We know change is hard, but our Challenge participants prove that when you set your mind to a goal, anything is possible. We connected with five of them to ask how they stayed focused and motivated throughout the rigorous regimen, how the Challenge changed their lives, and why they are still going strong with their workout routines.
Overall Female Winner, Ages 30 – 39
10.4 % body fat
15.5 inches off her waist
Losing just over 40 pounds right before your 40th birthday feels great. Just ask Renee Barnes, a 39-year-old mother of three, who also lost 16 inches off her waistline. Barnes saw her upcoming birthday as an opportunity to make big changes in her life. She joined the Challenge, worked out at the gym six or seven days a week, and cut out snacks and processed foods.
“I did cardio on the treadmill or StairMaster, Boot Camp, Body Pump classes, GRIT classes, and then I’d go walking with a neighbor every night,” said Barnes. “In a few weeks, you see how all your hard work pays off. By the end of the Challenge, I went from being a size 14 to a 6 or 8 now. Clothes shopping used to be a chore. Now I love the way my body feels when I try on new clothes.”
Overall Male Winner, Ages 40 – 49
26% body fat
12 inches off his waist
Todd McFarland never thought that at age 48, he’d lose about 55 pounds, drop 12 inches from his waistline, and go from a beer belly to six-pack abs. Working out with his fiancée and fellow Challenge winner, Donna Dombrowski, helped keep him on track to eventually be in the best shape of his life. “I do hardwood flooring for a living, and my body constantly hurt,” he said. “That all changed after the Challenge. I have so much more energy, and the back and neck pain and headaches are just gone.”
Even giving up favorite foods wasn’t as hard as McFarland anticipated. “I used to drink four or five cans of soda every day, but after a few weeks of the Challenge, I started to see results and didn’t miss soda anymore.
Female, Ages 50 – 59
9.6% body fat
5.75 inches off her waist
At 53, Donna Dombrowski had a new love in her life: a man who enjoyed fitness. Dombrowski and her fiancé, Challenge Winner Todd McFarland, went to Gold’s Gym every morning and every night. After 12 weeks, she had lost almost 28 pounds and about six inches from her waistline. Diet changed, too. “We didn’t buy chips, snacks or ice cream. We ate a lot of chicken and fish, and on weekends, we would treat ourselves to a lean steak with broccoli.”
To celebrate, Dombrowski and her family took a beach trip to Panama City. She bought a new bathing suit for the trip. “We took a walk on the beach that changed my life,” she said. “People stopped and told us how good we looked, just compliment after compliment, and it felt so good because I worked so hard. Girls in their 20s and 30s told me they hoped to look like me when they’re 53.”
Female, Ages 30-39
11% body fat
4 inches off her waist
After seeing what the 2015 Challenge did for her body and mind, Robyn Glasgow, 34, decided to return for the 2016 Challenge to become even stronger mentally and physically. A busy mother of three, Glasgow struggles with thyroid disease and her weight. This year’s Challenge led to an 18-pound weight loss thanks to Boot Camp, daily cardio and strength training, and cutting out gluten.
Glasgow credits this year’s Challenge with helping her become a better mother and giving her more energy to raise her family. “I did this Challenge for my babies,” says Glasgow. “I want them to understand that health and fitness need to be a priority in their lives. I want them to see the importance of setting fitness goals and trying your hardest to reach them. I want them to be proud of themselves in everything they do!”
Female, Ages 18 – 29
18% body fat
8 inches off her waist
Ashley Friend is looking forward to surprising her husband when he returns from military deployment. He has only been able to see her progress by video chatting. Ashley has lost 27 pounds, including 16% of her total body weight and eight inches off her waistline! The mother of three small children was tired of being overweight and yo-yo’ing on diets. With an anniversary cruise to the Caribbean coming up soon, Friend, 29, saw the Gold’s Gym Challenge as an opportunity to get in shape and wow her spouse.
“I joined the Challenge with my best friend, because it’s really important to have a strong support circle to keep you going when you feel tired or frustrated,” Friend said. “We went to the gym six days a week, and I started paying attention to the macronutrients on my plate, making sure I had the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.”