by Sasha Reddy
Back in her 40’s, waking up feeling lethargic and just plain lousy was routine for Joan. She used to chalk it up to aging or stress from work. “I thought waking up feeling like crap was kind of normal,” she says. Now, after having successfully completed HAC’s Lifestyle Challenge not once, but twice and taking second place this past April, Joan-Alice Burn feels just as physically and mentally well as she has become.
The transition began back in 2013 when Joan received a personal training gift from her husband, Tim, for Christmas. She had hit her all-time high of 160 pounds during that summer, and her weight was hovering around 145 pounds by the end of the year. Accounting for her short stature at just under 5 feet tall, Joan personally felt that there was room for improvement. That’s when she began her one-on-one training with HAC master personal trainer, Dina Saitis.
The pair started out with once-weekly training sessions and eventually, Dina was able to convince Joan to add on one of her notoriously vigorous FIT classes. “I thought I was going to die,” Joan remembers, only half-joking, after her first small group workout. But the intense exercise did wonders for her mental well-being on top of the physical benefits, so she kept going.
The 2016 Lifestyle Challenge
It was Dina’s encouragement that led Joan to enter the Lifestyle Challenge the first time around in 2016. By that point, Joan had added an extra one or two FIT classes to her weekly regimen alongside her semi-private personal training and self-prescribed workouts. At the end of her first Lifestyle Challenge, she had landed herself in a nutritional and physical position she was happy with. Keeping up with the progress she had made during the challenge wasn’t all easy going, though.
She hit a few bumps, conceding to unhealthy meal choices followed by several weeks of redemptive eating and exercise to put herself back on track. For a while, this worked for her, and it wasn’t until a period of family turmoil last fall that she found herself putting on pounds and losing her vigor once again. “I had some personal stuff going on, and so I slacked off, and I skipped a lot of workouts,” Joan admits. She was disappointed in herself at having broken her own commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but having reached her peak once already gave her the dose of willpower she needed to reclaim her health again.
The 2018 Lifestyle Challenge
And so, the 2018 Lifestyle Challenge began, and this time, Joan had the benefit of hindsight. For her second Challenge, she was determined to be consistent and deliberate with her diet. To avoid the added pressure of a complex nutrition plan, she decided to stick to a no flour, no sugar rule for the 12-week duration. The first four days were particularly difficult, but after cleansing her system, the new diet became a welcome change. It also became easier for Joan to differentiate between food cravings and genuine hunger, which allowed her to tend to the latter more effectively.
Per Dina’s recommendation, Joan opted to take a Method™ Test at the start of this Challenge. The test monitors your blood lactate level at different degrees of exercise intensity to find what heart rate range achieves the most fat burn in different individuals. To Joan the results were unexpected. Over the near half a decade that she had been training with Dina, she had worked herself up to training at an aggressive, anaerobic level. But according to her Method™ results, she would need to scale down her workouts considerably to stay within her prime heart rate range.
During her second Lifestyle Challenge, Joan also felt especially motivated by the other Challenge-goers that were training under Dina. She has already run into many of them in her FIT classes (although none of them had become well-acquainted before the challenge, between the differences in their schedules and the burpees dealt to those who chit-chat in Dina’s classes).
They formed a private Facebook group to discuss their individual experiences and feelings throughout the 12 weeks, sharing everything from great nutritional recipes to the daily struggles that came with the Challenge. If one member of the group was having a rough day workout-wise, the rest would assist with motivational words or calls to pull through the discomfort. Their alliance was a fantastic resource for Joan.
By the final weigh-in, Joan had lost 8% body fat, pulling ahead after a mid-Challenge three-way tie for second place. She was also able to drop all the weight she put on at the end of last year, which while exciting, wasn’t her be all end all objective. As far as she’s concerned, there’s still work to be done, and staying diligent with her nutrition will be her challenge-after-the-Challenge.
Recently, Joan attended a family gathering and received tons of affirmation from her cousins and friends. Everyone was very impressed with the physical and mental transformation she’s made since fall. But often, she reflects on the time in her life when she started every day feeling less than her best and wonders why others haven’t taken the same steps towards self-improvement that she has.
“The crazy thing is, I really think I’m where someone [age] 53 ought to be,” she says. She hopes that her journey will encourage others to pursue their own wellbeing. As she puts it, “I’m not a unicorn; anyone else can do this.” In fact, Joan has plans to start her own life coaching business in the coming months; she feels it’ll be a great way for her to keep progressing and helping others grow after the Lifestyle Challenge.