Over the summer something big happened.  10 people took a chance on a brand new gym.  Maybe even bigger than that, these same 10 people took a chance on themselves.  This summer marked the launch of the very first Warrior Challenge.  These 10 individuals made a commitment to themselves that they were going to focus and get serious about improving themselves, inside and out.  When you think about summer, and life, and kids, and family, and work, and practices, and dance rehearsals and vacations….etc.,  it is absolutely amazing that all 10 Challengers not only finished The Challenge, they each finished The Challenge STRONG!  That says a lot about the kind of people that walk inside these gym walls.

When the 8 weeks were up and the numbers were tallied, the group of 10 Challengers had lost a total of 150 lbs. Rather than celebrating what they lost, I think if you were to ask them, they would have more to say about what they gained.  I got the opportunity to chat with Gail Galfo – our grand prize winner and reigning “Ultimate Warrior” here at Apex.  If you are curious what it looks like inside the mind of a true warrior, I suggest you read on.

Can you introduce yourself to everyone?

My name is Gail Galfo.  I’ve been married to Jerry for 20 years.  We have a daughter, Melissa and a son, Christopher.  We have two beautiful granddaughters, Mia and Kaidyn. I’ve been a paralegal with Shaw & Shaw, P.C. in Hamburg, NY for 18 years. I love working out, being active on several committees and teaching Sunday School at The First Church of Evans in Derby.  I’m an avid reader, and love baking (my down-fall).  Most of all, I love spending time with my family and friends.

What compelled you to come to the first meeting about The Warrior Challenge at APEX? 

I’ve been a member of Crunch in Hamburg (formerly World Gym) for many years.  When I found out that there was a gym closer to where I live, I was excited, and talked my daughter into coming to the first meeting with me.  We were so impressed with everything the speakers had to say, and felt it was time to get more active.  I started feeling the aches and stiffness that comes with aging, and decided I needed to really pay more attention to my physical well-being.  I also realize that working out would help relieve the stress that’s associated with my job and the other activities I’m involved in.

What were you most nervous/concerned about before beginning The Challenge?

Not knowing what to expect, and the cost.  I thought we would walk in and get this tough-sell to join, but it wasn’t like that at all.  It was all about how we can make ourselves better through activity, nutritional counseling and personal training.  And who doesn’t want to be better?

What did you find most helpful?

The classes were the most helpful, along with the personal training sessions.  I was ready to give up many times, thinking I was too old or too clumsy, yet each trainer encouraged me without hesitation, yet were firm and controlled in showing me what I could and could not do.  The classes were always filled with laughter and fun, and I actually began looking forward to being at as many classes as I could.  I especially liked the fact that for those movements I was physically unable to do, modifications were given without hesitation or annoyance.  That was really important to me. Of course, the weekly weigh-ins and counseling with the nutritionist allowed me accountability, and a check-up as to what I was doing right or wrong.  Those sessions also encouraged me, even during those weeks I just “wasn’t feeling it.”

Did you learn anything about yourself during the 8 weeks? If so, what?

I gained self-confidence, and learned that I’m not too old to participate, and that none of the younger ones in the class ever made me feel out of place.  I enjoyed sharing the classes with my daughter, who was also a great encouraging force.  I learned I could, and must and will continue in my quest for better physical health.

What was the biggest challenge for you during the 8 weeks?

Fitting all the classes in was, at times, difficult, but I managed to find a way to do it.  I think that being a part of the Challenge, and not allowing myself excuses in order to reach my goal, was a great opportunity to test my own self-will.  It was difficult at times because our granddaughter, Kaidyn, stays with us during the summer, so taking care of her and working full-time took a lot of time and I would find reasons to be lazy.

What did you think about the personal training sessions that you took part in?

The personal training sessions are geared specifically toward me, and take into account what I’m physically unable to do.  Carolyn is patient and kind, and is prepared before our sessions as to what she wants us to accomplish.  She encourages me to write everything down so I have reminders when I work out by myself, and it’s been so helpful. I can also say I’ve had many extra “personal” training sessions by Jake and Tyler because it was often that I would show up and be the only one in the class on a particular evening.  They never made me feel like I was imposing, and they carried on the class, albeit, more geared toward my personal abilities, and it was great.

What did you think about the classes that you took?

Every single class was challenging, exhausting, yet fun.  All the instructors are helpful, encouraging and, in many cases, have become friends I hope to have for many years to come.  Even the music is extraordinary; keeping me moving when all I really want to do is fall flat on my face and take a nap.

Rebecca Mcnamara of Sunshine Wellness was an integral part of The Challenge program. How did her wellness coaching add to the fitness/nutrition aspects of the program for you?

Rebecca made me accountable.  There were no excuses that I could find that she couldn’t see through, and it was awesome.  She told me how I could changes things I was doing; how to beat the 3:00 p.m. sludge.  Sometimes her eyebrows would raise when looking at my food tracker, but she always stressed healthy, good eating without judgment.

Was there anything that surprised you or that you weren’t expecting at the start?

Nobody judged me.  I’m one of the oldest members of the gym, and I think that alone encouraged me to beat the pants off the yunguns!  But the entire Challenge was fun; the classes, the friendships I made, the music and even the sweat.  I was surprised I could finish the Challenge, and without the encouragement of everyone involved with the Challenge, could not have done so.

If someone was on the fence about participating in the next Warrior Challenge, what would you have to say to him/her?

Just try it.  Participate as a guest in a few classes before the Challenge starts.  There’s no reason not to like joining the Challenge; there’s no reason not to like the gym; and there’s no way you’ll walk away feeling anything but better – physically, mentally or emotionally.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes.  Absolutely.  I love you all!  I’ve not felt this good, physically and emotionally, in a very long time.  I look forward to working out now, instead of feeling like it’s something I have to do.  It’s something I want to do, and it’s all for me.  I’m not a wife, mom, grandmother or paralegal.  I’m me and I do it for me and it’s awesome.  It’s also been wonderful sharing my “me” time with my daughter, both of us wondering if we’ll finish the spin class or fall off the bike, or drop the weights on our feet.  I’ve not laughed so hard in such a long time.  I want to personally thank everyone for the encouragement – that’s the big thing to me.  It was never phony.  It was never “I have to do this because my employers want me to do this.”  It was from the heart of each and every trainer and Rebecca.  And it was evident in each and every class and training session.  But most of all, I gained friendships.  How can you beat that?

Really, Gail….  there is no better way to close this post .

Stephanie is a group fitness instructor at APEX Health & Wellness. When she isn’t in the gym she can be found biking, hiking, kayaking and climbing random mountains with her adventurous husband and two sons.