Working Out Together and Getting Stuff Done

Alone, humans often fail.  But teamed up with a friend or a loved one, beautiful things can happen.  This is one of those beautiful stories.

“My sister [Peggy Lawrence] has not only shown me what it means to be brave, but also has allowed me to love more deeply,” said Patti Biancardi Barth.  “What a privilege it is to be her friend, sister and exercise partner.” Doctors diagnosed Peggy with multiple sclerosis 23 years ago, when she was 37 years old. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body – potentially affecting functions ranging from walking to thinking. In an effort to build up her strength and minimize the effects of the disease, Peggy began exercising with Patti on a regular basis.

“When Peggy was first diagnosed we were rollerblading, bike riding and enjoying speed walking,” Patti said. Despite their best efforts, over the past 10 years, Peggy’s symptoms progressed, altering her lifestyle substantially.  She is challenged with balance issues, spasticity, leg pain and stiffness.

“I am heartbroken as I watch her struggle with her daily activities,” Patti said. “We feel we are at a crossroads.”

Pictured from left to right, Coach Nate, Peggy, Patti, Coach Demetrius

Fortunately, in the past few years, two big developments have given Peggy and Patti good reasons to remain hopeful.  The first was their decision, three years ago, to begin working out together at the Anytime Fitness gym in Merrillville, Indiana.

“We love the increased effort and enthusiasm when we partner during workouts,” Peggy said.  My growth in strength and stamina has increased greatly.” The owner of the gym, Feras Musleh, impressed both Peggy and Patti with his “compassion, acceptance and enthusiasm.”  And the sisters give credit to personal trainer Kevin Torok for dramatically changing their approach to exercise.

“He took the time to casually observe Peggy, to get to know us and to show us better techniques while working out, focusing on her challenges and targeting specific muscle exercises for her,” Patti said.  “Kevin’s humor, expertise and his genuine interest in our increased fitness level lit a fire in us.  We then scheduled three personal training sessions with him where he broke down three different workouts and was very detailed as to how – and why – we were doing these exercises.” Under Kevin’s guidance, Peggy and Patti learned how to maximize the efficacy of their workouts by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

“We currently rotate the three different workouts on a weekly basis,” said Peggy.  “Then Kevin convinced us to participate in group training.  It was at these sessions, we met personal trainers Demetrius Jackson and Nate Fowler.  D and Nate bring their game to the group workouts.  It is so much fun to work out in a group.  We love it.  D and Nate review exercise adaptions with me before class to ensure successful group participation.  The group atmosphere brings energy, competitiveness and comradery to our workouts.  Enthusiastic, educated personal trainers, music, and people who love working out together is the perfect recipe for success.”

The second big development that’s given Patti and her sister reason to be hopeful about Peggy’s future is a promising new treatment for multiple sclerosis:  a stem cell transplant procedure which has demonstrated impressive results in halting the progression of MS and, in many cases, reducing many symptoms related to the disease.

“What I know is that the progression of this disease needs to stop,” said Patti.  “We need this treatment to keep Peggy mobile and healthy.  I love my sister dearly.” Peggy is scheduled to begin the treatment in a few months, but it’s not cheap – $60,000 – and not covered by insurance.  More information about Peggy and the procedure that she’ll be undergoing is available on her YouCaring page.

Meanwhile, to prepare herself for the fight of her life, Peggy and Patti will continue to work out – together – three times a week at Anytime Fitness and once a week at a local swimming pool.

“Our weekly schedule fluctuates with family and work responsibilities, but we are committed to our health,” said Peggy.  “I like exercising with medicine balls, kettle balls, TRX ropes – any exercise, really, as long as the music is loud.  Our trainers have taught us a variety of workout strategies, targeting specific muscles repeatedly, to increase cardio and overall fitness.  We are definitely stronger.”

Patti concedes that she and her sister are both tired at the end of a workout, but it’s “a very good tired.”

“Our physical and mental strength is increasing with every workout,” Patti said.  “Peggy’s upcoming stem cell transplant is getting closer.  Her fitness level will soar once she is wiped clean of MS.  And that’s when she’s really going to shine.  I can feel it.”

Teamwork.  It’s a beautiful thing – and a powerful force.

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How One Man Lost 130lbs And Now Coaches Others

My story may sound familiar. I started off like so many others. I had been a big guy my whole life. On the day my fitness journey started, I was 23 years old, and honestly, couldn’t remember a time where I wasn’t big. Heck, the smallest pair of jeans I owned were 36″ waist—which didn’t fit, and hadn’t since 8th grade. But that was my reality, and I had come to accept it. Or rather, I was resigned to my fate.

Efforts to succeed… didn’t.

Throughout my adult life I tried and failed a number of times to lose weight. Nothing really stuck. There were so many factors I could attribute to my lack of progress. There was little health and fitness knowledge and direction, for one, which was an unstable foundation to build my hopes on. Then there was my general laziness and constant procrastination from going after what I really wanted! And of course, there was the ever-pervasive sense of discomfort, inadequacy, and embarrassment I felt when I set foot in a gym, which led to my general lack of motivation to actually do it.

Motivation is a funny thing, though.

I learned, one day, that motivation is not the same thing as needing to do a thing or wanting to do a thing. Motivation is not “I want to lose weight.” It’s what drives that feeling and your actual action. Motivation is different for everyone. For me, it was a deep, powerful inability to remain as I was for another moment. One day—at work—I wore through the inner thigh of yet another pair of pants due to my thighs rubbing as I walked, and something snapped. I simply could no longer be like this anymore—overweight, unhappy in my own skin, uncomfortable, and embarrassed with myself. I had to do something.

And so it began.

My wife (my girlfriend at the time) and I  began working out together. We started at home, in the basement or spare bedroom, with one of those at-home workout DVDs I borrowed from a friend. At the time, I was too embarrassed, intimidated, and overwhelmed to go to an actual gym. So, we did it on our own. We had each other, and we made it work, but I look back now and realize how we made it pretty hard on ourselves. Why didn’t we ask for help? A year later, I found myself 130 lbs. lighter, significantly more confident and comfortable in my body, and I had even become a runner! So the work was definitely worth it. But I learned a lot along the way.

What did we do? What can YOU do?

We did strength training workouts, high-intensity interval training workouts, we ran, and we even did yoga. A balance of ALL these things kept things interesting and helped support our success. We used dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and even bodyweight to power our workouts.

It wasn’t just workouts though. The other key component was nutrition. We completely changed not just what we ate, but how we thought about food. Food became a fuel source, not a way to pass time or deal with emotions. We cut out things like soda, weaned ourselves off some not-so-great choices, and focused on healthy, whole foods. We didn’t do a crash-course 30, 60, or 90-day challenge, or fad diet. We made small, progressive, lifestyle changes. And ultimately, that’s why we succeeded and why the weight has stayed off over lots more time.

Life is very different today than it was Day 1.

As a result of my transformation, I found a new passion for fitness. I became a runner, and used it as an outlet to push myself, to see just how far I could go. I’ve completed not just marathons, but ultramarathons. I’ve even completed a 100-mile endurance run (yes, all in one shot—29 hours)! I also discovered a newfound passion for helping others navigate their own health and fitness journey. Having been there myself, I knew how hard it could be. I think back to my own fitness journey, and wish it didn’t have to be so hard. All the work, the research, the trial and error, the struggles—it was a lot. And I’ve realized it didn’t have to be that hard. Not if we had reached out to more experienced people along the way. So now, I share my story, and even work as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, to do just that. People often feel (or are) alone, but don’t need to be! If I can help ease the journey and answer a few questions for even one person, I know I’ve made my day and theirs.

You have to believe.

There are going to be days it feels like “too much,” “too hard,” or altogether like an insurmountable challenge. In those moments, know that you can do it. I’ve come out the other side successful and can tell you, you can win. Lean on your friends, your family, and a coach to see you through to victory. You’ll get there—in time, with work, and belief.

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5 Ways to Stay on Track With Your New Fitness Goals

Staying committed to an exercise regimen is hard work. There’s no way around that. But it’s about much more than physical resolve. Designing the routine that’s best for you is key. We want to help you reach your goals, which is why we’ve put together five tips to help you design a routine you’ll want to stick to! If you need more direction and assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local Anytime Fitness staff member. We’re ready and eager to help!

Push yourself. 

When it comes to personal fitness, you are the biggest factor in the success of your program. Ultimately, you’re the one who decides to hit the gym or run that extra mile. As you begin a new routine, being your own cheerleader will go a long way in making your desired results a reality!

Keep a fitness journal.

When you think about exercising, journaling probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, recording your progress in a dedicated place will make a big difference as you develop your routine. Whether you choose a physical notebook, an app, spreadsheet, or our monthly wellness calendar, giving yourself a handy place to record your exercise will help you keep every week productive—and be a great way to reflect on how far you’ve come! 

Reward yourself.

There’s a reason why every store seems to have some form of a rewards program—they’re extremely effective at gaining repeat customers. In that same way, creating a rewards program around your workout plan will help to make you a “repeat customer” of the gym! Set a goal for yourself and choose a reward you get once you meet that goal. It doesn’t really matter what you set as your reward, but try to choose non food-related rewards, like a massage, a new outfit or a movie. Whether your goal is to lose weight, lift a certain weight, or exercise consistently for a period of time, knowing you have a new outfit, trip or treat at the end can do wonders to get you there!

Introduce variety.

People who are new to a fitness routine often burn out after their first few weeks because their workouts start becoming boring. Mixing together different workouts will keep your mind and your muscles engaged! Try a variety of exercises as a great way to discover things you enjoy, which will ultimately help keep you motivated and having more fun each time you hit the gym. 

Get social.

Whether you’re a Chatty Cathy or prefer a solo exercise sesh, there are plenty of ways to involve others to help keep you motivated. If you’d like to get moving with other workout enthusiasts, check out your gym’s group fitness schedule or local event pages to see what groups are around you. From distance running to weightlifting, chances are someone in your area enjoys the same type of exercise and would be thrilled to buddy up!

If you aren’t interested in having a gym buddy, but still want a sense of community, online communities  like your gym’s Facebook page, where you can chat about progress, are great ways to cultivate that same sense of support.

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10 of the Most Inspiring Success Stories of 2017

We couldn’t ever say one story is “the best.” There are moments, and people, and achievements we are proud of happening all year long! Sometimes it’s a mental victory, beating a long-term physical struggle, a community rallying around someone, or all of the above. Each has their merit. Here are some of our favorites from 2017! Find many more (and submit your own!) inspiring tales at

Marcia before and afterMarcia McDowell

Marcia has officially lost 200 lbs. in one year. But the transition wasn’t quick and easy. Her son’s wedding was what inspired the dramatic lifestyle change. “Their wedding day was beautiful and a few weeks later, we saw the beautiful photos from the photographer. All was fine until I was faced with a picture of my son and I dancing the mother/son dance together. I was in total disgust as I looked at myself in the pictures. Who was this person? Had I really gotten that big?”

Read Marcia’s Story

Lou Maldonado

At his heaviest, Lou Maldonado weighed 540 pounds. An emotional conversation with his 9-year-old son prompted Lou to join Anytime Fitness in Mays Landing, NJ. Gym owner Myke Collazo took a personal interest in Lou and helped him lose 300. Now, Lou is enjoying life to the fullest with all three of children – and golfing with his new friend, Myke.

Karla Pankow

Karla progressAt her heaviest, Karla Pankow weighed 300 pounds. Fast-forward to today, Karla has lost more than 100 pounds. She’s now a firefighter, a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, a Certified Personal Trainer working on her Emergency Medical Technician certification, and she’s incredibly active and much healthier and happier than she’s been in years. How did Karla Pankow accomplish so much? A big part of her turnaround has to do with personal trainer Heather Clark.

Read Karla’s Story

Christine H.

Christina H success“In May of 2016 I stood on the scale for the first time in a long time. My weight was 375 lbs. I was in disbelief that I had let it get so out of hand. I’ve spent the better part of 8-9 yrs over 300 lbs. but never thought I’d be that close to 400 lbs. I made a promise to myself to stop taking advantage of my body and to follow through with a healthy life style for 1 year. That promise has brought me so far, and I committed to a 2nd year, and plan to continue forever.”

Read More of Christine’s Story

Lexi and Danny Reed

When Lexi and Danny Reed got married two years ago, Lexi weighed 485 pounds and Danny weighed 280 pounds. They were doing what a lot of us do — spending their free time relaxing with takeout and TV and not finding time to exercise or eat healthy. Lexi was tired all the time and even got out of breath walking. Finally, the two had had enough.

Lexi and Danny Reed

Watch Their Story

Gerald Yenny

Everyone starts somewhere. For Gerald Yenny, it was a place of pain, too much weight, and a warning from his doctor. With help from personal trainers at the Anytime Fitness gym in Batesburg-Leesville, SC, Gerald has lost a remarkable 150 pounds in less than a year, despite multiple back surgeries that limited his mobility. But the weight-loss pales in comparison to the love and support Gerald received from his Anytime Fitness family when personal tragedy struck.

Heidi & Trainer ClarindaHeidi Johnson

Heidi has lost 150 pounds and hopes to lose another 90. But her weight loss journey is about a LOT more than numbers. After lots of hard work and time with a personal trainer, she’s learned valuable lessons to keep propelling her toward new goals.

Read Heidi’s Story

Jen Frazier after picJen Frazier

When Jen Frazier suddenly lost two loved ones, she was faced with a “huge wake-up call.” She knew she had to change her lifestyle if she wanted to live a long, healthy life and be there for her friends and family. She went from battling high blood pressure to running half-marathons and doing a triathlon. Her journey was anything but easy, but she made some incredible accomplishments along the way, like her bike tour through Tuscany, Italy! Read on for her full story on

Read Jen’s Story

Ashton Parsons

She was barely a year old when Ashton Parsons was first diagnosed with cancer. She survived, but was diagnosed with another form of cancer at age 14. Multiple orthopedic surgeries left Ashton weak and in constant pain. But, with help from a personal trainer at the Anytime Fitness gym in Wake Village, TX, Ashton is now healthier than she’s ever been – and so strong that she competes in powerlifting meets.

Lydia before picLydia Dziubanek

In January 2014 Lydia Dziubanek felt profoundly unhappy. She was overweight and trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, while raising three young boys. As she struggled with depression, she started having suicidal thoughts. Read the rest of her story on

Read Lydia’s Story

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