by Samantha Wolfe, originally published in January 2021
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results – this was the unfortunate path of Sydney Wolfe over the last fifteen years of her life. Sydney was fighting a battle against herself both physically and mentally and was ready to make a change. This last year has been a whirlwind for everyone, challenging the mental toughness of the individual; not everyone innately has the mental fortitude and personal conviction to push aside the little voice inside your head that tells you it’s okay to take it easy or not worry about the stressors of your life. Mental toughness is committing yourself to accomplish something every day no matter what may happen in those 24 hours – Sydney learned to overpower the little voice, and it has made all the difference.
Losing the Competitive Edge
Whether in school, sports, or life in general, Sydney was always very competitive as a child. She was a nationally ranked swimmer competing at top regional meets and a member of a competitive crew team racing at the Head of the Charles. Unfortunately, through these years of sports activities, Sydney suffered several injuries, including a torn rotator cuff and overuse and wear to her knees. The physical struggles faced at a young age severely impacted Sydney’s physical and mental toughness as an adult.
In school, Sydney was dedicated to reaching her goal of pursuing a sports medicine degree and made sure that she took classes to further that education. She graduated college with a BS in Athletic Training from Mercyhurst University in 2013 and an MS in Athletic Training from East Stroudsburg University in 2014. However, these accomplishments were met with their own unique challenges. While most students struggle with assignments and exams in their classes, Sydney’s biggest challenge was the social aspect of college. Her confidence was shaken as she ate and drank away her stressors and emotions, gaining much more than the “freshman fifteen.” Though she had a friend group in college, she often felt ostracized by her size and quickly slipped into a state of depression.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Sydney woke up and realized how far away she had drifted from happiness in her life and set goals to help her get her life back on track to a positive and healthy lifestyle. While weight loss was the ultimate goal, the mental and emotional changes were the top priority for Sydney as she started this new journey. She was “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” wanted to ignite new friendships and a potential dating life, and she was looking to make her 30s her best decade yet. Sydney had spent the last decade so focused on finishing school, building a career, and paying off her debts, that she had stopped thinking about her well-being in the process. She claims that she let the extraneous factors control her life rather than her controlling her own life. When she made her last loan payment on May 26th, 2020, she paused for a moment – “what’s next?”
Sydney originally started working at the Hockessin Athletic Club as a part-time swim instructor in 2014 for an extra side income to help pay off her loans. Shortly after, she made the decision to work with a trainer to try to build strength and stability; however, while these efforts helped her lose some weight, she was not fully committed to the overall “healthy lifestyle.” During the next few years, she tried different diets and nutrition plans, even physical programs, but ultimately saw no significant progress.
In the summer of 2015, Sydney discovered business professional and speaker Andy Frisella. Through his podcasts and book, he inspired her to change her outlook on life – to control the seemingly uncontrollable. His words pushed Sydney to realize that she was not happy in her current full-time job, and she was offered and accepted a full-time position in HAC’s Aquatic Department as the Swim Academy Supervisor in 2017. Sydney realized that she was going insane by definition and made the changes to better her professional well-being.
While she had started making little changes day-to-day, it was not until quarantine that Sydney decided that enough was enough. She had terrible back and foot pain, terrible indigestion, irregular and dissatisfying sleep, and she would be winded by the time she walked from the top of the parking garage to the front door of the building. The biggest wake-up call was her discomfort on an airplane while taking trips with her mother and sister – both times in which she had to use a seatbelt extender.
“While the year 2020 has been thrown away by most, I decided that it would be my turning point,” exclaims Sydney. “I was able to put in perspective how much I was working for everyone else but was putting no time or energy into myself.” She was always so engaged in her plans for the future that she forgot to live in the present and take the time to better herself.
Reigniting the Fitness Flame
During HAC’s shutdown in Spring of 2020, Personal Trainer, Rachel Evans, was very active and frequently recorded workouts with her friend and client, Lauren Smith. Sydney watched their sessions on Instagram and was inspired to engage in a new fitness journey; she joined a few of Rachel’s Zoom training classes and reached out to organize private sessions once the club reopened. Her goal was to start with one change: to control one thing at a time and maybe even gain a friendship along the way.
Sydney started with Rachel one-on-one the Friday that HAC reopened, June 12th, completing a 45-minute session twice a week for the first month. Once she was comfortable in her foundation, Rachel was able to convince Sydney to join her FIT45 and GluteFIT classes in order to engage in comradery and hopefully feel at home in the support system of the group. At first, Sydney was hesitant, as she had never believed in the power of a workout community – teams in her early sports careers had let her down. However, the welcoming culture that has been fostered by Rachel’s FIT45 and GluteFIT classes has made all the difference in her journey.
Rachel pushes Sydney to perform seemingly impossible workouts in their private sessions, adding more weight and testing the strength of Sydney’s body and mind. In the group classes, participants can easily modify an exercise to get the most out of each class. Fortunately for Sydney, the members of the groups offer encouragement no matter your ability. The community is all about pushing yourself to your limits and holding yourself accountable to show up every day. The members of this group come from all walks of life, spanning roughly forty years between the oldest and youngest. Despite the stressful day-to-day lives that they each face, they make their health and fitness a priority by showing up – “you can’t help but to be inspired to do the same!”
Finding a Nutritional Balance
Despite the consistency and variety of workouts, Sydney was not seeing any weight loss for the first month of her journey. She made the realization that she was not going to make any significant progress until she engaged one hundred percent in a healthy lifestyle. Rachel encouraged Sydney to reach out for help with nutrition. With help, she was able to put together a macronutritional meal plan to follow. Because everyone’s body is different, it’s important not to take a one-size-fits-all approach. Sydney’s program is based on different mathematical equations that factor in age, height, sex, and activity levels.
“Healthy eating” to the general public usually consists of trying new recipes, eating lots of seemingly “healthy” foods, and micromanaging your calories. In Sydney’s plan, she opted to limit her diet to a simple ten to fifteen foods that she rotated daily to piece together the daily macro puzzle of proteins, carbs, and fats. By taking out the guessing game, she was able to stay organized and curbed cravings after a few short weeks. She quickly saw that by using food as fuel rather than a reward system, she gained much more energy and began to see the pounds melt off.
The Mindset of a Champion
The workouts with Rachel and a custom nutritional plan were critical in getting her ready for what Sydney describes as the ultimate program that has pushed her journey forward. The 75Hard Program put together by Andy Frisella instills work ethic, grit, perseverance, and most importantly, mental toughness in all its participants. The ultimate goal is a complete lifestyle change, affecting all aspects – mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The full LiveHard Program has four parts: the initial 75-day program and three additional 30-day phases. Sydney had previously attempted 75Hard twice before but was focused solely on weight loss, not developing the mental fortitude that this program is made for. While she knew that she wanted to complete the program, she was afraid to fall into the same rut – remembering the definition of insanity.
Sydney decided to start the program again on July 31st, as she felt that she was ultimately ready to adopt this new lifestyle; the selected date was to signify the last 75 days before she turned 30 in October. However, on Monday, July 27th, she decided that she had waited long enough. The first part of the program consists of five daily tasks, and she had already completed most of them by lunch on that first day! The initial section of the program requires participants to complete two 45-minute workouts (one being outside no matter the conditions), drink 128oz of water, read ten pages of a non-fiction or personal development book, follow a nutritional plan of their choosing, and to take a progress photo each day. Sydney completed the first 75 days of the challenge on October 9th, 2020, and was able to spend her 30th birthday relaxed.
Thanks to the mental toughness Sydney developed throughout her journey, she quickly became addicted to her new lifestyle. With the help of her trainer, Rachel Evans, Sydney completed the next phase of the 75Hard Program on November 17th, hitting 50.2 lbs of weight loss by Thanksgiving – an incredible accomplishment!
Reflecting on Her Goals
One of the hardest challenges that Sydney has faced over the last fifteen years has been the lack of confidence in herself. Her deficit had held her back from many social endeavors, and the resulting depression had taken a toll on her physically as well. During her journey, the biggest push has come from the friendships that she has made with Rachel and her FIT classmate and cheerleader, Lauren. In fact, Rachel has agreed to a deal that when Sydney hits 100lbs of weight loss, she will join Sydney in her element down in the pool for an aquatic workout!
Overall, Sydney is proud not only of her physical accomplishments in weight loss and strength but also of herself for making the change to be happy and healthy and not giving up. She is now pain-free inside and out and looks forward to the new challenges of each workout. Sydney’s next goal is training for HAC’s “Beast Challenge” with trainers Damon Marable and Rachel!
Update: February 14, 2021
by Sydney Wolfe
For Thanksgiving, my sister and I went on a vacation to Disney World. Throughout the trip, I was able to relax my nutritional plans and enjoy my time trying new things. However, I noticed a significant impact in my energy levels throughout the different days that I did not eat as well; due to this realization, I made the decision to jump right into Phase 2 of the 75Hard Program before Christmas. I completed Phase 2 on 1/19/21, but have continued to work out 6+ times per week on my own accord. I had more of a struggle in the mandatory break time in between Phase 1 and Phase 2 than in the program itself. I have found that by keeping in a regimen, I am able to focus and push myself 100% each day. I am also proud to announce that I have hit 62.9 pounds of weight loss since the start of my journey back in July 2020.
I have been training for The Beast Challenge on a regular basis; between private and group session with Rachel and creating my own daily fitness challenges, I have been keeping active every day. My current workout schedule is as follows: Monday FIT45; Tuesday LIFT45; Wednesday FIT45 and a private session; Thursday GluteFIT; Friday private session; Saturday fun day (day off, swim, or random private session); Sunday FIT45 and Beast Camp Pop-Up classes. I’m happy to say that as of Saturday, 2/15, I’ve OFFICIALLY #conqueredthebeast with a time of 55 minutes and 28 seconds.
The community that Rachel has fostered has continued to support me in my fitness journey. When discussing my fitness goals with Rachel for 2021, she reminded me that the only way to build up a specific workout is through practice. Therefore, I decided to challenge myself to do ten of the two exercises I hated the most every day in the month of January. I told the FITFam as well as the rest of my social media following about the challenge for accountability and offered them to join me. Now, the majority of the FITFam and even some old college friends have joined in! January was 10 push-ups and 10 burpees, February is 10 inch worm burpees and 10 push-ups; push-ups will stay constant throughout the year so that by 12/31 I can say I’ve done 3,650 daily pushups!