor Brian McKinney are. Always in a good mood, he is ready to help with any difficulty in the process whether or not it is related to the Boot Camp. Above all, he is an outstanding professional, always worried about the proper form, how are you feeling, and (like I said) always with a smile on his face. Contagious! And my teammates are also incredible people who put a smile on MY face. 

With all of that, only good things could have come: I am again dedicated to exercising, mental health and healthy eating with the support of nutritionist Samantha Bielawski, who is also always there to help in any way she can.

The Rochester Hills Life Time club, the new friends I made, and the 90-Day Challenge are helping my process of adaptation here in the U.S. tremendoustly and fulfilling, at least partially, the void left by my daughter, my family, and my friends back in Brazil. These last 3 months have been exhausting but at the same time fun! It was worth it. I am really proud of the results and do not plan to stop here. My thanks go to the Life Time Rochester Hills gang! Thanks Brian, thanks Samantha, thanks Joe [Dabrowski - for keeping us in check] and everyone else who guided me during this learning phase.

And to my teammates from Boot Camp: keep going, ladies! You too, Johnny€!




Kelly O. - Beachwood, OH

“I am a warrior.”

This sentence was written by my dad on a hospital placemat about 15 times on October 23, 2014, the day after his emergency bypass surgery as a result of a heart attack. My dad’s hero from the Vietnam War sent a motivational message right before surgery telling him that he is a warrior. When my dad had pain, he wrote this reminder on the placemat to give him strength. His handwriting got consistently better each time.

My dad had no history of heart problems. His cholesterol and blood pressure are perfect. He is average weight if not slightly below, eats ridiculously healthily, and works out daily. His routine annual exams never caught that five arteries were significantly blocked. There were no signs. The heart surgeon said that a “normal person” would not have survived his massive heart attack. My dad’s good health saved his life.

As I write this essay during the last week of my 90-Day Transformation Challenge, I cannot help but think how wonderful it is that a health club offers a contest that can “kickstart” a lifetime of healthy living that may someday save my life too. I’d like to share my story...

I was in Minnesota for business. There were many nice people staying at my hotel who were all in training at Life Time’s headquarters that week. They all talked very highly of the club, and I vowed that when I returned to Cleveland, I was going to join. I entered Life Time in Beachwood, OH, two days later and was greeted by Amanda Groth, Personal Training Department Head. She wanted to know all about me and took the time to ask many questions, so that she could fully understand my goals and needs. She listened to me tell her that I have never been so heavy and out of shape in my life, that I’m often depressed about being separated after a 14-year marriage, that I have a high stress job, that I need to find another hobby besides drinking wine every night, and most importantly, that I want to be a better person for my two amazing boys (10-years-old and 8-years-old). She was sympathetic, she gave me hope, and she told me about the 90-Day Transformation contest. Amanda matched me with Karl Jacobson, who had trained the national winner of the 2012 90-Day Transformation Challenge. I was in!

Karl and I talked through how often I’d be able to come to Life Time to train with him based on my busy schedule at work and home. We started off with two 30-minute sessions per week, which I quickly increased to three. The third session I added was every Saturday morning at 7:30 am. Those who know me understood I was pretty serious about my fitness challenge at this point because I am NOT a morning person. Poor Karl, who had to put up with me every Saturday morning - his positive attitude, professionalism, sense of humour, intelligence, and candidness carried me through this Challenge.

In addition to the personal training sessions, Karl drew up a plan each month for the cardio that I was to do on my own. He taught me about the importance of interval training. He provided me with a list of suggested foods and educated me on the timing to eat these foods. I never ate breakfast before I met Karl. He took me down to the LifeCafe and recommended what shakes would be best for me (the mocha madness is incredible). He made working out fun! I became more active. The kids and I went on bike rides. We did things outside together. We started a garden and picked fresh vegetables. My boys had to know if I hit my 10,000 steps each night (another great Life Time challenge), and if not, we walked until I did! My dog is even happier because she now goes on walks every day. I have become a better me.

There were challenges along this journey. I developed shin splints. My scoliosis caused me to have a sprained shoulder and a hurt back, I had a 100 degree fever for two weekends in a row, and my dad is recovering in a hospital in California. The person I was before this challenge would not have been able to handle these obstacles gracefully. This transformation has allowed me to discover my inner strength that had been hiding inside me all along. I am so grateful for my supportive boys, family, friends, the Life Time staff, and most importantly Karl who believed in me since day one, and is without question the reason for my success. I’ve gained health and happiness. I’ve learned to fight for the good life because I am worth it. I am a warrior! 



Melody R. – Lakeville, MN

It had been a year since I'd last started the 90-Day Challenge. How could I let myself rebound back to where I was a year ago! I found myself embarrassed to walk into the gym. Just 9 months ago I was in what I thought was "The Best Shape of My Life"! I was in the top five in the nation! What happened!? 

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Mark F. – Laguna, CA

In the blink of an eye, my life changed dramatically. It was the beginning of the 2014 Grand Prix race season. I was working with my trainer on the Motocross track. During my first practice lap, the moment I feared most happened. I was racing down the straightaway heading into the next turn. A young hotshot battled me for the corner. Taking the inside corner, his back wheel took out my front wheel. In a split second, my life changed.

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