After being in the education field for over 30 years, in what seems to have been a fast-paced 24/7, exhausting, stress-ridden environment, I decided to “take the bull by the horns” and put my health and well-being front and centre in my life. At age 55, having neglected myself due to being a self-proclaimed workaholic for so many years and now tipping the scales at 205 lbs., I was not only overweight but also out of breath, out of shape and stressing out about my physical appearance. Over the years I’ve sustained a variety of physical setbacks – lower back injuries sustained from 3 separate rear-end car collisions and have been in and out of physiotherapy and chiropractic care for a variety of chronic aches and pains including a hernia and wrist injuries so many times that I’ve lost count. What’s more, I also have asthma, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, environmental allergies, and scoliosis which can be a deadly combination when paired with poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle.

I had to make a life-altering decision – put down a lump sum on my mortgage or make the ultimate investment in my future and work 1:1 with a personal trainer. I’d been a member of GoodLife for over 5 years but found that I was just plateauing – literally, “spinning my wheels” at a number of group fitness classes.

Once I committed to having a personal trainer, the next step was selecting the right personal trainer for me…I did my homework and found the most experienced and qualified personal trainer with over 9 years of experience at the GoodLife in Georgetown – Dan Walinga. Dan’s track record was the most extensive by far – with fascial stretch therapy, kickboxing, running gait analysis and flexibility/mobility training to name just a few…I knew instinctively that Dan “was the man” who could push me far beyond my limits!

After my first week, I was convinced that Dan was the right trainer for me and signed up for the long term. It seemed like a lot of money to invest at the time but I decided to pay for the full year in 2 installments. In retrospect, it has been money well spent in the pursuit of a healthy, active lifestyle.

At the initial consultation, Dan and I established my goals and priorities during the program: weight loss (losing inches and bodyfat), proper nutrition, increased muscle mass, improved stamina/endurance, decreasing/eliminating pain, strengthening my core, improved flexibility and range of movement and ultimately, getting off the CPAP machine (sleep apnea).

Not only was Dan supportive but he pushed me to the limit – we started with 3 – one hour personal trainer sessions a week, learning proper form and technique with a combination of cardio, weight training, and flexibility as well as assembling my own basic mobility kit (foam roller, lacrosse ball, and exercise band). A few weeks later, I decided to “amp things up” with 2 additional sessions on my own each week as well as swimming and jogging. Talk about dedicated – “no pain, no gain”, right?

As my 4-tiered holistic approach (exercise, sleep, nutrition and positive mindset) progressed, Dan “hooked me up” with a naturopath who ran a battery of tests, determining the need for an anti-inflammatory diet (gluten, sugar and dairy-free) It was hard not only giving up eating Frosted Mini-Wheats but also bread/pasta. We eventually amped things up again with a ketogenic diet (high protein, low carb, grass-fed meat and unlimited vegetables like spiralized zucchini) and a Super Protein shake with 15 ingredients!

In the words of the inimitable Knute Rockne, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” … boy did I ever…Dan got me ready with a personalized running program in the early Spring for my first-ever 5k race in May! Pounds started to melt away slow but sure when we did the check-ins every 2 weeks…

I even enrolled for the CanFitPro Conference this summer – 2 SPIN classes and 6 GoodLife group workout sessions in 48 hours! – and had the stamina to keep up with industry professionals Tony Horton, Jillian Michaels and Zumba guru Beto Perez…by the time it was all over, I may have been physically exhausted but I was on a personal and emotional high! During a weeklong stay in Montréal, I also ended up walking an unheard of 62 miles (FitBit tracking).

Fast forward to Fall 2016…It’s been quite a journey of discovery, not only reaching but surpassing my original goals – like losing 25 lbs. which I initially thought was unattainable. My personal results were beyond my wildest dreams – 30% body fat reduced to 24%, weight loss from 205 to 175 lbs., 6-inch reduction around the stomach/waist area – 2 pant sizes and 3 belt notches smaller. There were also a lot of FIRSTS accomplished throughout the year with Dan – kick/boxing, running my first-ever 5/7k races with Guardian Angels Catholic School’s “Team Unbreakable” in Oakville and Sunnybrook Hospital’s “Race for the Kids” in Toronto , lifting weights I never thought possible after my hernia surgery five years ago…having lost over 30 pounds, my specialist says I will now be able to get off my CPAP machine in the new year. This from the doctor who said I’d never lose the weight at all! In early February after a New Year’s Eve sleep clinic study, I finally became CPAP-free as my sleep apnea was deemed virtually non-existent!

Dan and GoodLife have given me the foundation, guidance, motivation, and necessary tools to unlock my hidden potential for leading a sustainable active and healthy lifestyle. This new way of life has been very rewarding on a personal level…my family and my colleagues at work have noticed marked positive changes in my appearance – I feel younger, more confident and energetic – students and parents at my school and random acquaintances actually took me for someone in his late 30s or early 40s!

I’ve recently added Hot Yoga and a new cardiokickboxing program to the mix and boy, am I “feeling the burn!” I’ll be retiring within the next two years but my journey of a lifetime has only just begun but I am looking forward to every step along the way – there may be roadblocks, pitfalls, twists and turns – anything worthwhile is worth fighting for. I feel like a living, breathing advocate and role model for the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle – this from the “poster boy” for “slips, trips and falls!” In retrospect, there can be no better investment than the one made in yourself and it’s never too late to feel better … healthier… happier!

― Doug MacDougall