A lot has changed over the past year and a half; I have changed a lot over the past year and a half. I’m not half the woman I used to be. It is with great pleasure that I write this testimonial for (in my personal opinion) the Ultimate Personal Trainer, AJ Garcia. I first met AJ in August of 2008; he had been assigned to me as part of a promotional introductory personal training session at a gym. I wasn’t looking for a personal trainer; I just wanted someone to show me how to use the gym equipment correctly. I hated the idea of being weighed and measured by anyone, let alone a male. I hated the fact that I had to tell him about my past struggles to loose weight. And although I had finally started on, what seemed like a good path to loosing weight, I hated the idea of having to tell him the details of my starting weight and eating behavior. But I knew I had to do it to get the proper assistance I needed. So I sucked it up, and gave it all a try. Strangely enough I didn’t feel uncomfortable with AJ in fact, I felt at ease with him. He managed to create a comfortable environment for me almost effortlessly. He asked what my ultimate weight loss goal was, what amount would I be comfortable weighing? I didn’t even know how to answer that. Truthfully, it had always seemed so unattainable. So he helped me create one, for my height and age we agreed that about 160 lbs. would be good. Wow to weigh 160 lbs???!!! That would put me at a weight loss of 167 lbs, I would literally have to loose over half of me. I set the goal blindly not really knowing what I was getting myself into. And not really taking myself too seriously either.
After my fourth and final introductory session with AJ he asked if I was interested in continuing to work with him. I had already started to see results progressing; therefore I thought maybe I could give it a try. How far could I really go with all this? After all, if I was going to spend my money on something, maybe my health and happiness wouldn’t be such a bad investment.
Goal: Loose 6 lbs. by September 23, 2008
I had already started loosing weight, and I shared with AJ that I was about 6 lbs. away from reaching the 50 lb. mark and I wanted to get there in time for my Birthday. That gave me about 3 weeks, 3 weeks to loose 6 lbs. by my 27th Birthday. I worked hard for those 3 weeks, and he really pushed me, right up until the night before my deadline. He gave me such a tough workout that night, ensuring that I would reach my goal. Immediately after my workout I went to my weekly Weight Watchers meeting and found out I had not only my reached goal, but surpassed it. I had lost 9 lbs. for a total of 53 lbs. by September 23, 2008! It was such an amazing feeling, and a very Happy Birthday!
Suddenly before I knew it, exercise and working out was part of my everyday routine. I met with AJ twice a week for one hour sessions. He taught me about the benefits of working out all the major muscles in the body. On the days I didn’t meet with AJ he had me focus on cardio based routines. He would go over my food journal and helped me with an eating plan consisting of very basic, very realistic tips. As the weeks progressed the results came in faster and faster. It was now November of 2008, and I had been working out with him for about 2 months when he began to talk to me about his Boot Camp sessions. The term Boot Camp just sounded so intimidating. I could never do a Boot Camp workout, I didn’t think I could ever keep up with the rest of the group, but he insisted I give it a try. Once I finally gave in, I realized I was able to do it; I was able to keep up, at my own pace of course. As I learned he focused on tailoring his routine to all levels. He was able to really push me as far as I could go even in a group setting.
It quickly became evident that I was very focused on my workouts and my overall weight loss goal. With AJ I felt as though I wasn’t going through this journey alone. My family and friends were very supportive and very impressed with what I had accomplished. I decided to invite them in and let them see how hard I had been working. Thanksgiving Day 2008, I invited my siblings and friends to join me for a Thanksgiving Day Boot Camp with AJ. I was really happy and eager to have them partake in something that had become so important in my life. They definitely got a great workout, and it seemed to really strike a nerve with them. This one Boot Camp session resulted in some of my family members joining the regular Boot Camp group. It even led to my older brother hiring AJ on as his personal trainer.
It’s important to note that I come from a family where diet and exercise were definitely not of great importance. The majority of us were overweight. Most of us had tried dieting at one point or another in our lives. We would sometimes see results, but ultimately never really stuck to anything long term and watched the weight come back on over time. At least this was the case for me but, this time it really felt different. This was definitely the most weight I had ever lost. It seemed as though I had found a regimen that I could actually stick to. I enjoyed working out and going to the gym. It served as a big stress reliever. AJ provided me with constant guidance and motivation, and pushed me harder and harder each week. If there was an exercise move that was too hard for me to do, he wouldn’t let me give up. He found ways to alter the move and helped me work though it until I was ultimately able to complete it. Never say “I can’t” in his presence. I learned that the hard way but I thank him for that! Not only have I tried to adopt that mentality in my workouts but in all aspects of my life.
Goal: Loose 47 lbs. by December 31, 2008
By the beginning of December of 2008 I realized I could possibly reach the 100 lb. mark by the end of the year! Again I discussed this goal with AJ and he agreed to help me get there. And on the morning of December 31, 2008 I went to Weight Watchers to weigh in. I had done it, I had reached and surpassed goal loosing 51 lbs, putting me at a total of 104.2 lbs lost. What a way to kick off my 2009 New Year! I was on a roll, we were on a roll! I couldn’t believe what he had helped me accomplish in the short 4 months I had been working with him and I couldn’t wait to see what how much further I could go. We would set weight loss goals of about 5-10 lbs. a month. At this point I was working out 6-7 times a week; on my own 3-4 times a week, personal training twice a week, and an additional Boot Camp session on Saturdays. Week after week I would report my Weight Watchers results to him, every Monday night like clockwork. And week after week I would reach and surpass my goals. However I do need to note the weeks I would hit a slump, AJ would make sure I wouldn’t loose my motivation. We just hit it harder the following week. It was great but I was ready for a whole new type of goal.
Goal: “Running” a 5k on May 9, 2009
Every year my family and I would do the Revlon Cancer 5K Run/Walk in honor of our mom, Alicia Cruz. 2009 was the year I decided I wanted to celebrate my efforts and run a 5K. I thought about how proud my mom would be, and how I wish she could see me then. I shared with AJ that I wanted to complete the 5K running/jogging, no walking. I didn’t care about how long it would take, all I wanted was to make sure I kept running and never walked any part of the course. He not only offered to help me train for the event, but also to do it with me. I was very touched by that, and knew then that I would be able to attain my goal without a doubt. Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to do the Revlon Run/Walk, but I had been training for it for so long I knew I had to complete my goal. I decided to map out a 5K course that began and ended at the cemetery where my mom is resting. And on May 3rd 2009, one week prior to the Revlon Cancer Walk/Run, AJ and I met to run a 5K course. He kept his word and ran with me. Achieving this goal meant so much to me and I was happy to have him be a part of it all. I found it to be a difficult and emotional struggle, but one that I would never forget. I know my mom was proud of me that day!
The months progressed and time and time again I was not only meeting my goals, but reaching them early. I invited more and more of my loved ones to come and try out these Boot Camp sessions. I would really try and promote for him every chance I got. I really believed in what AJ was doing and what he was guiding me through. Because my family are the most important people in the world to me, I loved being able to share my whole experience with them. Little by little I began to see all the positive changes we had implemented in our everyday lives. Our family barbeques were suddenly full of healthy options. Our family vacations began to include group workouts. I couldn’t believe I had gone from being scared to take a Boot Camp session to actually leading my own version of one. I just kept going back to the basic moves AJ had taught me in the past months. Even with friends who I vacationed with, or who would come out and visit from out of town, I would bring them along to my workouts and had them join me at Boot Camp. “Don’t go on vacation with Patty, she’s going to make you workout,” they’d say, or “don’t go visit Patty, her trainer will kick your butt!” However, they all told me they would get this rejuvenated, motivating, energy, and I was happy to be a part of that. It was nice to see all the positive impacts that AJ seemed to bring onto my family and friends.
Again the months progressed, and more and more people began to notice the changes in me. Despite what my family and friends were telling me, despite what AJ was telling me, it was hard for me to see the “drastic” changes in myself. I was so focused on numbers. The number on the scale, the number of inches lost, the number of sizes I was going down, the number of exercise reps I was increasing. It was all so overwhelming, so motivating, and still so unbelievable to me. AJ has helped me focus on the overall picture. To stop concentrating so much on the scale, concentrate on how I feel, and more importantly how far I have come. This is something I still find difficult to do, but I’m still reminded to practice. With every pound lost brought excitement, not only for me but for him too. It was as though my goals became his goals, my struggles became his struggles and better yet my victories, became his victories. It was so comforting to feel like I wasn’t going through all of this alone. And it was then that I vowed to never let myself go back to the way I was.
Goal: To hit goal weight of 160 lbs.
As we neared the end of last year, the last couple of pounds became a real struggle to loose. Everyone had told me that those final pounds were going to be the hardest, and they were definitely right! It was frustrating to see my progress not only slow down but almost come to a halt and even regress. AJ constantly reminded me to concentrate on the amount of weight I had lost and not necessarily how much more I had to go. He told me to relax and stop stressing myself out so much, as it was doing more harm than good. “You’re going to get there Patty,” and as frustrated as I was to yo-yo up and down with those 5-7 lbs, it really did help to hear that. It made me really believe that I would eventually “get there.” I stood back and reflected on 2009 and realized what I had achieved, what my friends and family had achieved, what my older brother Felix had achieved! I had heard it before “look at the impact you’ve had on the people around you,” “you and your brother are such an inspiration.” And although I appreciated the compliments, I didn’t think it was really all that remarkable. But when I really allowed myself to relax and reflect, I was very proud of what I had done, what Felix had done, what the Boot Camp group had done; Katia, Jezabel, Christine, and so on (don’t know if they all want their names on here), and I truly feel in my heart that AJ had led us all there! Finally reaching goal weight brought on such an amazing feeling. One that I really had a hard time believing! But I was faced with a 'what now?' attitude. Where do I go from here? I still want to loose a few more pounds but surprisingly I wasn’t stressing myself out over it. I knew/know I will achieve it, how could I not?
Goal: “Running” a Half Marathon on February 7, 2010
With the New Year came an entirely new challenge, a new goal. I had signed up to do a half marathon along with my brother and a group of friends, Superbowl Sunday, 13.1 miles. When I had committed myself to doing this, I thought no problem I could jog/walk and complete 13 miles with the group. But, how great would it be to run the whole thing, never would I imagine doing that. When I talked to AJ about it, he announced to me that I would be running the whole thing! I didn’t really have a choice in the matter; both my brother and I would be running the entire course. I was so scared, so intimidated, so nervous, and yet so excited to take on this challenge, but it had been said and I knew it was something I had to do. AJ altered my personal workout sessions with him, and helped me plan my workouts/runs throughout the week. He advised me on my eating again reminding me to consume plenty of carbs, and he told me I needed to put aside my weight loss and concentrate on keeping my body healthy. And although I found it difficult to do so at first, I knew he was ultimately right and I had to properly nourish my body for such strain I was putting it through. My brother and I began to train together, and we made a great team. Where he started off strong and then started slowing down, I started off slow and then finished off strong. We complimented each other, we motivated each other, and we promised each other that if either of us had a nudge to run ahead, that we would do so and the other would do their best to catch up. AJ also helped us see the importance of keeping this mentality.
He gave up his only day off, and trained us both on Sundays. Mapping out 8-10 mile courses around our neighborhood to ensure we prepare for this event. I distinctly remember one Sunday running down the very same street that AJ and I had ran not even a year prior. When I was attempting to complete 5K (just a little over 3miles) for my mom. And there we were again 8 months later yet I was attempting to run 10 miles, down the very same street! It made me realize how incredible that was, how one can manipulate their body in such a way. It was then I realized how much I had built up my endurance. I didn’t allow myself enough time to train for this marathon, in actuality it was only about 5 weeks, but I am able to see now that I was ultimately training my body for the past year and a half. I just didn’t know what I was training for. I hate running, let alone running without an Ipod for long distances. But week after week I was amazed at the distances Felix and I were completing. All running/jogging no walking and it’s still something I can’t seem to let go even today.
On the day of the marathon AJ was there to cheer us on (in his own way ;) of course!) It meant so much to have him there, for him to wake up at 4 am to assure he would be there when we crossed the finish line. I think he was almost as excited and almost as nervous, as Felix and I were. This half marathon was one of the hardest things I had ever put my body and mind through. I didn’t necessarily care about how long it took me to complete it; all I knew is that I needed to run the entire thing, no stopping, no walking, just keep running. Everyone told me to stop being so hard on myself, and that it didn’t matter if I had to stop or walk a little as long as I finished it. But AJ knew just how important it was for me to achieve my goal. And I did it! It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had. I still find it hard to believe today, I ran 13.1 miles! It was such a mixture of emotions, physically and mentally challenging, but I did it and I was on such a high. Having AJ there, hearing him cheer and see me cross that finish line meant so much, words can’t describe.
AJ has definitely helped me reach my goals time and time again. And not only reach them but surpass many of them. From weighing 327 lbs (I say so shamefully) to weighing 158 lbs (I say with such pride). Allowing me to surpass a weight loss of over 167 pounds, I literally have lost over half of me! Going from a size 26-28 to fitting into a size 7 jeans! From being intimidated by the term Boot Camp, to actually leading a Boot Camp session! From struggling to run ¾ of a mile in 12 minutes, to running 13.1 miles non-stop in 2 hours 30 minutes 27 seconds! No matter how hard it got, or how emotional I became, he never gave up on me. He never allowed me to give up on myself. He awoke a drive and determination in me that I didn’t even know I had. 17 months later and he still keeps me motivated! Thank you AJ.