Growing up as a dancer, spending 4-5 nights a week in a studio, I had become very comfortable with feeling in shape. I loved the challenge, commitment, motivation and supportive family I gained through this 16 year life experience.
When I graduated high school and went off to college, my dance career came to a sudden halt, as my schedule was now full of classes preparing me for a degree in nursing. Between late night study sessions filled with coffee and junk food and not dedicating my free time to working out, my weight quickly caught up with me and I started to feel very uncomfortable with the way my body had changed. It was not the healthy, energized Stephanie I was once familiar with.
My first job as a nurse entailed working the night shift on a very stressful hospital unit. This not only continued to encourage my poor eating (2 am visits to Mrs. Field’s located in the lobby of the hospital became a routine), but I now had an awful sleep schedule as well. Adapting to working the night shift was very difficult for me and I never truly adjusted. Needless to say, this quickly took a toll on my mental, emotional and physical well-being and I knew I needed to make a change.
After a year and a half, I decided to leave my job and find something that allowed me to have a more “normal” schedule. I found a great position that allowed me to work daytime hours. I was sleeping well again and feeling motivated to get my health back on track. I began to put more care into my eating habits and thought about ways to incorporate physical activity back in to my routine. Through healthy eating, I lost a good bit of weight, but I was still missing a drive and passion for something that my dance career once provided me.
I decided to sign up for a gym membership in April 2011, even though I felt less than thrilled to spend time using stationary machines and equipment. It was a sure way to get active again, even though it meant doing activity I wasn’t terribly excited about. I took a few exercise classes, which were fun, but deep down I really wanted something to push me, challenge me and help me reach a potential within myself that I began to crave again so much.
A few months after I began working out at the gym, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. While I was ecstatic, I suffered from a great deal of nausea during the first 12 weeks. I was now spending my evenings at home on the couch instead of in the gym. With the pressure of making sure I ate enough to feed both me and my child, the only things I managed to consume without much discomfort involved a great deal of fat and carbohydrates. My weight climbed quite a bit in the first 3 months of my pregnancy, which I was reminded of by my doctors at every monthly appointment. By the end of my pregnancy, I had put on 75 lbs, and while I had a good deal of energy, I became unhappy by what I saw in the mirror. This was supposed to be a happy, exciting time and instead I was wishing for the pregnancy to be over so that I could work on shedding the weight as soon as possible.
I spent the first year of my son’s life as a mom who couldn’t get enough time for anything else but being a mother. My weight slowly started to melt away as a result of nursing, which was a great advantage. I lost about half the baby weight through nursing alone, but I hit a plateau and realized that losing the rest of the weight would be up to me.
My grandmother had signed up for a gym membership right around the same time I did and began working with a personal trainer, Michael Gaines. I often heard her tell me stories of her successes and wonderful progress with Michael in the gym. I could tell she was extremely thrilled with herself and what she had accomplished as a result of her trainer’s wonderful guidance and coaching. She had mentioned to me that he was going to be opening his own facility, The X-Project, and I that I should consider trying it out sometime. I procrastinated on her offer for a few weeks, but in April 2013, I was curious to see what her excitement was all about.
I walked into the X-Project for the first time, never expecting what I was about to experience. The transformation I have made in the past 15 months has been nothing I would have ever imagined. I am physically stronger than I have ever been in my life, even at the peak of my dance career. My body has never been more toned and strong, and I have never felt as confident in myself as I do now. Thanks to Michael and his amazing program, I have now found the thing that fuels me and constantly drives me to keep moving forward. I feel energized, empowered and strong. I am lucky to work out here with many members of my family, including my 71 year old grandmother, but I have also gained an extremely supportive gym family that pushes me to reach my fullest potential. I can’t thank Michael enough for guiding me on this life-changing journey. Walking in to The X-Project on that first day was one of the best decisions I have ever made.