At age 68, I weighed over 200 lbs and I’m only 5’2”.  I had a job that I loved; however, once I was promoted to Director of the program, the burden fell on me to implement a lot of changes.  This became very stressful and as a result, I endured work, ate as much as possible and did not sleep well.  I was also put on medication for high blood pressure.  I was constantly in a bad mood, and nobody, including myself, could do anything right.

While in my 20’s, I lived a life that other people seemed to envy.  I was married and had 3 beautiful little girls by the age of 25.  Because of my husband’s job, I had the luxury of living in many foreign countries – Cyprus, England and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  I guess you could say I was living the “Hollywood life”.  I was traveling to exciting places and had plenty of money to spend.  However, I learned that all was not what it seemed.  Behind closed doors, I was living a life of hell with a man that portrayed himself to be a loving husband and father.   To me, he was a mental abuser and had a wandering eye.   Near the end of our tour in Africa, my marriage crumpled, and I was put on a plane with my 3 children, no place to live and no job.  My self-esteem became very broken down and it’s something I continue to work through.

I married for the second time very quickly, and deep down I knew it was a mistake.  As a mother, trying to raise 3 children on a very limited budget, this was a solution that would help with the financial burden.  This marriage lasted 4 long years, and by the end, I vowed I would never marry again.

I worked hard at 2-3 jobs while raising my girls, and by age 42, things were starting to look up.  I became a grandmother for the first time and I was much more financially stable.  I even became involved with tap dancing and continued that for many years, having the opportunity to dance with one of my daughters and a few granddaughters.  We danced together at places like Hershey Park, Kings Dominion, Disney World, and on several cruise ships.  My passion for dance grew, but my self-esteem was still keeping me from becoming the person I knew was deep inside.

In March 2011, my oldest granddaughter mentioned that she wanted to join a fitness club and asked me if I would like to join with her.  I hesitated at first as I was 68 years old, very overweight and out of shape.  At the time, I couldn’t lift a milk jug onto the top shelf of the refrigerator or stack a dinner plate on the cabinet shelf without using both hands.  I also worried that people would talk about me and laugh behind my back while I worked out.  I had read about personal trainers and how people my age benefited from weight training, but never pictured myself as being one of those people.  I ended up agreed to go and see what it was like.

A young man greeted me at the door and introduced himself as Michael Gaines.  He showed me around the facility and talked to me about his personal training program.  I told him not to bother wasting his breath, as I had already decided to hire a personal trainer.  I then asked, “Do you have anybody that works with older people?”  He responded,  “You’re looking at him.”  I hired him right on the spot.

During our initial interview, he asked me about my goals.  I told him I wanted to lose weight and learn how to use all the machines in the club.  It was at that time that he informed me he didn’t use the machines – he used free weights.  I have to admit, I had no idea what he meant.  He proceeded to show me by handing me two 5 lb. dumbbells.  I couldn’t lift them.  He then handed me two 2lb dumbbells.   I struggled to raise them up to my chest.

Michael patiently worked with me during our sessions with stretch bands to strengthen the ligaments in my upper body.  The progress was very slow going as I was completely out of shape. In October 2011, I had to take a break from my workouts to have surgery.  I was allowed to return to the gym in February 2012 and when I did, Michael hit the ground running with me.  Because I was working full-time, I could only go once a week, but would have loved to have gone more.  We began incorporating medicine balls, kettle bells, dead lifts, squats and running into my workouts.  The weight was starting to come off.  Michael spent time talking to me about nutrition, sleeping habits, emotional well-being and life in general during our time together.  I was enjoying every minute of my training.  In September 2012, I mentioned to Michael that I would love to one day complete the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Michael took my wish and began incorporating training to run during my next session.  The race was in February 2013 and he even traveled with me to Disney World and did the race with me, coaching me along the way, all the while wearing his “Jasmine’s trainer” t-shirt.

In March 2013, Michael Gaines opened his own facility – the X-Project.  I now go 5-6 days a week, where I get the opportunity to work out with several of my grandchildren, a daughter and son-in-law and several friends.  My X-Project family has become my support in everything I accomplish.

Michael recently convinced me to participate in the first X-Project Competition event.  To be eligible to participate, you had to qualify, which I had done.  I was very nervous about doing this-after all, I am 71 years old. I went into the competition with the idea that I would be very proud of myself if I just finished all of the events.  Not only did I finish the events, but I finished in third place out of everyone competing, beating all of my family members that also participated.  On a daily basis during our workouts, I compete with and kick the asses of many of the younger members in the gym, which feels great!  I am currently ranked 3rd place in strength at the X-Project and I’m planning my strategy for the 2nd X-Project Competition event.

Michael has helped me set many personal records at the X-Project:  195 lb. deadlift; 135 lb. squat; 75 lb. front squat; swing a 26lb kettle bell for 5 minutes without stopping; jump rope 732 times in 8 minutes; 55 lb. snatch clean; 50 lb. bench press (for me that is incredible) – just to name a few.  I can now do pushups, burpees, get up off the floor without rolling around, climb 3 flights of stairs without stopping; climb the rocks at Great Falls; hike up a mountain – the list goes on and on; and am currently working on getting my pull-ups, double under jump ropes, and hand stand pushups.  Pretty amazing for a 71 year old great grandmother!

Michael has challenged me to be my best.  He believes in me and showed me that I can accomplish things I never thought possible.  He saw something in me that I struggled to see in myself and has helped me develop an entirely new attitude about life.  Michael has given me 20 years of my life back and my self-esteem is at its peak.  I am now the person that I knew was hiding somewhere inside.  I owe my life to Michael Gaines and The X-Project.