Friday, August 28, 2009

Picture This!

B. Stuart Noll
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Imagine you’re a fitness instructor at the Manchester Branch of the YMCA of Greater Richmond and on the Tuesday after Labor Day - September 2006 in walks a very intense 266 pound woman from Buffalo N.Y. who is clearly on a mission; a no holds barred mission to “overcome the fear of the unknown,” as she puts it. It was the day after she joined the Y and it was time for her new member orientation and her first workout. She remembered it was time to “pull myself up by my boot straps” and begin to work on a goal – to lose half her body weight – yep, 133 lbs.

Erin McLean (center of photo) came to the YMCA because she believed in its values. The instructor on duty that night was Doug Hartwill. Our instructors here really want to help members improve their health and fitness so Doug asked Erin “what’s your goal?” She blurted out, “I want to look HOT…in 6 months!!!

Friends, this is the same woman, who had, for some time prior to her appearance at the YMCA, devoured family size bags of Hershey Mini-bars, chips and ice cream - daily, camouflaged as comfort food without any deference to its enormous detriment to her health. This is the same woman, a Senior HR manager who also worked 16 hour days when she was first moved to Richmond by her company after a chain of personal life changing episodes, .

She was known to her friends as jovial, Little Mary Sunshine who, at the same time, did everything at 120%. She still does! I asked her what motivated her, she said, “I got mad enough to overcome the unknown.” Here’s the great part; when I asked her how she did it she quipped, “The same way you eat an elephant.” I thought, Huh?

Though by her own admission Erin wasn’t looking for the social side of exercise, she felt right at home after Tina took her on the facility tour. She would soon be engulfed by the light of the people. That happens in our fitness center – even for someone like Erin who finds it hard to accept a compliment. Actually, she was partially inspired by the accountability of other members encouraging her…and partly by her results!!!

Workouts grew…it was 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training. Gradually it became 45 and 45, and then this woman who was uncomfortable in groups because of her appearance became a class-a-holic and not just jazzercise. It was hard in the beginning says Erin, but Melissa (the instructor) said, “keep coming, you’ll get it.” Boy howdy, did she ever get it.

Okay, I know the suspense is killing you. So how much does Erin McLean (center of photo) weigh, almost 3 years later? 127 pounds! Wait! It wasn’t three years later. It also wasn’t 6 months either. The transformation took an extraordinary nine months. Doug would ultimately call Erin his “A” student. An “A” student she was too! It wasn’t glamorous. Ms. McLean worked her butt off, literally and figuratively, 6 days a week. She learned the basics of the body and the mind as well as researching nutrition and exercise. In short, she committed to changing her lifestyle!

You can see the physical benefits of her commitment in the photos but what you cannot see is the freedom Erin enjoys. Look in her closet! She no longer worries about what she will wear to work or whether it covers her stomach or her butt or whether it’s too tight. Most of all, she never has to fear being in a group that wants to take the stairs instead of the elevator! She is free from the judgment!

Humans aren’t always kind and yet some of the most unkind comments and feelings can motivate us to break through the fears that keep us bound in our personal prisons. I always say “when you are imprisoned by fear there is only one means of escape…the truth.”

The truth is Erin McLean’s phenomenal accomplishments are an inspiration for all of us. She wanted to live life…for her daughter Victoria, and for herself. For the full scoop on her “journey,” ask her. You’ll probably have to wait until after her workout to find out more about her story or maybe even how to create your own!

I know there are two things Erin would say. They are; 1) believe in your ability to accomplish anything and 2) do it the same way you eat an elephant…one bite at a time!

Erin, you inspire me!

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