by Lisa Maguire
When the whole world stopped in March 2020, Andrea’s job became remote like many others’. Working for Wilmington University, the end of remote work was nowhere in sight. While many people hunkered down and avoided large public places, Andrea felt she needed an outlet more than ever.
In the beginning, she joined HAC for a way to break up her day, usually coming to do cardio on her lunch break. As days turned into weeks, Andrea became a fixture on the HAC ellipticals, religiously coming in to complete her workout for the day and get some additional human interaction with the staff – including HAC Personal Trainer, Damon Marable. Damon would see Andrea on the elliptical and make sure to say hello, often offering up a closed fist for a fist bump.
After a few months, and while he was sure he already knew the answer, Damon decided to bite the bullet and ask: Why did Andrea always ONLY use the elliptical? Sure enough, he was right. “Because it was easy,” and “because it was what she knew how to do,” he laughs.
The question got Andrea’s wheels turning, and she realized that she wanted to do more than just have the gym be an outlet for stress – she wanted to get stronger as an example for her three daughters, “I went up to Damon and I asked if he could help me in the gym – I told him I wanted to be a ‘tough b****,’” she shares, laughing hysterically.
“It really took me off guard,” Damon remembers. “Not many women want to get ‘tougher’ necessarily. Usually they’re looking to acquire strength, improve a specific skill set, or attain a certain aesthetic. It’s something that’s really cool about Andrea – she’s not afraid to be herself.”
They scheduled their first fitness health appraisal, and the duo hit it off. A few months into her training, she saw the flyer for the Lifestyle Challenge and approached Damon about signing up. Without hesitation, Damon asked her why she wanted to do the challenge. “I was a little surprised by it,” Andrea laughs, “but I answered because I thought I’d like the additional accountability, and the thought of a challenge was exciting.”
“I told her that if we were doing the challenge, we were DOING the challenge,” Damon says with his signature laugh, “I was going to be on her like white on rice in a snowstorm!”
Once she signed up for the challenge, Damon had his first surprise for her. He asked Andrea to take a week off training. Though reluctant, Andrea complied. Damon explained that he wanted her to be well-rested since their training style was about to change dramatically. He also had her reach out to HAC Dietitian, Ashley Boyer, to help change her meal plan. Andrea had worked with Ashley a few months earlier at Damon’s suggestion, but with different goals comes different nutrition.
From day one of the challenge, Andrea’s commitment never wavered. She was training with Damon three times per week and taking his Saturday Kettlebell Strong class regularly. She was fully committed to her meal plan, and she had her girls cheering her on the entire time. Andrea was so committed, that Damon actually had to request photos of her one cheat meal a week to make sure she took it!
“I was so determined to excel in the challenge, it felt so difficult to ‘cheat’ on the diet, but that was one of the things I learned from Damon. Leading a healthy lifestyle is all about balance,” Andrea says.
“Yes, too much deprivation can have other impacts,” Damon chimes in. “Plus, to get the results that Andrea wanted, she needed to ‘shock’ her system now and again to avoid plateau.”
A few weeks into the challenge, Andrea realized that she was not in the lead and decided to kick things up a notch to stay competitive. “There were many days where I was working out twice a day!” she remembers, “one of the things that Damon required when we started was for me to allow him to show me how to use all of the equipment in the downstairs weight room.” She adds, laughing, “I was like, ‘Wait, what?! I don’t want to work out down there, it’s scary!’” However, Damon insisted that she learn how to properly use additional equipment so that she could workout successfully on her own without him being there. Andrea found very quickly that the once-intimidating weight room became the ultimate way to meet other people who shared her love for fitness.
“All of a sudden, I was making new friends and they were rooting for me, too. It’s truly like a family. I can’t imagine my life without this place. The staff, the facility, the members – it’s a true community, and they welcome you in with open arms,” says Andrea. Even other clients of Damon’s became her cheerleaders, going so far as to loan her personal equipment to use at home.
In addition to landing on the podium, Andrea took a few bonuses away from the challenge. “Instead of just coming in and hitting the elliptical every day, I learned how to use all of the tools available to reach my goals, and not just on the workout floor – the sauna and steam room, pools, things for my children to do – even working from here with the free wi-fi!” she shares. Additionally, her daughter was so inspired by her mom’s grit and commitment, she began training with Damon, too. The most amazing bonus of all, though, was that Andrea no longer needs to use her inhaler. “In the beginning, I’d have to stop mid-set or between exercises 2-4 times per session to use my inhaler. One day during the challenge, Damon and I looked each other at the end of the session and realized I didn’t use my inhaler once. In fact – I haven’t used it since!”
Andrea is happy to have found a home away from home and is beyond grateful for Damon who started as her personal trainer and is now considered a true friend. And though the challenge is over, it’s not stopping her from reaching new fitness goals.