by Lisa Maguire
Second-place winner, Donna Vieira, is no stranger to fitness. She and her family had always been avid exercisers at their gym in New Jersey, where they were well-known. Leaving their gym was one of the hardest parts about moving for Donna, she says.
“We didn’t know much about Delaware,” Donna laughs, “and we’ve always been a fitness family, so that part was important.” Donna and her family moved to Hockessin from New Jersey in the summer of 2019 after a new opportunity presented itself for Donna’s career. “It was a big move, a huge move,” she shares. “My entire family was only moving just to support me. My children had lived in New Jersey all their lives, and we had a wonderful support system there.”
While vetting locations, Donna says that HAC was one of the places they looked at to help with deciding on a final place to live. “We actually toured and joined a week before we even moved down! It was one of the first places we went socially after the move,” Donna says with a smile. And as sure as they’d always been a fitness family in New Jersey, the trend continued. Donna and her husband, Peter, would visit mainly in the mornings, and she would often take FIT classes with Rachel Evans.
“I really liked Rachel’s FIT classes. It was great because they were very intense, but she was also very attentive to injuries or modifications so anyone could participate.”
It wasn’t until the pandemic happened that Donna felt her fitness started to slide. “I was still being active, but I wasn’t watching what I was eating. As covid went on, the pounds went on,” she remembers. “We were pretty much first in line once the gym reopened. I was one of those five people in class in the early days,” she chuckles. Though she’d gotten back into her routine, she still wasn’t feeling very good about herself. Her clothes were tight, and she felt more sluggish than usual.
It was around the time that the challenge was announced that Donna started noticing how poorly she felt. “I picked up that flyer and put it back down countless times in the fall. I’d always think, ‘I know what to do. I don’t need a challenge to get there,’” Donna says.
Just two days before the challenge was scheduled to begin, she finally admitted she needed help. “It’s okay to admit you need help!” she exclaimed, jokingly.
She was feeling a bit overwhelmed, it seemed like a lot to take on and take in. But as a disciplined person, she felt confident that having a few extra motivators would do her well, and when Rachel Evans happened to reach out to see if they could work together, she was feeling even better about the process!
“I’d come in for ‘Torture Tuesdays,’” Donna laughs, “oh, Rachel – she’s torturous as hell!” The pair are both competitive in nature, so with Donna’s dedication and Rachel’s leadership, she felt confident she’d be in the running for the win. “As the weeks went on, I could see and feel a difference,” she recalls, “I also have a great support system. My husband took an early retirement to make the move to Delaware and decided to go to culinary school. It’s definitely worked in my favor!”
Over the twelve-week challenge, Donna committed fully. “I liked that there was a social component, a fitness component, and a nutrition component. It all helped with the accountability,” Donna states, “As time went on and I was seeing results, it just kept getting easier to stick with it! I’d see the results on the scale or in the mirror, and that was very motivating on its own.” Donna also greatly appreciated Rachel’s encouragement throughout the process. “There were a couple of weeks that I didn’t see much movement on the scale, and it’s hard not to be disappointed by that,” she shares, “Rachel was great though. Very encouraging. She’d remind me that the journey’s not always a diagonal line down – that it’s more fluid than that. It was very helpful.”
Donna’s also had great support through her daughter Kelsey, who as a former college athlete is also a fitness enthusiast. “I really wanted to support her because getting healthier and feeling better were important to her,” Kelsey shares, “We took a couple of classes in the beginning together so I could be her support – be her cheerleader.” Her son Jerard who is also a HAC regular, training with Eric Neil twice each week and participating in Fitness Fridays, is another of her huge cheerleaders.
At the end of the twelve weeks, Donna was down 17 pounds, 10.2% body fat, and feeling much healthier. She had more energy, better self-esteem, and even experienced less joint pain! Donna is continuing to train with Rachel, but more than the win, more than the challenge, and more than the fitness, what Donna beams about most is how important HAC has been to her family.
“Having just moved here not even a full year before the pandemic hit, HAC’s been an oasis for us. It’s been our social and physical outlet,” Donna enthuses, “It’s been a great way for us to meet other people and have a real sense of community. We are here almost every day.”