by Deion Clifton
To quote award-winning actor Sylvester Stallone, “It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Life can deal a bad hand to those undeserving of it sometimes. Bouncing back from challenging, life-altering situations beyond our control can be difficult. For some, it can hold captive; for others, it can motivate.
HAC member Dana Arnold possesses strong motivation, fighting through pain and discomfort to become the 2023 Lifestyle Challenge first-place winner. It took a change in all aspects of her life, including her career and mindset, to find purpose outside of her full-time job; here’s her story.
“I joined in January with the intention of doing the Lifestyle Challenge,” Dana says. “I figured it was time to make a change.” After participating in Project Zero as a non-member in 2022, Dana decided to build upon that milestone and continue her fitness journey here at HAC.
The Lifestyle Challenge wasn’t the only reason she joined the club. “I was looking for someplace to do some hot yoga. Just do something for myself with childcare included. And I figured I could do something else to help me build a good habit: come into the gym and get familiar with the equipment.”
For a single mother, the convenience of a childcare facility at the gym has been extremely valuable. Previously, she would have had to hire a babysitter for three hours to give her enough time to drive to a hot yoga studio, work out, and drive home.
Taking part in community activities and events is something that Dana enjoys, and having to work around babysitting schedules and watch the clock so she can do those things has been a huge hurdle.
Her first venture as a member of the HAC community was the Lifestyle Challenge. Going into the challenge, she needed better habits for working out. Having shed 10 pounds during Project Zero, she had some insight into how she could change her diet. “I was like, ‘maybe I should be paying more attention to my health.’ Just a little attention goes a long way.” She convinced herself to sign up for the Lifestyle Challenge as an opportunity to build better habits for the future.
Another reason she joined HAC and the Lifestyle Challenge was to address her back pain. “I came in with the chronic pain to manage and not really knowing if I would be able to get on a treadmill for half an hour routinely. So, working with my personal trainer was absolutely a necessity here.”
Dana is one decade removed from an accident that left her with nerve damage in her back. “I was sitting at my desk, and a car (claps hands) hit me.” She was working as a receptionist at the time when a patient became confused and drove through the side of the building. Still, she’s kept a positive attitude, even joking with friends and family about the incident. “My brother said, ‘Oh my gosh. You didn’t tell me they put in a drive-through,’” she chuckles. “It’s had its challenges, but I’ve made my peace with it.”
Her focus now is to find new ways to manage chronic back pain and continue strengthening her growth mindset. After starting at CDS Analytical as an operations assistant in March 2020, Dana underwent a dynamic change. Working a job that she loves where her contributions create substantial change over time is the inspiration for this lifestyle change. “What I do matters, and having that onus of control put back into my hands after so many life events have done their best to rip them from me feels amazing.” She’s now making her health a priority so that she can continue to contribute to those who matter.
With the help of her trainer, Dom Tomlinson, she’s been able to explore new ways of exercising that she never saw herself being able to do again. “At the beginning, I didn’t really know what would help. It seemed like nothing would help, but really building strength, building healthy habits, getting a decent bed. Those kinds of things just all add up a little at a time.” She continues, “A decade later, I’m really living life to the fullest, which eight or nine years ago would seem really hard to picture.”
She recalls her first conversation with Dom, “I want to get from where I am now, which is unsure of what I can even do, to something that I feel very secure in executing and challenging myself.”
Dom was the trainer Dana needed to gain confidence in her own ability. “Before, I didn’t want to lift more than five pounds above my head. But I can do so much more.” She credits Dom’s tenacity for helping her push the limits of what she thought she was capable of.
Dom wasn’t the only one involved in her success, though; hot yoga and registered dietitian Jeannie Versagli were integral in leading Dana to the finish line. She found herself making time for new things as well. “I joined the run club. That’s not anything I would have done before.”
Post-Lifestyle Challenge, she continues coming to HAC regularly to take hot yoga and work with Dom. Unfortunately, the HAC Run Club was too physically demanding for her, but she’s picked up another hobby outside of the club in its place. For the first time since college, Dana has started swing dancing, and it’s something she loves! She’s excited to spend more time on the dance floor this summer.
Over the past three years, she’s been able to build a sustainable and purposeful lifestyle she’s happy with. She no longer prioritizes rest over wellness. Rather, she’s realized that wellness is the “roadmap for success” she’d been longing for. Dana says, “All these ways of expanding my world and connecting with others in ways that matter to them and matter to me really increased the joy in my life.”
She gives her pain zero credit for her transformation. “Not the split second of a car crashing into my work to hit me. Not the cancer diagnosis. Not the multiple painful surgeries I’ve endured. Nothing that has caused me pain and heartache gets any credit for this growth.” Dana has shaped a growth mindset, allowing her to leave negativity and hardships endured in the past. This gives her the ability to do what she loves in all aspects of her life.
In the end, Dana’s learned that sometimes a lifestyle change takes a village, and you don’t have to do it alone. Her advice to anyone seeking out change is to take the leap. “Just show up. Just show up for yourself. With any excuse you can come up with. Just go and put in the time. And if you feel lost, like you can’t do it on your own, you don’t have to. There are classes, there are trainers, and there’s a whole team of specialists just waiting to help you get on the right track. See that you’re on the right track and keep moving forward.”
A thank you to Dom
from Dana Arnold
Dom’s collaborative approach made risk-taking at the gym constructive for me rather than reckless. His versatility made it possible to build muscle week after week, no matter how I felt walking in the door.
His exercise modifications, encouragement and approachable style really make Dom stand out as a trainer.
The HAC Lifestyle Challenge is a 12-week fitness journey with the goal of helping participants shift their daily habits to healthier choices and improved overall well-being. Participants develop a consistent and sustainable fitness routine with the help of a dietitian, personal trainer, MYZONE™ heart rate system, and other fitness tools.
There are several reasons to take part in the Lifestyle Challenge – even the healthiest individuals have goals they’re striving to reach. Having a team of experts behind you motivating you to build a better routine is enough to make a positive change. Shifting your lifestyle is never going to be easy, but we don’t make it easy to give up either.
The Lifestyle Challenge is built to last you a lifetime, not just 12 weeks. It sets the foundation; it’s up to you to take what you’ve learned and continue building to construct the lifestyle you want. There’s no time like the present to start working on yourself. Obstacles will always exist, and excuses will always linger. So, what are you waiting for?