Guest Blogger: Donna's Journey

What makes Urban Fitness such a rad place? Awesome coaches and killer workouts certainly help, but it's our UFO members that really take this place up a notch. With such interesting, fantastic URBies, it only seems fair that we let their stories be heard. That's why we are welcoming guest bloggers to share their fitness journeys--struggles, triumphs, awesomeness and all.

Our first guest blogger is Donna; a bit hesitant to get into our doors last December, she's since shaken off her uncertainty and been crushing it in here! Here's her story (so far!):


I moved to Oakland in September after six long years abroad pursuing a Master’s and Ph.D. Six years of sitting at a desk often for 12-14 hours a day, schlepping unholy quantities of books across cities, of stress eating and just not taking care of myself in general.


At first, I tried to play off the added pounds as “bloating”; it will surely go away in a few days. Then I went up a sizeit must be the brand. Then it went up to the next size and the next size…

 Setting a new PR not even breaking a sweat. BOOYAH!

Setting a new PR not even breaking a sweat. BOOYAH!

Besides not working out, the emotional/binge eating was the worst. Hiding chip bags and candy wrappers underneath other garbage in the bin so my roommate wouldn’t see what I’d eaten was a particularly low point. Since most of my friends are “skinny”, I didn’t think they would understand. Similarly, I know they meant well when saying “You’re beautiful no matter what size you are. You’re awesome and we love you.” And while I know their words were heartfelt, I used it as an excuse to continue to not take care of myself, to overeat, and to not workout.  


I don’t think they understood the emotional and mental baggage that came with the weight gain. For the last several years I actively avoided looking in the mirror, cut tags out of my clothes, reverted to online shopping so that I wouldn’t have to be seen in the mall by the slim salespeople and, on the rare occasion when I would agree to go out with friends, always avoided sliding into a booth seat lest I should inadvertently hit the table next to me and their drinks with my large backside! Professionally and socially I let the fat define who I was, losing my identity to the “jovial fat girl” persona.


I did try to mitigate the caloric damage by trying to eat healthier, doing some yoga, and swimming, but it was always few and far between. And then, of course, once I saw a little progress I took it as a green light to revert back to my old habits. There was also the added problem that using the university gym would involve my students seeing me workout and, after that, they would never take me seriously in the classroom again!




The turning point for me came gradually. In June I graduated and moved home for a while. I lost about 20 lbs on my own through eating healthier and exercise and felt really good about it, but it still wasn’t enough. I could see the old habits creeping back in to my lifestyle.


One day in the fall, I decided enough was enough. I was tired of being embarrassed about being seen in public, tired of second guessing what everyone thought when I walked in a door and tired of being winded by walking up the four flights of stairs to my apartment. It was time to take control.


I asked some people I knew about gyms and did some online research. Their recommendations didn’t seem to fit the bill for what I was looking foreither being too CrossFitesque or unrealistic in their goals. Having been fit and enjoying sports in a previous life, I knew what I wanted, but was struggling to find it. Then, while driving home, I noticed people running around the block, others carrying kettle bells and…wait for it…smiling?!? (something I very much did not associate with the above activities).


I looked up gyms in Jack London Square and found Urban Fitness Oakland. I perused the website and was intrigued both by the workouts and witty rhetorical devices used on their page (nerd moment, I know). I vacillated for several weeks about whether or not to go in and check it out, feeling embarrassed about my weight and my athletic ineptitude. One day after teaching I decided to take the plunge. I drove up, sat in my car for a few minutes working up to the courage to walk in, saw the coach at the door, freaked out (he was very intimidating, okay!) and, just when I was about to turn around and hightail it out of there, he opened the door and ushered me in.



We chatted for a while about my fitness goals and hurdles and I decided to sign up for a month. It was only $99 dollars and I could always quit, right? Wrong. After the first week I was hooked. The workouts were hard, okay, really hard, and I struggled with a lot of the movements, but the coaches were so supportive and the other members so encouraging that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself and feel that I was accomplishing something.


About a month in I flew home, and my family was so impressed by the positive changes they could see in my appearance and my attitude. Instead of avoiding the gym, I plan my day around it. I keep extra gym clothes in my car, so I can’t use the excuse that I couldn’t make it home and a stockpile of healthy snacks so I can’t say that I got too hungry to come (or that that donut really was the only food option available for miles).




In all honesty, that $99 Intro fee to Urban Fitness was the best $99 dollars I’ve spent. Joining the gym has allowed me to access a part of myself that I had lost to the “jovial fat girl” persona. Instead of letting my weight define who I am, I am slowly but surely moving forward (like doing those damn bear crawls) and putting my health first. Jobs and relationships will come and go, but I’m pretty much stuck with myself, so why not invest in me for a change?


 No surprise she even has Coach Melissa smiling! 

No surprise she even has Coach Melissa smiling! 


There are still many hurdles ahead, but I can feel myself getting stronger both mentally and physically. My biggest problem now is whether or not my calluses from the kettle bells are “cute”; as opposed to ‘Can I sit in that seat without spilling over into the next one?” And it’s only been 3 months! I’m excited to see what changes lay ahead and very thankful for the coaches who are helping me get there.