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Returning to the Gym: Six Week Summer Fat Loss Challenge with RAF Strength and Fitness

I always told myself that as soon as I had the vaccine I would get myself back to the gym. Well, then I struggled with that classic question “Which gym do I pick?” There’s no shortage of gyms in my immediate area or within 5-15 miles of my own. I knew that I didn’t want to just return to Planet Fitness because it was my cheapest option. Do I love that my black card membership gave me so many facility options, sure! Did I enjoy knowing that I could go there and just do my own thing? Absolutely! BUT during the course of the pandemic, I worked with two different personal trainers and realized that that’s what I was missing.

It occurred to me that the thing missing from my fitness routines and my basic path to wellness was someone to help guide me through a workout, to encourage me when I can’t do it myself, to help show me how to change my nutrition according to the needs of my body and not just the burning desire to lose weight.

So…with all of that said – I selected a gym that checked all of the boxes: 1:1 training opportunities, classes you can attend, a nutrition component, affordable (this piece obviously depends on your budget), and super close to home. RAF Strength & Fitness is two minutes down the road from my house. I met with one of the owners, Mike Lisi, back in March, and we discussed my goals and what kind of training I wanted to do. I told him that I am really trying to lose weight and get stronger but that I struggle with knowing what to do, staying motivated, and making sure I am doing things correctly. I also let him know that my biggest hurdle is food. Food and I have a very contemptuous relationship.

[TRIGGER WARNING: I struggle, almost daily, with an eating disorder. Not only am I an emotional eater, but I am an emotional binge eater stemming from my depression and anxiety. When I am upset, I will typically binge on fast food (there are three of these establishments within walking distance from my home and Uber Eats makes it real easy to obtain) which causes me to become more depressed because I convince myself that I have ruined everything I worked for and sometimes this spiral takes about a month to course correct.]

I did not tell Mike all of this, but something he talks about with new clients often is that he was once over 300 lbs so he is familiar with the struggles with a balanced food life. So on our first meeting, we did a little quick workout to see what kind of moves my body can do and if there was anything he needed to make a trainer aware of — bad knees run in my family and my TMJ affects other joints in my body, namely my right shoulder (did you know that?). After that, he matched me up with a trainer who is great with a weight loss/ strength building plan and provided me with new macros to follow depending on when I am working out! There were various price packages for sessions. I chose to go with the 8-session package which is $720 that he lets me pay in halves. THAT alone helped my budget, especially with still being unemployed.

My trainer and I have an excellent rapport and he is so patient with me and my lack of belief in myself and my abilities. I am so glad that we were paired together for this journey!

SO…on to the 6-Week Fat Loss Challenge. This is technically week 2, but I made a kind of last minute decision to document it all here for you as well as on my INSTAGRAM page. In order to participate in the challenge, members of the gym (das me!) paid $49.00 and those who were new to the gym but wanted to do this challenge paid $149.00. For this price you gain access to their entire schedule of group classes as well as access to a personalized nutrition plan based on your goals for the challenge and your starting weight. I’m going to break it down for you based on where I was when the challenge began last Monday, May 17th.

Week 1: Challenge Weigh-in: 274.4 lbs | Body Fat: 41.5%

On May 17, that’s what I weighed. My goal for this challenge is to reach my temporary weight goal of 250 lbs. By the end of this year, I am trying to get myself to 200 lbs.

At the gym, they use this scale from a company called Arboleaf that I am completely in love with because it gives you all of these different stats about your body inside of an app! I made the switch to it and couldn’t be happier! Most of these numbers look frightening, but seeing them is honestly what’s been one of my biggest motivators. I want to see them enter more normal ranges so I am fighting everyday to make that happen. Along with the scale, I am also continuing to use MyFitnessPal to track everything that I eat during the day and to make sure I am sticking to my macro plans.

During weeks 1 and 2 of the challenge, I am following a 2,480 calorie a day plan (20% carbs/ 35% proteins / 45% fats) for my non-workout days and on my training days 2,479 calories (45% carbs / 35% proteins / 20% fats). All of this was built for me by my trainer. Having this programmed right into the app itself is super helpful for me, especially with the changes depending on what kind of day it is.

I’m not going to weigh myself again until the end of the month because I want to stick to my usual weighing schedule so stay tuned for that update on Monday – week 3!

In week 1, I attended my first group class and I am so glad that I did! It was tough, don’t get me wrong. My form was completely messed up during glute bridges which threw off the rest of the workout, but that’s okay! We live and we learn! Also, the instructor saw that I was struggling and came over to assist with some tips and tricks that would help relieve the pains that I created during the workout. I switched to some of the modified moves that he showed us for each technique and I was still just as sweaty as everyone else. The only tip I have for the next time i attend a group class is to bring my own resistance bands. They have those awful thin rubber ones that completely curl up around fat thighs and calves. I will bring the ones I have at home.

My favorite part of this new gym though is the private sessions. I LOVE working with a trainer and having someone there to guide me as I workout. I am excited to share more so stay tuned!

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