How I went from a couch potato to a fitness fanatic (and lost 40 pounds)

It was only after I sold my company that I made a dramatic discovery, that many before me had already made: joining a gym can turn your life around.

How I went from a couch potato to a fitness fanatic (and lost 40 pounds)
[Photo: Geert Pieters/Unsplash]

During the 30 years that I was building my company, I became increasingly tired and stressed. I was so physically drained that I took cabs to go three short blocks to client meetings. There were plenty of gyms near me, but I regarded them as sweat factories where people rode bikes that went nowhere. It was only after I sold my company that I made a dramatic discovery, that many before me had already made: joining a gym can turn your life around. Enrolling in a gym turned me into an energized, inspired fitness fanatic. I’ve discovered the power of my body and the beauty of a more aligned and confident physical presence.


If you want to make 2019 a transformational year for yourself, here are the five steps I took:

1. Stop spending your life sitting

For starters, realize life can’t be lived on a couch–or in a chair. If you’re running a business or working hard for your boss, it’s easy to justify sitting in an office chair all day. Similarly, if you have a home office, it’s easy to get “stuck” in that chair. Indeed, people who work at home tend to work longer hours than those who commute to work.

The less we move around, the less energy we have. Studies show that if you take time to exercise, you’ll have more energy to give to your work (and other things). So get up and get out of that office.

2. Take the first step

Next, find the courage to walk inside a gym. It happened quite by accident in my case. Our house in Toronto was being renovated, and my husband and I moved to a street that was a few blocks from an Equinox. My husband decided to join, so I thought, “I’ll meet him there and we can have coffee.” If you walk into a place that’s clean, bright, welcoming, and full of friendly people–as this gym was–it’s hard to walk out without at least taking a registration form (which I did).

Inside the gym you’ll also see–as I did–great-looking people of all ages. These individuals exuded vitality and a wholesome beauty. I looked around and began to feel I could be like them. I’d put on serious pounds over the years–I had 168 pounds on my 5’6″ frame. I’d been to every diet doctor in Toronto–one that stuck a needle in me twice a week, another that was so tough that her patients called her “The General.” But nothing worked. Exercising seemed worth a try.

3. Get someone to help

Don’t think of going solo on this journey. My biggest piece of advice is to get a personal trainer–someone who believes in you and is pulling for you. If I had simply joined a gym I would have gotten discouraged and never come back. Climbing the stairs to the gym was an effort for me. So imagine how I would have felt if I had to do one-hour workouts on my own.


My salvation came in the form of a personal trainer named Roddy who pushed me to my limit but treated me with respect, sensitivity, and support. The key to picking a trainer is great chemistry. You want an individual with the emotional intelligence to respond to your particular needs. My trainer makes me laugh, praises me for small accomplishments, and makes me feel terrific about myself. His devotion to my success is contagious. Over the two years I’ve been working with him, I’ve gained such physical confidence and strength that I am motivated to do more.

He even designs programs for me when I am on holiday–including a three-month program when I was vacationing in Mexico. That program involved videotaping myself every other day doing eight different exercises and he reviewed them and gave me feedback on every one of them. “Great job,” he’d write, or “Wow, you’ve never done that J-Curl so well,” or “You’re becoming an expert at planking.”

4. Don’t let yourself off the hook

Besides having a great coach, you’ll want to be self-motivated. This means several things. It means showing up on time for your sessions and giving your all. That’s not always easy. I often come to the gym scared that I won’t be able to do some new exercise: for example, deadlifting 95 pounds, or planking on alternating hands. But I try, and when I succeed that’s a great feeling.

Outside the gym, you’ll want to practice the exercises your trainer gives you and lead a healthy life: walking more, eating better, and getting proper sleep. If you want a good primer on how to do this, see Greg Wells’s book, The Ripple Effect: Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better. It’s a great guide for mastering everyday fitness, and suggests incremental steps in all these areas.

5. Get ready for compliments

Once you’ve done all this, prepare yourself for compliments. I’ve lost 40 pounds, and my sons who are fitness buffs themselves say I look better than ever. My husband has encouraged me to buy a whole new wardrobe. Most of all, I feel great when I look in the mirror, and see a healthier, more energized me.


About the author

Judith Humphrey is founder of The Humphrey Group, a premier leadership communications firm headquartered in Toronto. She also recently established EQUOS Corp., a company focused on delivering emotional intelligence training to the fitness, medical, and business sectors