Life is Not for Sissies

Patti's Breakthrough

A few weeks ago, we received a moving and inspiring letter from one of our core members, Patricia Pike. With Patti’s permission, we have decided to run her story in its entirety, including the preamble, as it shows just how far doubt can reach, even when we are fairly certain we are about to do something that can be a great help to others.

Like many of you, Patti is dealing as bravely as possible with circumstances that frankly, would break any parent’s heart, but she keeps going. Susan and I now know of several people who have come out from behind the screen of their computers and have dared to bare their stories to help others. We are privileged. To us, this is a sacred trust. Thank you Patti for allowing us to help get your story out. We are confident it will inspire and help anyone who reads it.

“Hey Marco: I've written something that I'm not sure about sharing, not because I don't want people to know about it but because sometimes I babble and no one really gets what the heck I'm talking about. But I felt after Derrick commented on my story and then writing to you, that I needed to share. So I thought I would share with you and Susan first, and then if you see that I'm not “losing it,” then you would go ahead and share it with others. Believe it or not, it's all about self-doubt and here I sit, doubting whether or not it's worth sharing!”

Patti Pike – My Breakthrough - Life is Not For Sissies

After reading a blog last week about making "Life Breakthroughs" and then both last week’s and this week’s mid-week motivations by Marco,
my mind started ticking and I would like to share with you some of my thoughts. So if you like, grab a protein shake and a few almonds and read on.

I wrote a piece on my son some time ago and what I wanted to become in order to stay strong both physically and mentally for him and for me. Sadly he ended up in jail, was released about 4 weeks ago and has succumbed once again to a life of addiction and pain. Within this time period, my sister passed away at the young age of 54 and so on and so on.... In other words, “life” has happened and I was about to let it get to me and shove me into a pit of self pity, self-doubt, and despair until someone wrote a comment on my son’s story and it made me go back and re-read it.

Who was I to think I could become stronger, fitter, run marathons and “save” my children. Actually, I have figured out that as hard as it is to admit this; I cannot save my son. That is his job. Mine is to be there when and if he decides to get help. I love and support my boys; I just have to remember that I can't live their lives for them. The one person I can save is myself. Self-doubt is lack of trust within oneself. If you don't trust yourself it's because you haven't been trustworthy in dealing with yourself. So in order to move forward I have to become trustworthy to me. Let me explain. Trustworthy people gain your trust by honoring the commitments they make. I have not honored my commitment to myself to become healthy and strong, or I have only half honored it, at best. So if you want to trust yourself and stop self-doubting, then you must first honor your commitments to yourself.

Commitments are hard to keep if we make them so big they appear unattainable. So I will make smaller ones (like not eating the cookies when I get upset, or going for that run, walk, whatever) that are easier to keep. The trick in making any changes in life, be it losing weight or anything at all that will last, is to not make big shifts with grandiose ideas. The trick is all about making the commitment stick. Staying power.

If you want to make changes stick you must show up in your own life.
Not just be a seat warmer watching it pass you by. Participate in your own life. Showing up can be painful at times. Some days I just want to cancel out the day and not show up at all. So I'm figuring it out; I will be able to show up if I do it in smaller ways. It might not be quite so painful and then I will continue to show up because it's not as hard.

Consistency trumps quantity every time. If I do 100 push-ups today and then nothing for weeks because my arms now want to fall off, it will not work. If I do 10-20 push-ups each day for 5 days then it's consistent and more attainable. When someone makes a commitment to me, I hold them accountable for it, so why wouldn’t I hold myself accountable for the commitments I make to me? I will commit to a lifestyle and behavior that is maintainable, and honor that promise to myself and be accountable to it. One day at a time. Sometimes, honestly, just one moment at a time; but every day I need to show up and be present, perhaps in smaller ways and not so loud. Quiet, constant, subtle and then I will earn my own trust.

Thank you Derrick for your comment on my son’s story you made me go back and re-read it and remember the commitments I had made. I cannot, nor can anyone else, help another person if they first do not commit to themselves and then keep that commitment. We all want our children to learn this lesson but first perhaps we need to, or at least I do.

Thank you Marco and Susan for listening to me. Life isn't for sissies is it!

What will be your commitment to yourself and how will you honour it?

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Sandra Miles

We were so blessed by Sandra's story! It helps each of us redefine our boundaries, whether self-set, or the result of circumstances beyond our control. It challenges each of us to truly pause and think what words like "I can't, it's too hard, there is no way..." actually mean. Thank you Sandra. We think you are a very inspiring lady!

Determination along with the love and support of my husband, family and friends has gotten me to where I am today.

In 1997, I was in a serious car accident that left me hospitalized for 3 months, 2 of those weeks were spent in ICU on life support while I was in a coma. I suffered a severe head injury, broken hip, broken collarbone along with some internal injuries.

I was lucky I survived.

The months/years that followed were rough. When I was released from the hospital I moved back in with my parent’s and continued out patient therapy which included: physical, speech, and occupational therapy. I had to learn to walk and talk again and I was determined to walk on my own without assistance of a cane or walker because my balance was unsteady. That's when my determination kicked in and I conquered that in the coming months. Today I still struggle with my balance, but I consider that minor now.

As the years passed, because of my limitations I became out of shape. In January 2009 I joined Thrive and was determined to do it on my own. Easier said than done; I failed to see any changes in that year and that's when I started talking to Jen Erickson (the closest thing I found to Jillian from the Biggest Loser). In January 2010, I committed to work with Jen, I was going to let her kick my butt into shape and I have loved every minute of it! She has helped me regain self esteem and some muscles. I still struggle with discipline when it comes to my diet, but I'm sure everyone has their moments.

Each day is a gift and I have learned not to take things/life for granted.

My advice to people: Appreciate what you have and who you are and YOU CAN DO ANYTHING you put your mind to!!!


Sandra Miles StoryAdgetfitfaster.png

For Me, for My Son

Patti P.

Good morning Marco and Susan.

Most people fear honesty when it comes to sharing stories, it makes them uncomfortable for the reader and writer but I need to share this and some how I don't think I'll make you uncomfortable and you will understand my need to share.  I am not a person who generally shares this sort of thing but I'm pretty sure there are others out there who need to hear it so that perhaps they can see their way through to the other side.  I believe your site is about more than just having a pretty body (though that certainly doesn't hurt), so in part, that's why I'm doing this and also in part, to selfishly help me.  Maybe if I see it in print on this computer it will hit more home for me as well.  I am not looking for sympathy or “tada’s” it's just a need to share.  So here goes:

I have a story to tell you and it doesn't have an ending yet; it will be life-long and I'm hoping for a happy one.  I did something yesterday which other than when I rocked my very ill child until he passed away, was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I locked my child out of my house.  When he came to my door, I went to him and told him I loved him but I could not continue to let him in.  You see my son is a hard core drug addict. Not only is he addicted to drugs, but he is also a dealer.  He lives wherever and does whatever he needs to in order to feed his habit.  

There, I've said it and yes, it hurts but in order to stop enabling him I had to find the strength to do it.  I stood at the door and listened to him screaming at me as he walked away that I didn't love him and I've hurt him terribly.  I wanted to run to him take his face in my hands and tell him I could not love anyone more and that didn't he realize each time I saw his extremely skinny body and sunken face and eyes it hurt me, but I didn't.  Instead I watched him go, I went into my house, sat down and mindlessly ate a whole box of chocolates. I didn't cry or do anything else; I just ate and ate and ate.  Somehow throughout the rest of my evening, some realizations came to me.  I had all this time thought I could love my son to the point of him beoming clean, but what I was doing was enabling him to continue destroying him and myself.  I realized I was not showing him a mother (woman) who was strong, confident, respectful and who could help him, but instead I was showing him someone who was tired and beaten down, self loathing and defeated.  


When I first started running it was hard and when I first started running with a partner, it was even harder.  I thought because I had only ever run on a treadmill that I wasn't good enough, strong enough or fast enough to run beside another person, especially not a man!  ( sorry partner,  LOL)   The person who has ran beside me for almost a full year now, does not know how much he has given me by believing in me enough to stay beside me and help me reach goals I never thought attainable.  

I remember when I said I wanted to run a half marathon and he said he would do it with me and that I would finish it and  he said he would make sure of that.  Incredible how that made me feel.  I did my half and just finished a 30k with my partner cheering me on.  

I guess you're wondering what all of this has to do with my son.  Well when I was training, even though lots of days it was cold, snowing, I didn't feel like it, felt tired, busy, cranky, life getting in the way, but I went and did it.  I Ran the streets and the hills.  When I got to the 30k race and the longest, biggest hill was looming before me, I had to find the inner strength to keep going  because my legs at this point were saying “stop, you're not strong enough” and when I was almost at the 30k mark somehow I dug deep down and drew strength I never thought I had and energy rose within me and I sped up and ran as fast as I could go to cross that finish line.     

As I told my son I loved him and locked that door I had to find that same inner strength; the strength that got me through the race and across the finish line when I was sure I was too tired to carry on... and I did it! 

INNER and OUTER STRENGTH - How fitness helps

You see, I now know that it really does work all together.  The same strength it took to train for the race is what I had to dig deep for in life, but I couldn't have done it if I hadn’t taken care of myself.  

Exercising and eating well is more than just getting a “to die for” body that looks great in clothes (though there is something to be said for little black dresses)! It's a way of getting through life’s day to day stuff.  Eating a well balanced diet is what will keep me energized and mentally clear.  The same energy that helps me through a workout is the same one that will help me through my day.  I will gain strength through weight training, so that when my son is ready to get help, he will find a strong woman inside and out.  I will run and do cardio to gain endurance and stamina so that when my son comes to me, I will be able to physically and mentally, be ready to go the distance.  The lean body on the outside will be a testament to the length I will go to help my son.  The physical training and eating I do will give me the inner strength and power to face what is yet to come.   

It all has to work together to be the best we can possibly be for ourselves and those around us whom we love and care about.  Being physically fit really isn't just about the hard abs and the tight bottom, it's about empowering yourself for all areas of life.  It's about learning balance and control and about finding something inside yourself that you never thought was there, and letting it shine.  It's about making mistakes and moving forward regardless.  It's about being who we were made to be; strong, healthy, powerful physically, mentally and emotionally.  The days ahead are not going to be easy and there are still lots of hills to make it over.  

Am I worried about my son? Yes, I am; that won't change.  Will I cry today? Probably. Well not “probably,” I will,  but I'll be damned if I won't start this day without working out and knowing I am gaining strength physically and mentally to meet head on what is yet to come.

We all have our stories, our heartaches and troubles, but I hope if someone is struggling out there that they can read this and find that inner strength to keep going, no matter what.  To realize “if this ordinary woman can do this, so can I.”  You are special and you are worth it! It only takes one step and that step turns into two and then you're walking around the block and feeling good.  Before you even realize it, you're running a marathon and saying  “holy crap, I DID IT!”

"From 0 - 100 in Ten Months"

 Donna Hendershot 

While this is not so great when you are talking about a car, I’m pretty happy to say this describes my weight loss and fitness journey.  10 months ago I was 321.8 pounds, unhappy, tired, sore, and felt like garbage.  I had bought a gym membership in January, but I had only used it once.  I knew I wanted to change, and get healthier and more importantly, not develop Type II diabetes or drop dead from a heart attack, but I had no idea where to even start.  I knew it was going to be more than just food that I had to control. I had to add activity; but where to start.  This is what I’ve learned over the past 10 months:

  • Ask for help - I knew 10 months ago I needed I contacted a personal trainer, I joined weight watchers and I asked tons of questions and learned as much as I could, and I continue to learn new things every day.  I work with my trainer 3 to 5 days a week, but for me that is what I need.  He has taught me so much about fitness and strength and listening to my body.  Best decision I have ever made!
  • Set goals - little ones, big ones, audacious goals, downright scary ones... just set them.  And then track your progress, share your victories, celebrate your successes.   Nothing was more sobering than to admit I wanted to lose 171.8lbs or 53.4% of myself. But there were other goals as well that did not revolve around the scale - being more fit, eating better, drinking more water.  Break the big scary ones down into smaller more manageable chunks. 
  • Commit to it - I recommit to this every day.  I use positive self talk, I schedule my workout time in my calendar every day, I prep meals and food ahead of time so I have no excuse to not follow my eating plan and I make myself a priority.  Commitment and motivation are an everyday thing.
  • Own it - this is all about me and for me.  Make it all about you. 
  • Reward yourself -  but not with food - I’ve given myself new stuff for the gym, books, spa appointments, hair appointments, new tops, new outfits. It doesn’t have to be big, just something that will motivate you.  My reward for hitting my 100 - I’m going zip lining while I’m on my vacation in Mexico!!!
  • Give it your all - no half hearted attempts... you only cheat yourself when you do.  Test your limits, push harder, do more, just try harder.
  • Try it before you say you can’t do it - I had so many mental blocks when it came to fitness, and my personal trainer would say, “just try, and if you truly can’t do it then we’ll do something else”.  And when you try, you may only get one done, but then later one turns into two, and two into four, and so on.  Don’t give in to your mental blocks, just try.
  • Diet and Exercise go hand in hand - best quote I’ve heard is “You can’t out-train a bad diet”   I prep my meals days in advance, I schedule my workout time in my calendar. 
  • Be your own number one fan - While it is awesome to have people tell you how great you’re doing, they aren’t always going to be there or they aren’t necessarily going to be there when you need them.  Love yourself, pay attention to the little changes in yourself, journal about it, facebook about it, blog about it.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people - I have some great supportive people, some I see in person daily (my personal trainer, my family, my friends), some I just know virtually (the whole get fit faster family, my group).  I do have some negative Nellies in my life, I just limit the amount of time I spend with them. 
  • Don’t give up - it’s not always about the numbers on the scale, there are days the scale won’t move or it moves in a direction you don’t like, or it doesn’t move fast enough... just don’t give up, you will get there.  We always put so much importance on that number on the scale, but that is just one thing—how do your clothes feel, how do you feel, can you do more, or lift more or move more?  If so, then cling to that and don’t give up.
  • Measure using non-scale victories -Take your measurements, take pictures, track what you do in the gym.  I have pictures from along the way, I use photo shop to string them together so I can see the changes.  I have a spreadsheet that I use to track my workouts, I look back and see the things I did back in March and compare it to now and see how much progress I’ve made, how much my strength has improved, and my stamina has improved, and my fitness has improved.  I look at my measurements and see how many inches I’ve lost and how many clothes sizes I’ve lost.
  • Life happens - trips, dinners out, celebrations, sadness, arguments, losing family members; stress are all things I’ve had to deal with this past 10 months.  This journey does not happen in a vacuum. The secret: planning.  I am a big emotional eater, so for me I had to list what I could do to deal with life’s curveballs that didn’t involve food.  Journalling, talking, going to the gym were all on the list.  Running to the refrigerator was not.  I travel a lot for work so planning became very important: booking hotels with fridges and microwaves, getting my bosses to agree to let me grocery shop at home and take cooked meals with me (which they agreed to), finding the gyms close to my hotel, etc. The important thing is to not let life sidetrack you from your goals completely.

There is no magic pill out there that you can take that will make this happen faster.  It is hard work, and determination, and sometimes tears and frustration.  But stick to it and persevere and you will get there.  This year is my year.  The Donna that has been hidden under layers of fat and years of self abuse is going to emerge... I see her more and more every day.  I know when she gets here though, that the hard work doesn’t magically just  stop... then the fun of maintenance begins, and I’m looking forward to that part too!


"Ups, Downs and Landing on My Feet!"

Linda Salsbury Story

 I never really had a weight issue until after I had my 1st child in 1996,I went from 120 pounds to 180 lb. when I delivered him, but after what was supposed to be a blessed and joyous occasion I sank into postpartum depression.

My weight had dropped to 130 pounds,but that was short lived after the doctor prescribed me Paxil, for the depression then my weight shot back up to 185 lb.,I didn't like my body at all. I felt ashamed. No one told me that anti-deppresants cause weight gain.

Then in 2000 I got pregnant and had my second child. Luckily, I only gained 15 pounds so I then weighed 199 pounds. However, I was very sick in the 3rd trimester of that pregnancy, my blood pressure was high and I was having dizzy spells. Doctors ran all kinds of blood tests including one for thyroid and diabetes and all came back normal, leaving me and the doctors baffled.

After I had my son, the doctors ran a cholesterol panel blood test on me and it came as a big surprise that my cholestol was high, but that turned out to be the least of my problems. My triglycerides were dangerously high! Normal is under 150 and mine was at 900. I was at risk of stroking out and having heart disease at only 24 years old!

They gave me meds, but they made me sick, so I opted instead to lose weight so I could get healthy again. I lost 20 Lb. in 2001, but then  lost my motivation and I gained the weight all back plus an extra 30 pounds. That had me weighing in at 210 pounds in 2009. Then more stress as I cared for my mother in law who was sick, followed by moving across the country to California, after which my oldest son was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.  I turned to food and eating as my way of coping.

My mother-in-law passed away in January 2010 from complications from her liver failing and she had a aneurysm that burst in her stomach.

As I was going through her stuff, I found old pictures of me when me and my husband got married and I was like, "what happened to me?" I wanted my life back, I wanted my figure back! I didn't like how I looked and living in California with the weather being hot in the summers... I didn't want to be fat.  So I made a pledge to myself that I was not going to let the "fat Linda" win anymore.

So in march 2010 I started eating better and started exercising up at the fitness centre and I slowly started feeling better about myself, but I only lost 20 Lb. and had many more to go. I felt discouraged, but even though I was eating right and exercising, I was still drinking regular soda with all that sugar and bad carbs, so I switched to diet soda and the weight started really dropping in 2011.

I lost 65 pounds, then in 2012 I lost 30 more pounds. Now, in 2013 so far I've lost 5 pounds and I'm currently at 127 pounds from 210 that I weighed back in 2010 when I embarked on this journey.

There have been many obstacles and now realizing diet soda is not good for you, I'm drinking more water and I exerercise 5 times a week.

I'm proud of my accomplishments and love the rewards of a healthier body.

The journey never ends. You have to keep working on it everyday and you have to want it!

IT IS Possible!! Linda Story ad.png

"One Tough Mudder"

Andrea Quigley

   Andrea, is to your far right in the photo.

   Andrea, is to your far right in the photo.

"I entered a 5k mud run for the fIrst tIme. Im not physically where I want to be yet, but I thought "why not take the challenge." I started to run, whIch I don’t lIke or do, but it’s a 5k so I have to run. There were mud pits, hay bales, tIre runs, and It was up hIll. The uphill part I was not expectIng! My calves were on fIre, my quads were kIllIng me, I couldn’t breathe, and my team mates were ahead of me. For a split second I thought, "what would possess me to torture myself?" But... it was FUN! No matter how much I was hurtIng I wasn't goIng to stop. I have bruises on my knees, quads and scratches on my shins and it brIngs a smile to my face.

Guess I compared it to my weIght loss journey; it mIght take me a lIttle longer than others but It beats gIvIng up and not knowIng how far you could have gone. I don't plan on quitting. Its an uphill battle and I am not losIng thIs fight. I finished the race, maybe not at 1st place, but I finished!"

Congratulations Andrea! We are so proud of you! Thanks to our columnist Gus Croteau who armed Andrea with some great advice prior to her conquest!

"At 55, I Came Alive!"

Maria Zboinska

Hi, my name is Maria and here is a little background about myself: I was petite back in high school and was never interested in sports. When it came to team sports, my 5'4, 102 lb. frame proved to be a deterrent for getting selected for the team games but I was totally okay with that as I didn't care to sweat or exercise. 

As a self employed accountant, the sedentary component of this predominantly "sitting profession" was beginning to catch up with me over the course of my life and by the age of 45, my inactivity and love for food resulted in an undesirable jump in my weight and my waistline. 

Over the next 10 years, I sought to get in shape by joining a gym in an effort to lose the weight. I tried several gyms over the years; Premier, Good Life and Wynn Fitness as well their personal trainers, but I did not enjoy the atmosphere and I didn't feel a connect with any of the gyms. Being self employed, I always found it difficult to organize my time to exercise.

This past Spring of 2014, for Mother’s Day my two children bought me PT/Personal Training sessions with Susan of  My initial reaction was not at all what my children expected. I was not happy about it and actually, somewhat upset because I had convinced myself that I did not have time for exercise – I was in the heart of peak tax season and to top it off, Susan was a client of mine, so one way or another, I would have to face her. My poor daughter was almost in tears because of my reaction so eventually, I reluctantly agreed to give it a go.

In the beginning, I felt like anything that Susan asked me to do, was not doable (maybe 10%) but I was always willing to try. Modifications enabled me to perform exercises and over a rather short period of time, my strength and confidence increased quite noticeably, to my surprise. Susan tailored the sessions to meet my needs and one thing that had discouraged and me from gym classes in the past was the extreme soreness I would feel for days after. This didn't happen with Susan as I had expressed my negative past experiences to her. 

In fact, after only a few sessions, I noticed a great difference; not initially in my weight loss, but in how I felt. The level of my energy has increased dramatically and I began to notice some very significant changes over the course of a few weeks and over the past 4 months (even though I had breaks when I traveled) and I'm amazed! Besides my energy increase, a nagging shoulder pain that I had endured for years, disappeared within the initial 2-3 weeks. Just recently, my husband pointed out something I had totally overlooked. I used to have to soak my feet in hot water every night in order to sleep due to them being extremely cold. Regular exercise has undoubtedly improved my circulation as I no longer have to do that! A few months into it, I have lost inches around my waist as Susan had encouraged me to take pictures as well as measurements. My confidence, upper body strength and exercise ability have all increased and it has been exciting to see definition and lines begin to emerge in my shoulders, arms and legs. My posture has improved as a result of Susan's cueing during exercise and encouragement to be more aware of it throughout the day, especially with all the sitting involved in my job. I'm far more energetic, my flexibility and ROM (Range of Motion) has improved and I've gotten many positive comments and compliments all-around. I'm also much more aware of the inactive affects in the people around me and have been encouraging others to follow suit.

In the end, the exercise I had been dreading became a pleasure and I decided to continue with the personal training and get more sessions with Susan as I knew myself; I wouldn't follow through unless I was accountable and getting help, direction, encouragement and I wanted to avoid injury. The interesting thing is that I now have no problem with organizing time for exercise, whereas in the past, I had struggled with that and made excuses.  I now prioritize, plan it and follow through. I have also joined the VIP Area  and am doing the workouts on my own. The great thing is that I hear Susan's echoes of all her cues for proper alignment and I now go into automatic mode and I instantly know when I'm not quite doing it right and can make the necessary adjustments on my own. I have become committed to exercise, thanks to all the positive results I have experienced that I've even organized my own little gym at home, which will be extended to my backyard!

PT with Susan has turned out to be the best remedy for eliciting positive life altering changes! I never believed I could enjoy exercise and that I could do all that I'm doing as a result of what I have learned from Susan. She is like an “Exercise Fairy” –  who came with sincere dedication and caring enough to make the difference and help me feel better. Years of sitting and inactivity clearly took a toll on my body but I am living proof that it is never too late to start exercising and to make a difference in your health and fitness.

The gift of PT is a wonderful gift of health and it turns out that this was THE BEST THING I could get from my kids!  At age 55, I feel 10 years younger! I have become committed to exercise and I plan to maintain my healthy lifestyle and continue getting stronger in my years ahead. I hope my story inspires others who are in their later years to feel it is never too late to get active. If, like me, exercise hasn't worked for you in the past, don't give up and perhaps consider trying a different approach.

The Change!

 Maria performing an inverted row.  At 55 and a mom of 2! 

 Maria performing an inverted row.  At 55 and a mom of 2!