It was my greatest challenge. As I stood at the starting line of the Around the Bay 30K Road Race last April, I never dreamed this could be me.

I had experienced health issues off and on for years, starting with a burst appendix, followed by surgery for a hernia, increasing inactivity and weighed 172 lbs. Eventually I was embarrassed by how I looked and I knew I had to do something. That’s when I met Ladi, a wellness coach at the Y.

It was a meeting that changed my life. I had been using the rowing machine for weeks and just hoping for results. Ladi noticed me and came over to offer some tips on how to improve my position and use some of the other machines like the treadmill and free weights.

From that day forward, whenever I came in, Ladi would work with me and encourage me to keep going. He always made time for me and was there to listen and guide me. And as we got to know each other more, I not only gained tips; I gained a friend and a mentor. Ladi was my wake-up call and he got me on my path to getting healthier.

His support inspired me. Since I began working with Ladi, I’ve lost 77 lbs and I feel stronger and healthier than ever before. I’m proud of how I look.

I love coming to the Y. It’s a place where everyone knows your name, and as soon as you walk through the door, there’s a friendliness and warmth. I know many people by name and they know me. It’s that feeling of community that keeps me coming back every week.

As for the future, I’m determined to continue exercising every week so I can run that 30K road race again. I know I can do it, with the help of the Y and my mentor, Ladi.