I’m 38-years-old, but now people assume I’m 10 years younger! I’ve been involved in the sport of swimming for over 30 years. First, as an age group swimmer, subsequently as a swim parent, and currently, as an active certified USA Swimming official and recreational master swimmer. My daughters, Paulina (17), Fernanda (12) and Isabella (7) are all competitive swimmers and dabble in other sports like soccer, lacrosse and gymnastics. They keep me busy! I also consider myself a yoga practitioner, a gym rat enthusiast, and lately, a little bit of a runner.
Growing up, I really didn’t have any weight issues until I became a mom. With every pregnancy, I gained more weight, and it kept getting harder to lose it after the babies were born.
In 2008, my husband, Alfredo, got a job transfe,r and we moved to the USA. I’ve since taken a hiatus to stay home and manage our active family. Moving to a different country - I’m originally from Mexico - has its advantages and disadvantages.
The drastic change in eating habits became a problem for me. The convenience of fast-food restaurants and processed foods became the norm within my busy schedule. Between taking care of the household, running errands, carpooling to different schools, swim, soccer, dance, gymnastics or lacrosse practices, meets or games, I neglected the way I used to eat before. Therefore, my kids ended up eating CRAP on the go too (C- carbonated drinks, R- refined sugars, A- artificial preservatives, colorants, flavors, P- processed food)instead of home cooked healthy meals.
As the years passed, I kept ignoring that my clothes were getting bigger, my migraines and mood swings were becoming worse, and my health was going down the drain! I had no energy, and I became a couch potato. I also had to be put under different medications to control my migraines and to be able to sleep.
In March of 2013, I hit rock bottom. I’m 5’5", and I was 183 pounds, a size 14 (tight), depressed, suffering from chronic migraines, insomnia, GI problems, and nasty mood swings. I was officiating the 2013 Michigan Swimming 12 & Under State Championship. For the first time in years, I was in front of a camera - not hiding behind my CANON 70-200mm lens like I used to. It had been years since I allowed anybody to take a full body photo of me. This time, I had no say in it. Lots of people were pressing their shutters all around the pool - one of them was my husband. After the long three-day meet when we got home, Alfredo downloaded the pictures, and when I saw them that’s when it HIT me! WHO IS THAT?! IS THAT ME?! How did I allow this to happen to me? I looked and felt awful! I’ve been denying for so long what I already knew. I had to do something about it, and I had to do it immediately!
I had been a member of the Rochester Hills, MI Lifetime Fitness, since 2011, but I hadn’t set foot in the facilities for over two years. In November of 2011, I had torn the meniscus on my left knee. I had to undergo surgery in order to repair it. I spent 6 months on physical therapy. After more than a year and a half beyond the surgery, I still felt that my knee was way too weak.
My friend, Elaine McCorry, has been a LTF member for years. She was the one that helped me get out of my rut. She told me that even if she had to drag me by the hair – and she would’ve - I had to go to the gym with her. She challenged me to stick with it for 12 days. She would call me on the phone and kept tabs on me. Then, she told me that after surviving the 12 days, I had to survive 12 full weeks. Only after that she would leave me on my own. She was right! So, on my birthday, March 28th 2013, I began my transformation journey.
The first place at Life Time where I found myself was the pool. Swimming was my first choice not only because it was the gentlest way to start working on my messed up body, but because I felt most at home, comfortable and safe surrounded by the lane lines, black lines and blue walls, and most of all the water. I had to wear a neoprene elastic knee brace for months until I was able to kick with ease and without pain. Swimming was the only activity where I didn’t feel out of place or clueless whatsoever. At the beginning, I was so self-conscious about the way my body looked that I would only wear my daughter’s old, worn out knee skins - swim lingo for long racing suits. After a couple of months of swimming by myself, I joined the masters' group, coached by Caitlyn Best, and started practicing with a group of ladies once a week. Also, I started wearing regular swimsuits. After almost half a year, the practices became twice a week, and I gained another coach, Patrick, at first and, currently, Jordan.
The second place that helped me improve my all around fitness was the Yoga Studio. When I first started practicing yoga, I wasn’t able to kneel without wearing volleyball knee pads. I couldn’t reach my toes with ease, do a pigeon pose or even consider a tripod headstand! Porsche, Thaira, Rajini and the other yoga instructors were always super supportive. They showed me modifications for the poses I wasn’t able to do and were always encouraging me in a very uplifting way to try to push my body to its limits. I adopted Porsche’s saying “How you do anything, is how you do everything!” Breath by breath, day by day, I kept getting stronger, more flexible, and my character started changing too! I became more relaxed, patient, less reactive. I was happier! I try to practice yoga at least three times a week. If I can squeeze in more days, the better!
After the initial 12 weeks of my transformation journey, I purchased a heart rate monitor and got an Active and Resting Metabolic Assessment. Once I had my numbers, I knew where I needed to push my heart rate in order to maximize fat loss and improve my VO2 Max. I started reading lots of books about fitness and nutrition. One of them detailed a list of symptoms that were significantly similar to what I had been dealing with for years. I decided to give up dairy cold turkey and be as gluten-free as possible. After a couple months of been dairy and semi-GF, I hadn’t had a migraine, my depressed mood improved substantially, my bad temper went MIA, and I lost about 20 pounds! As I got in better shape, I moved upstairs from the pool and Yoga Studio, and expanded my workouts to the Cycling Studio, the group classes and, eventually, the gym area. I had created new healthy habits that kept transforming me inside and out.
But fast forward to February 2014. After about 9 months of attending LTF diligently almost every day, incorporating the Fast Fuel and Veggie Max supplements to my diet, and being dairy free and semi-GF free, I had lost around 50 pounds and 6 dress sizes. I hit a plateau after the winter holidays, and on the last day of registration for the 2014 Spring 90-Day Challenge, I gingerly approached the PT desk to ask for more information. I met Ryan Graydon, Shehzad Sheik (Shaz), Brian McKinney and Joe Dabrowski. I ended up signing up for the Transformation Challenge, making a big financial commitment - I used all the money that I had saved from officiating swim meets the previous season - in order to afford TEAM Boot Camp, Pilates sessions, an Active and Metabolic Assessment, three sessions of Metabolic Coaching, a Food Allergy profile, a My Health Score test, a Detox Bundle, and lots of supplements.
On registration day, I weighed 129 pounds with 22.7% body fat. Ryan and Shaz asked me what my goal was. My answer was that I wanted to learn and try different things, become stronger and work on my core and legs. Whatever improvements in my body composition and weight would be welcomed. Plus the 10,000 dollars, and other prizes, were a huge incentive! I think I was ready, physically and mentally prepared, to try the 90-Day Challenge for the first time. I wanted to push my body and test my limits. I wanted to feel empowered and strong. I wanted to be fearless.
In order to start the 90-Day Challenge, I worked a schedule around my swim practices. The morning masters' group meets Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m. Because of the Try-It Tuesdays events, I had to modify my swim practice time. After I was done with the scheduled Try-It Tuesday events, I would go to the pool. My swim teammates would be in the middle of practice, and I would take a photo with my phone of the written workout on the white board. I would talk to Patrick or Jordan about the sets and intervals. I would go change into my swimsuit and after everybody was done, I would jump in the pool and do the workout by myself. It wasn’t the same, but I made a promise to myself not to slack on the pool work.
Mondays and Wednesdays I had Team Boot camp at 9:00 a.m. with Brian McKinney. Since day one, I was hooked! We never had the same workout. He always pushed me to do my best and always with a smile on his face. Brian encouraged me to conquer my fear of running. I was so hesitant to try it, but I started to get the hang of it. There was no session when I didn’t laugh, sweat like a pig, and finish exhausted. Plus, I met a group of amazing, competitive and inspiring people! On some Fridays I would attend the 6:00 a.m. Team Boot camp session with Joe Dabrowski so I wouldn’t miss my swim practice with Caitlyn at 9:30 a.m. Some of those Fridays it was tough to wake up at 5:00 a.m. If by any chance my husband was out of town, and I had to take my girls to school, I would have to miss either swim or boot camp. It happened more than a couple times.
On Thursdays, I had Pilates with Matt King. I’m still working on getting the hang of the sequences and transitions, but Matt was able to move me to a higher level class almost right away. Pilates helped me be aware of my posture and core at all times.
Once I figured the core of my 90 Day-Challenge workout schedule, I complemented it by continuing to attend some of the group classes like Total Fitness, Ripped to the Core, Insanity, BarreFusion, Cycling, and of course, YOGA - Hot Vinyasa, Slow Burn, Yin Restorative or Ashtanga Vinyasa - whatever class I could fit. I also did the metabolic workouts on the treadmill that Shaz designed for me.
On weeks 1 and 2, I learned about healthy and clean eating and the Detox program with the help of Kelly Wilson. I incorporated the following supplements into my diet: Multivitamin AM/PM, Omega-3 fish oil, Cal/Mag 1001, Vitamin D, Multi-Probiotic 4000, Dynamic Greens and U-Can. I continued the Veggie Max protein powder and switched to the Dairy Free Fast Fuel. I read the Eat Well, Live Well guide and attended the grocery store tour twice.
On week three, I got some very amusing news. My Health Score test result was a 100, and my metabolic age was 19-years-old - even though my chronological age was 37!
At the end of week five, I participated in my first Indoor TRI. The event taught me some valuable lessons. It didn’t go as I had planned - just like life itself. I had to deal with a leg cramp that started almost at the beginning of the swim portion of the race - seriously, why did it had to be on the swim part?! The cramp never went away throughout the cycling portion and, to top it off, I had to deal with an untied shoe lace in the middle of the running portion that made me hop and limp. It was almost impossible for me to move because of the leg cramp. I got through it, thanks to my yoga instructor Porsche, my swim buddy Jessica, my boot camp buddies, Julie, Alicia and Kathy, who participated in the TRI too, and to Brian McKinney. I appreciated all of their encouragement. It helped me finish with my best effort.
As soon as the Indoor TRI was done, I started to prepare for the Detox on week eight. I was introduced to the dry sauna. I’m a fan now! Kelly gave me a bunch of easy, nutritious and tasty recipes to incorporate to my diet. I also started eating the Detox to-go meals a couple times a week at the Life Time Café. It was super convenient, they were delicious, and I didn’t have to worry about portions or nutrient combinations. During the Detox, I switched my TEAM Boot Camp workouts for TEAM Fitness. Anna still kept me challenged, but the intensity was diminished.
Once the Detox was done, I went back to my regular workout schedule with a newfound energy and vitality. As the weeks passed, I was getting more excited about the Challenge. My endurance, speed, flexibility and strength were getting better!
Everything was going great until week eleven. My family was never quite on board with me participating in the 90-Day challenge. They kept saying that it was a long shot for me to be able to win and that I wasted money on my investment. They kept complaining about the food choices that I was making for the household and the time that I invested at the gym. It was very difficult to find the time to go to the gym on the weekends and to refrain myself from eating all the junk and processed food that they bought occasionally. My husband would also bake cakes, cookies and bring treats for my daughters. All of those treats were very tempting, and I almost felt like they were a cruel joke, but I know in my heart that it wasn’t their intention to torment me. I caved in once or twice, but I found the support system I needed at Life Time.
The personal trainers, coaches, instructors, my boot camp buddies, swim teammates, and people in general who had witnessed my transformation gave me the encouragement to keep reaching deep for willpower. They allowed me to believe that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to. Week twelve was testament to that. I stepped on the InBody Machine, and the numbers on the screen shocked me. I was down to 16.1% body fat and 122.6 pounds! I was only 0.02 away from my goal of reaching 15.9% of body fat.
I knew that by the weigh-out weekend, I was going to be on my period. In previous weeks, I noticed that during that time of the month my numbers went up - both body fat and weight. So, I was preparing for the worst.
We finished the Try-It Tuesdays with an outdoor 5k on week thirteen. Let me remind you that I had never in my life ran outside on a trail. I was just getting used to hopping on a treadmill, and now I had to figure out how to pace myself without looking at the speed on the treadmill screen. I thought about following Julie and Denise, my boot camp friends. Yet, for some strange reason once I started running, I found my sweet spot. I kept going, and soon enough, I was leading the pack. I had no idea where we were going. I followed the signs but messed up the route twice. Julie and Denise had to yell at me in order to go back on track. I passed everybody on my way back, I thought all of them were right behind me, but I was surprised to find out when I crossed the finish line first that nobody was close to me. I will never forget THAT moment! I was kind of in denial. My time was 28 minutes and 50 seconds. I know that I could’ve done better if I had known what I was doing and where was I going, but being clueless didn’t help me at all. That day I found out I was a runner in progress!
Today, as Brian McKinney asked me to step on the InBody Machine for the final weigh-in, I was literally shaking. I didn’t want to look down at the screen! When the numbers finally appeared, I felt tears filling my eyes. I was up to 18.0% of body fat and 124.3 pounds! I immediately felt like a failure! What did I do wrong in a little over a week to mess up my progress?! Brian was so kind to me. He gave me a hug and reminded me that unfortunately for females, getting that time of the month at the worst time possible, can mess up the body composition numbers. He reminded me to focus on what I had accomplished so far and look back at my progress photos. Once again, he was right on point. Thanks for the encouragement!
Whatever the outcome of this 2014 spring 90-Day Transformation Challenge, I’m already a winner. I’m proud of myself! I won a newfound confidence and improved my overall health and body. I met some new, amazing friends who share the same goals and ideals that I have and learned that my journey is not over! I will continue this healthy path for the rest of my life. I will try different things, push my body to new limits and keep on learning!