Being diagnosed with breast cancer was the best thing that ever happened. It’s strange to read that statement. Even stranger of a thought when reflecting on our lives in 2015. Prior to 2015, and being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, I thought I was fit, strong, and healthy. I ate clean, exercised, drank plenty of water and got plenty of rest. Not only vibrant and athletic, but 38 and invincible! At least until that moment, lying on the table following a “cautionary” biopsy, the tech leaning over and communicating that he’s 99% sure that I have breast cancer. What?! That moment remains frozen in my mind. Absolutely nothing prepares you for that kind of moment. Digesting the news is difficult. Starting your journey is a challenge. Working your way through treatment is a mountain. Recovering is a process.
After meeting with the surgeon and mapping out the next few months, it seemed doable. Removal of a small, contained mass followed by a couple months of chemo and done. We got this! But like so many battles with cancer, the tables can suddenly turn….after surgery we discovered it had spread to my lymph nodes. That meant removal of lymph nodes, more risk, longer recovery and additional treatment. Plus the odds of full recovery and certain survival seemed to be slipping. This represented a huge hurdle for myself and my family. Beyond a major health scare, we’re like any normal family, busy! We had recently relocated to Sudbury. Had no family support close by, I had a new budding career, my husband was a newly appointed GM, and we had two, active and growing boys; aged 4 and 7. Being out of commission for 9+ months didn’t seem manageable. Like so many obstacles, you map your route, dig deep, put one foot in front of the other, and start walking.
Treatment was daunting. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. A couple weeks in I quickly realized I was in for a long and difficult road. Chemo took over my body; I felt tired, food tasted different, low energy, nauseousness, weight and muscle loss, and of course hair loss. We started to search for ways to support and help my body cope and manage. After some research we added a naturopathic element, made a few diet adjustments, and did our best to remain active through walks and yoga. However, muscle and strength seem to just fade away with each day of treatment. By the end of chemo, I had lost 20 pounds and felt frail. Even though it was a difficult time in our lives, we had to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to take a good look at our lives and assess. Where did we want to be as partners? Parents? Siblings? Friendships? How did our physical and mental well-being fit into the plan? What were our life goals? At a time where most are simply going through the motions, we had been asked to pull over and stop. Pausing gave us the inspiration to take a serious inner look at our lives.
Often times, when people think of going to the gym and eating healthy, weight loss is at the forefront. For me, it was different. I felt broken; weak physically and mentally. I needed to rebuild strength and stamina.
I had heard amazing things about The Basement. A place where gender didn’t matter, size didn’t matter, strength didn’t matter. ONLY YOU MATTERED! I had found a place where I could literally be “better than yesterday.” Thank you to my personal trainer Mairi who helped me more than she knows. She quickly assessed my situation, took time to create workouts that pushed beyond my potential and we had plenty of conversations and laughs along the way. Upon first glance, it’s racks, weights, turf and mats, but it’s the friendly and familiar faces of staff and members, the fucking prowler, and the feeling of accomplishment as you make your way down the stairs and close your workout is what makes this place special. Today, the hurdles are different but the goal remains….better than yesterday.
Is losing weight or maintaining weight harder? I have done both and I would like to share my story.
I grew up in a household where we ate on the run. Both of my parents worked long hours in the family business, so it was hard to schedule meals. I always had a sweet tooth and would “sneak” treats away and eat them when no one was looking. I had a weight problem all of my life and just figured that I would never be in shape. Living in a small town did not give us the luxury of having access to organized sports or gym. To be honest, I wouldn’t have done either even if they were there. I was very insecure growing up and shy.
I tried many fad diets growing up. I would lose a little and gain it back along with more weight. I didn’t work out. The thought of stepping into a gym terrified me. So I just went along in life overweight, not working out and eating poorly. After I had my two beautiful children, I did the Mom thing and enjoyed (and still enjoy) every moment of it. When I hit my 30s, I took a hard look at myself and thought to myself “man I better do something to improve my health and to be a role model for my family." I joined a gym and started weight training and doing cardio. I competed in two body transformation competitions and did quite well. I lost 37 pounds that was great. Once I lost my weight I thought “oh yeah, I can eat that now” and just resumed my old habits and gained everything back. In 2002, my Dad suffered a stroke and had to live in a nursing home. In 2007, my Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. They were both in Parry Sound, and I was working full time, looking after the house and kids, and travelling weekends to look after my parents. My dad passed away in 2007, and it was then that I decided to join Weight Watchers. I lost 35 pounds. Ten months later my Mom passed away, and the stress of everything took its toll on me. Losing both of my parents due to illness forced me to evaluate my life and how I was living it. I, once again, gained all of my weight back. Round three – I started again. I hadn’t given up Weight Watchers and would go back every week to get on that scale. It was very difficult to see the weight going up every week, but I refused to give up.
The saying “the 3rd times a charm” holds meaning to me. I started my wellness journey October, 2010 and lost half of the weight through eating right, cardio and weights. I say started in 2010 because before then I truly hadn’t committed to the change. In 2011, I hit a plateau and was referred to John Hillier at The Basement. I have been training with John ever since – how time flies when you are having fun! I have lost 45 pounds so far. What is so different this time? Well, I have realized, finally, that it is a lifestyle change not a diet. I know cliché, right? But it’s the truth. It is a combination of eating right, exercising, and not stressing over the little things in life. I have been working on not being an emotional eater. I use “mindfulness” to get me through the tough times. Mindfulness is a technique a friend taught me to busy your mind with other things to get your mind off of what you are stressing about.
John introduced me to functional training, and my body composition changed drastically. I have lost 22.7 inches. We are currently working on strength building, so the training style has changed. Change is always good for the body and the mind.
The mind is a powerful thing. If we focus on what we want to accomplish and not worry about the noise along the way preventing us from getting there, we can reach any goal we set. It truly is “mind over matter”!
I have completed a few things from my bucket list because John gave me the motivation, encouragement and support I needed. Having the confidence to step out of my comfort zone enabled me to conquer so many things. I have taught Zumba, completed the Warrior Dash, Miner’s Mayhem, a Try-a-Triathalon, 5 and 10km races, two half-marathons, two 30km races and a full marathon. My strength training is steadily improving. I am in the process of thinking and picking new goals to help me stay focused. I guess you could say that I am a fitness junkie now, and I could not be happier. I eat right, work out and have discovered my inner peace.
My motto in life is “Age is a State of Mind." I am a huge believer in “Think Strong! Be Strong! And Finish Strong!” To answer the question – I believe that losing and maintaining weight are both hard, but I now look at the whole package. It isn’t just about the number on the scale – there is so much more in a wellness journey – “Strong is the new Sexy."
Growing up I was one of those people that people envied and or hated. I never had to watch my weight. I could eat and eat and not gain weight. When I hit my early thirties, and after having three children, my life changed. I started putting on weight and I started trying every diet I read about hence started the yo-yo dieting and my growing waist. My size 8 clothes grew to size 18 and before I knew it I was wearing plus size clothes. My wakeup call came at a New Year’s Eve dance when l was on the dance floor and saw a very large lady dancing and I thought to myself “poor girl someone should have told her that the dress she is wearing is not meant for a lady her size” then I realized it was a mirror I was looking in and that lady was my reflection. I was horrified. The realization that I was obese finally hit me. I must have cried the next day off and on for hours. I was ashamed, how could I let myself get so large. My mother’s words although may seem harsh is what kicked me into reality. She told me “stop crying and do something about it. Only you can make the difference but you need to do it for yourself and I will support you every step of the way.”
That is the day my life changed and I took control of it. I stood on the scale for the first time in over a year and tipped it at 299 pounds. In a year and a half through hard work and dedication I was able to bring my weight down to 205 pounds. Then I was at a standstill and again I started with the yo-yo dieting thinking that would kick start my body instead the weight started climbing. I then became ill and with the medication and treatments I was taking my energy levels became very low. I had to quit baseball something I enjoyed, I could not run the bases anymore. My weight climbed back up to 270 pounds. The weight gain made my illness speed up and I knew I had to do something and quick. I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. At the suggestion of my youngest daughter I asked for Aaron as my trainer, the best advice and decision I ever made.
I have been working out with Aaron for a little over two years. The changes have been remarkable in many different ways and are still ongoing. I am now playing baseball in two leagues, I have repelled from a plane, I have done the warrior dash two years in a row, I now stand in the front row of pictures; I went zip lining and Zorbing. These are things I could have not done before. The things that are more noticeable to me and that many take for granted are what mean the most to me. I can now bend my head down and see my feet, I can tie my shoes by bending over, I am actually wearing colors instead of all black, I am able to go for walks and be more active with my kids, I am not ashamed to be out in public anymore, my self-esteem is better, I can fit in booths at restaurants and I can clothes shop in boutiques and normal stores no more plus size stores for me. My illness is still looming however I have been able to keep it under control without medication.
I owe my success to my trainer Aaron. He has been a great part of my life. His ongoing support, motivation and knowledge has helped me push through the tough days and put me back on track when need be. He is motivating and makes me want to set new goals each time I reach a previous one set. I have not weighed myself in the last two years however I currently wear a size 12 to 14. I am the fittest I have ever been (even when I was a size 9) and it is in great part to Aaron. I could not imagine where I would be if I had not taken the initiative to hire a trainer. Words cannot describe what my trainer means to me. Aaron has helped me take control of my life and given me more time with my family. He has become a very good friend to me and large part of my life. I could not imagine taking this journey without him. My journey is far from over, I have new goals and with Aaron’s help there are no limitations to what I can achieve. My family is also grateful that Aaron became a part of my life. In my daughter’s word “Aaron gave me my mother back”. When people ask me isn’t a personal trainer expensive I reply “they are priceless, you cannot attach a money value to health or having more time with your family”, and that is what I have gained.
May 1st 2012 is the day I walked up the stairs to the Basement on King and I have never looked back. At the time I weighed about 213lbs and had been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea for which I had to use a CPAP machine. You would have thought the sleep apnea would have been a wake up call. I was constantly tired, falling asleep at any given time, had headaches from ceasing to breathe over 100x per night and sleeping anywhere near me required heavy duty ear plugs. Once diagnosed my drivers license was suspended for a month until I started using the CPAP machine. It was always the same: "I will start dieting on Monday" and Monday to Friday I could usually maintain control, however weekends were a free-for-all with the eating and drinking. It was one step forward during the week but 25 steps backwards on the weekend.
I was the typical story trying all the standard weight loss methods with limited short term success, then reverting back to my bad habits. I always had an excuse not to work out; I live to far, I don't have enough money or no time. It was at this point my friend Carla had started going to a small gym that she could not say enough good things about, so I decided to look it up on the Internet. The first thing that came up when I googled "Basement on King" was their new program called Fat to Fit. I thought to myself, "well, Lori, you are half way there...you have the fat part down perfectly!" The website said only a few spots left, then all of a sudden there was only 1 spot available. So without thinking about it, in order to resist talking myself out of it, I called and registered. I was totally out of my comfort zone. Looking back I am still surprised I did it, but it was the best spur-of-the-moment decision I have ever made to date.
After the first month I won 2 sessions with a personal trainer for being one of the biggest losers that month. Aaron is no dummy and now I was really hooked and motivated. I started sessions with Penny Livesey every 2 weeks and after a while I decided to step it up by trying Fat to Fit 2.0. Progress was slow but steady, the emphasis not so much on weight loss but inches.
In the fall I decided to try the 5:30 a.m. boot camp with Aaron, and I was convinced I would hate getting up that early and would only be there for 1 month. That month has now turned into over a year, hard to believe but I am now a morning person. Working out on its own has not been the only thing to contribute to my success; the Basement also introduced me to the Whole30 diet and clean eating, so in combination I have lost approximately 60lbs and I no longer have to use my CPAP machine, my sleep apnea has been resolved!
After no longer guessing at what clothes fit me - it used to be the baggier the better - I actually used a changeroom in a store and have discovered I now wear anywhere between a size 6-8. I now currently go to bootcamp 3 times per week and train twice a week with Aaron for specific goals I want to meet. I also go to his core class on the weekend and Extreme Conditioning with Nathan or John just to mix it up a little. This is not just a temporary fix, it is now a way of life. I cannot thank Aaron, John, Penny, Nathan and all the trainers I have met at the Basement for helping me with my continuing transformation. Who knew walking up those 17 steps would be such a life changing event.
It has been several months since I first started this story and much has changed, including the location of the Basement, King to Lorne to now on Kelly Lake with one final move in the works. Several goals have been met in the last few months, I have completed three 5k runs and the Warrior Dash, I started water-skiing again, finally having the strength to pull myself out of the water. I can now do chin-ups and my strength continues to improve week after week so the pull-up will be the next attainable goal. Fitness has become a lifestyle and just not a temporary fix, strong friendships have been formed and I don't have enough words to explain how empowering it is to daily work out with such an extraordinary group of people.
I would like to share my story and how the Basement on King has changed my life. I have struggled with being overweight for my entire adult life, often losing weight only to experience the yo-yo effect of gaining it all back again. I have never been involved in sports or been athletic in any way. Over the years I have joined many different gyms and fitness clubs, however I was always very self conscious and did not stick to any of the programs they had to offer. What fitness levels I did manage to achieve I did so by taking daily walks either outside or on my treadmill and did very little in the way of strength training. I also own an extensive library of gently used exercise DVDs.
In December of 2011 my youngest son, who had been training with Aaron Sidenberg told me about the gym that Aaron was opening and that his approach to fitness was a little different than what we’d find in the larger more commercial gyms. He told me that Aaron was particularly interested in reaching out to people who were struggling and not comfortable with the typical gym atmosphere and that he would be having exercise classes for overweight people. My husband and I were both interested and in January 2012 we signed up for the “Fat to Fit” classes and we haven’t looked back since. We love the family like atmosphere at the Basement. We’ve journeyed with many people just like us and several of them are experiencing success similar to what I’ve experienced. More than a year later we still faithfully attend the “Fat to Fit" classes. I also attend some of the other classes at the Basement and I have been training with personal trainers as well.
After 13 months of my journey to achieve improved health and fitness, I have reached the goal that I set as my optimum body weight. Not only am I no longer overweight, I am physically fit. Even as a teenager I was not as fit as I am today. This is a phenomenal experience for me. I am not a young woman, however I have learned that age is just a number and that fitness and a healthy lifestyle can be achieved at any age. I have set new fitness goals that are not related to my body weight. Hopefully by the end of 2013 I will be able to update this story and share with you the new fitness related goals that I achieve.
I am so grateful to Aaron for opening the Basement. I also want to express my gratitude to all the trainers at the Basement. They are doing amazing work, changing lives and likely helping to save some lives. I love that they are able to incorporate a healthy dose of fun into the classes as well.
I extend a special thank you to the trainers that have worked closely with me over the past year. Aaron got me started, Cole pushed me to get to where I am now and Nathan sparked my interest in Olympic Style Weight lifting and will continue to train me. Since May 2012 (when I decided to get serious) I have lost over 50 pounds. I’ve gone from a size 14 pant size to a size 6 pant size. Most importantly I feel healthy and strong and I am able to do things that I never even imagined doing in the past.
If I can do this – anyone can!
Many years ago, I often ran outside, rain or shine. After moving out of Sudbury, I found myself not having enough time to run along the trail behind my house. When time was not a good enough reason, it was either too cold, icy, windy or warm to run; I had no motivation whatsoever. At that point, I was gaining weight and climbing stairs for me was like climbing the Himalayas.
A few years later when I was back in Sudbury, I knew I had to do something about this. Motivation was low and dieting was not working at all. My daughter, who has been a competitive athlete, convinced me to go to a gym and try a personal trainer. My health was at stake, so I did it, but without great enthusiasm. What was an overweight person like me doing in a gym? Who would be interested in training me? I took a membership out at The Basement and met my trainer, Theo Plumstead.
Theo and The Basement proved me wrong. I found an excellent atmosphere and a very patient trainer in Theo. He takes the time to explain the "why" and "how" of each and every movement I learn. He doesn't hesitate to answer my questions and is picky on details and technique.
The first time Theo told me to do push ups, it was a nightmare. A year ago, I could barely do 5 push ups on a 7-step riser. Thanks to Theo's advice and encouragement, I now do full sets of floor push ups and even hand-release push ups. Over the course of that same year I did lunges, planks, rope-climbs, dumbbell bench press, strength training and more. Doing everyday tasks is getting easier, and I'm walking at a better pace. Climbing stairs is no longer a problem for me, and I can accomplish things like moving furniture without too much effort or worrying about my back. I have also noticed I'm losing inches here and there - a sure sign I am on the right track. This gives me more willpower to continue on this track and to work even harder.
Working out is not easy. It is hard, and at times painful, not to mention the occasional setbacks. But at the end of each workout I feel so good and so proud of myself!
"Working out at the gym has carried over into many parts of my life. Doing cardio over the weekends is a good family activity now and nutrition has also become another important component for us. Better nutritional habits means more energy and the entire family is taking advantage of that! Everything is possible, even for an overweight person. At The Basement, I have never been judged. I have received the advice I needed to accomplish my workouts and I have been able to set reasonable goals.
I am so thrilled by what I have accomplished up to now and I am excited that my next goal is to compelte the Warrior Dash. Theo has encouraged me to participate and he will even be there to help me finish. I'll certainly show up with butterflies in my stomach, but one thing is sure: I'll do the Warrior Dash and finish it! Everything is about motivation, confidence, willpower and good training.
"I am so proud of Christiane. She shows up every training session ready to work hard, eager to learn new exercises to improve her level of fitness. Her dedication, work ethic and positive attitude are character traits that will set her up for success at the Warrior Dash this summer. More importantly Christiane has taught me about perseverance and determination. I am lucky to have to opportunity to help guide her through her journey and watch her add life to her years! She has already accomplished so much and yet my excitement lies in what's still ahead. Thanks Christiane!" - Theo Plumstead
How has The Basement changed our lives?
Very seldom do we consider the journey and efforts it took that individual to achieve their goal. I am here to share my own personal journey on how I got to where I am today.
It all started when I was going through some difficult times emotionally and mentally.
Having a daughter with Autism, working full time, raising a family and losing my mother to cancer, I seemed to have lost the focus of taking care of “me”. With counselling I realized that I needed to look after “me” first in order to continue to look after everyone else and to face the challenges of raising our daughter with special needs.
My therapist recommended that I should be more physically active so 4 years ago my friend invited me to join the Fat to Fit class at The Basement on King Street… I must say at the beginning I was asking myself what am I doing here? I was a very quiet, shy, not coordinated and very self-conscious person.
With time I felt more comfortable and I met some amazing people who all face their own personal struggles and challenges in life. The Basement Fitness has the most amazing members and trainers and this family we all support each other.
Since 2013 I’ve been training with John. I owe so much to him for his motivation, support and guidance to help me achieve the goals that I never thought possible.
I’ve never felt so strong physically and emotionally. I would have never imagined myself doing the things that I do now at the gym. I feel so good about myself inside and out. Strength training has become my escape ofthe stresses of the day. Life is all about finding the right balance for your goals.
John has become a big part of my life and my family and I couldn’t thank him enough.
During this fitness journey, I found my ultimate gym partner, there’s no better person than my soul mate, my husband. Working out with Yvon has a variety of emotional benefits. We are working together toward a common fitness goal to strengthen our relationship. We push each other to work harder, we are both in it for the long haul; we balance each other out. When things get rough we both know it’s important to hang on to each other.
The Basement has given my husband and I a place to help us be strong as a couple to conquer the daily challenges we face of raising our autistic daughter.
I am very happy for my wife since she joined The Basement. She has come such a long way from being so reserved and shy to this outgoing, amazing happy woman she is today. The Basement has not only helped us as a couple to become stronger physically, it has helped us with our ability to take on life’s challenges as we have found new strength mentally.
Working out has become a new passion for us. We make it fun, and we encourage each other to maintain a healthy balance between work and the stresses of life. Couples often neglect spending time together when they are overwhelmed with the daily demands of a child with special needs.
I met a lot of amazing people at the Basement. They have helped me and introduced me to new methods of working out. With the help of The Basement staff, I reached new limits that I thought weren’t possible at my age.
Now I am living a happier and healthier lifestyle to be there for my family for a very long time.
For us strength training, conditioning and healthy eating are not a destination point. We will continue our fitness journey to be Better Than Yesterday with an astounding family at The Basement Fitness.
When you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough to make room for it in your life.” ~Jean Shinoda Bolen
Life has a habit of sending us curveballs. I am now 60 years old. When I was in my early 40’s an undiagnosed aneurysm ruptured in my brain resulting in cerebellar stroke, neurological injuries and several hours of brain surgery. Despite the fact that I was a physician and was given excellent post-operative care, recovery has been difficult and challenging.
Joining The Basement gym in 2014 has been instrumental in progressing with my recovery. I have become stronger physically and mentally with the wonderful assistance of my trainer Mairi. She has made the journey easier through her guidance and encouragement. The Basement has an atmosphere that lends itself to a feeling of community and success.
Whatever happens in the future I am glad that I have made the effort to face it with determination and dedication and I am grateful for the assistance of everyone I have met along the way.
Deb O’Connor is my Triumph.
As she’s written about her struggles, there’s much that would prevent many people from taking the steps she’s taken. Most people would resign to their situations and simply say, “Fine… this is now my lot in life”, and shelter themselves from further potential risk and just let life go on.
That’s not the person who came to me in 2014…
When taking on any new client I get nervous, and Deb brought that to a whole new level. My fear of her history, of pushing too far too fast, rattled me- at first. I saw through my own perceptions rather quickly, to the amazing woman on the other side, to an inner strength and determination that still inspires me, and fills me with joy at the privilege of working with her week after week.
Dr. Deb has filled her life with so much, achieving, learning, growing. Following her passions, playing piano, painting, enjoying an active life outdoors. Deb rounds her physical routine with a life well-lived. She embodies the best of the human spirit, shows us what is possible when we refuse to have our lives determined for us, and gives us a glimpse of what true strength means.
It has been an honour to share her journey, and a privilege to be inspired by her. I swell with pride when I hear her talk of the strength she has to work at the cottage, to see her stand straighter, her posture improving and her bone density increasing. I get excited when we set new goals. I burst with joy when she achieves them. I grow as a trainer with each of her accomplishments, and I’ve grown as a person simply by knowing her.
When I was young I ran, biked, hiked, and did track and field in school- I loved all of it! As most stories go life progressed, I got married, had two wonderful kids and I gained weight leading into my 40’s. I had been training at Goodlife when I met Penny. She was a fantastic trainer who encouraged and inspired me to do more. When Penny made the switch to the Basement I loved that there were no machines and instead I spent my time flipping tires, pushing sleds and moving battle ropes!
Even with my arthritis and back issues I started to become more interested in training for my physical appearance, or what some might refer to as a bodybuilding approach. I made great progress and this led to my decision in January of 2014 to do my first Bikini Competition. My training was now accompanied by the nutrition coaching of John Hillier. It was very hard in the first few weeks with the new diet, training and the loss of my Godfather Barry (who was a big supporter of mine). Things got better with the support of family, friends and coworkers.
On May 24th 2014 I survived the high heels, the nervous stomach, spray tan, hair, nails, waxing and makeup and I DID IT! I’m a shy person so stepping on stage really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I never thought that this fitness journey would lead me to stepping on stage in front of a sold out Frasier Auditorium at Laurentian.
Looking back now on the whole process, although tough at first, like any goal it is always worth it in the end.
Thank you to everyone who supported me… and a big hug to my Basement Family!