Readers Share Their Fitness Transformations: ‘It Has Changed My Life’

A Wall Street Journal article about reporter Anne Marie Chaker’s journey into midlife bodybuilding described a physical transformation that led to an emotional one as well. Readers wrote in to share their own experiences in setting fitness goals that helped them overcome challenges. Below is a selection of reader responses, which have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bodybuilding changed my life. I discovered it late myself; I was 48 for my first competition. I competed again at 50. Even though I placed second through fourth, it was never about placing for me but about feeling strong and putting in the effort day in and day out. It’s hard physical training and the mental work is even more difficult. Success is staying the course and just doing it.

—Jerri Henry

Meridian, Idaho

At the beginning of March, I discovered strength training and it has changed my life. I feel more confident in my mind/body/skin than I have ever experienced in my 37 years. As a working wife and mom, I always exercised but I never imagined it being something I would be so passionate about.

—Lamees Kelley

Sherborn, Mass.

At 66 I’ve been lifting weights most of my life but I could never build muscle mass. But I still work out hard. While many people think this is a narcissistic adventure, people like us know it is something different altogether. And if nothing else, it means we are in control of our bodies and health.

—Joseph DeRose

Bel Air, Md.

I recently underwent 10 rounds of chemo and started lifting weights to get back in shape after six months of just sleeping, getting poison in my veins and throwing up. I never thought about bodybuilding. But your story planted a seed.

—Orest Mandzy

Doylestown, Pa.

As a professional bodybuilder myself, I can relate to the regimen. We are often forced to find our way in the most turbulent times of our lives. Some of us step up and into making ourselves better people in all aspects. Many decide not to act.

—KJ Lavan

Houston, Texas

I am myself on a new workout routine; I know the sacrifices of counting calories, watching your three macronutrients, taking progress pictures, and challenging yourself every day. Not easy.

I am 53 years old and my goal is to regain the muscle mass that I lost over time by focusing too much on my career. I don’t want to be that guy getting old, seeing his body decline and say, “If only I had done something.” After 12 weeks of intense efforts I see the first subtle benefits of my hard work. It keeps me going.

—Gilles Georges

Mason, Ohio

Reminded me of the importance of right motivation, a settled confidence in one’s path, and the importance of navigating through the “tyranny of others’ expectations.” We all have the seeds of wrong motive within us; pushing past the shiny objects of “cheap and easy” to reach for the worthy goals is a rare accomplishment.

‘Execute with speed and adjust on the fly’: how this fitness studio changed its fate by moving online | Xero: Resilient business

After the arrival of a global pandemic, Ben Lucas discovered the power of reinvention. “It saved our business,” he says.

Lucas is a co-owner of Flow Athletic, a yoga studio and gym in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. Like many in the Australian fitness industry, he has had to transform the way he does business in 2020 – but he’s met each challenge head-on.

Ben Lucas with co-owner Kate Kendall.



In March, as the Covid-19 situation began to escalate, Flow prepared for the inevitable and loaned out 120 spin bikes to members so they could train at home. Then, once fitness studios were ordered to shut, it was quick to act: within 24 hours, Flow had moved its class schedule online. Lucas set up four Facebook groups – dedicated to yoga, strength, spin and pilates – so staff could live stream multiple classes at a time. Personal training appointments were conducted over Zoom or FaceTime. Even Flow After Dark, its signature “yoga silent disco”, became a live streamed event.

This quick thinking kept Flow in business. But even better, the move online has allowed Flow to open up to an entirely new customer base, finding clients in cities it would otherwise never have been able to reach.

“We had people in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and LA live stream their yoga – that was a market we never thought of,” Lucas says. “We had a mum doing it with her daughters in London and New York at the same time. That’s pretty cool.”

Isolation spin.



Tuning in from London.



Flow isn’t the only business that’s found success by taking a chance to rethink the way it does things: Xero’s Rebuilding Australia report found that of the 1000 small businesses surveyed in early June, 39% had found new customer markets during Covid.

The move online also made Flow think differently about how it operated its business. “For the personal training side of things, we had never thought to Zoom or FaceTime our sessions,” Lucas says. But it’s worked.

The shift to live streams has been a hit with clients. An online survey that Flow sent its customers found that 86% planned to continue with online classes even after the pandemic is over. Some like the convenience; others intend to use it when they’re away from home or on holidays.

Ben live stream.



“That was one of the other gifts of what happened – it forced a lot of our clients to go online because we didn’t have the in-person offering,” Lucas says.

“Previously they might not have done it because they thought they wouldn’t enjoy it. But they found they actually really liked it.”

While eased restrictions in Sydney have allowed Flow to reopen the doors to its Paddington studio, it’s not only continuing to run live-streamed classes, but is investing in a dedicated online platform to expand what it can do on the web. Currently, Flow runs 15 Facebook classes a week, while Lucas personally hosts one Zoom session a week. From 1 October, Flow will launch its on-demand service that will offer more than

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