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Heather joined Balance in December 2016, and has since lost more than 90 pounds with the help of our classes and personal training. She recently celebrated her 40th birthday and newfound love of fitness with the ultimate bucket list experience: hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro! Learn how she lost the weight, and how Balance’s GX and personal training programs helped her prepare for the hike.

Name: Heather

Occupation: Marketing

Balance Location: Thomas Circle

How long have you been coming to Balance? Since December 2016

What made you decide to join Balance?

It was time to get serious about working out! I had started eating healthier and needed to complete the picture with regular exercise. I belonged to another gym, but never made it because it wasn’t convenient. Balance is super close to work so I can fit gym time into my daily routine. Plus, I prefer classes and Balance offers a wide variety at times that work well for me. Initially my goal was to join just one class per week. Ten months later, I’m here nearly every weekday.

You’ve lost more than 90 pounds since joining Balance. How did you do it?

Eating well, exercise, and accepting that I’d have to be hungry occasionally to make the desired progress. After the weight started dropping, it motivated me to stick with it. Now I’m working on that last 5 pounds before the truly hard part starts  — maintenance.

In terms of my day-to-day approach, there are a lot of little steps that add up to my overall program. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before — I track my steps and calorie count in the Fitbit app, focus on more vegetables and fewer carbs to maximize nutrition, take my lunch to work, and plan ahead so that I have healthy options. And, of course, exercise! As I’ve approached my goal, I’ve refined my diet and paid more attention to macros. I’ve also increase the exercise intensity in order to continue making progress.

Because I had such a long way to go when I started, I concentrated on losing just 5 pounds at a time. It was less overwhelming than focusing on the end goal and I got to celebrate the small wins along the way.

How did you feel like Balance’s personal training program aided in your weight loss?

After a few months of steady weight loss, I decided to try personal training. I had been coming to the gym for a few months and felt that I was ready to take things up a notch and needed some guidance. Plus, I hadn’t been doing any strength training and needed to add that component to my regular routine. I knew that a personal trainer could help establish a program that was appropriate for my ability level while pushing me to improve. In the training sessions, we focused on strength training with short stints of cardio. Jermaine sent me the routines we completed so that I could do them on my own between personal training sessions.

Personal training helped me form the habit of regular gym sessions. On training nights, Jermaine was waiting, so I had to go even when I really wanted to head home and relax. He also held me accountable for exercising between training sessions.

What was the hardest thing about changing your lifestyle and losing weight? What was the best part of the process?

Hardest thing: Not only is it a long-term commitment, it’s not a comfortable process. Planning is a huge time commitment and getting healthy had to take priority over some other things. I had to accept that it wouldn’t be easy and stay committed when it got uncomfortable.

Best part: I’m so much more confident now. Not only do I feel great and energetic, but facing this challenge has increased my confidence in everything I do.

You recently hiked Mount Kilimanjaro. What made you decide to do that? How did you prepare for the hike?

I’ve wanted to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro since my 20’s. At the time, I was fit enough, but it seemed out of reach for a variety of other reasons. When I turned 40 last year, I wrote out my official bucket list which included this long-time aspiration. I just couldn’t let it go! Since then, I’ve been checking off bucket list items and setting my sights on Kili seemed like a great next step in my weight loss and fitness journey.

To prepare for the hike, I upped the number of days I visited the gym, spent more time hiking challenging trails, and started running bleachers at a local high school on the weekends to simulate the steep climb. At the peak of training, I did 200-300 floors per session. I spent a lot of time on those bleachers! Having the upcoming trip really helped me stay focused on being active and gave me the motivation I needed to make a real effort in training sessions instead of dialing it in. Getting to the top gave me such a huge sense of accomplishment.

Do you have any gym must-haves (can be gear, music, post-workout snacks, etc.)?

Music and group exercise classes. During classes at Balance, I’ve picked up a ton of songs that I’ve added to my personal workout playlist. I couldn’t have gotten through those bleacher sessions without my headphones and workout playlist.

How do you fit working out into your busy schedule?

I visit the gym just before or after work. Adjusting my commute time from Tyson’s Corner has improved my commute and given me time to fit in group exercise classes.

What do you like most about Balance? How has Balance helped you achieve your goals?

The people and the group exercise classes are what I like best about Balance. Everyone at Balance is so encouraging and supportive.

Michael’s Thursday night endurance spin class in particular has helped me improve and played a key role in preparing for Kilimanjaro. It’s a challenging class and I’ve been able to see tangible progress since starting the class in February. Now I even hear Michael’s voice in my head when I’m trying to convince myself to run one more lap around the track.

I’ve also felt a real difference in my hiking abilities after starting a consistent yoga practice. One day on a hike, I suddenly realized how much easier it had gotten to scramble over big rocks.

#BalanceLife is: empowering.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Feeling stronger, not just lighter, has been really satisfying. And it’s exponential! The better I feel, the more motivated I am to get even stronger.