From Couch Potato to Marathon Man! by Wendy Pepe

     "Sometimes, we find ourselves in a rut in our life. I know it happened to me 2 years ago. I had just turned fifty and both my parents died 11 months apart. I was overweight, out of shape and feeling lazy and depressed," says Jim Galante, a resident of Massapequa (in photo left with his wife Annie). "I needed something to kick start me and bring some discipline and control back into my live. I felt uncomfortable about being overweight and it finally motivated me to join a weight loss program."

     "My wife Annie was a member of Synergy Gym in Massapequa and working with a personal trainer named Wendy Pepe. She was a member for years and tried on many occasions to get me to join. I had all different excuses that kept me from joining. I thought it would be too expensive; I would join and then never go; I thought I would be intimidated by muscle bound guys who thought I was in their way."     

     But, Galante's wife persisted. She told her husband about the gym's special promotion called a 'Fitness Study' which cost $20 for 21 days of unlimited gym use. It included a free session with a trainer, being weighed and measured for body fat and nutritional guidelines to follow. Participants would have to agree to following the workout from the trainer at least three times a week. "If I was happy with the results at the end of the three weeks, I could turn my $20 into $100 dollars back from the gym, or if I was unhappy, I could get back my  $20. Sounded like a no brainier, so I gave it a try," says Galante.

     Galante liked how big and clean the gym was and how friendly and helpful the staff turned out to be. "I didn't feel intimidated at all; on the contrary, I felt right at home."  Galante also learned that his insurance company, Oxford, would reimburse him $200 every six months if he made 50 visits. "You should check with yours, you never know. I joined. Now, I go at least four times a week," he says. 

     "I use the machines and free weights for my back, shoulders, arms and legs, the treadmill and bike for cardio, especially during inclement weather. I feel stronger, healthier and more self-confident and I won't be embarrassed to wear a bathing suit this summer." The most amazing thing is that Galante is training for the Long Island half marathon and he's up to 12 mile runs on the weekends. He recently joined in the Massapequa Road Runners' weekend training runs at Brady Park in town. "Unimaginable two year ago!" he say.

     "Going to Synergy has changed my life in many ways. First, it's forced me to become more structured and disciplined," Galante says. The key to his success was setting up certain exercise routines and scheduling the days and times he would work out. "This pre-scheduling has helped me to keep my commitment and I am done with my training in just 1 hour." By belonging to a gym, Galante also continues to gain new awareness and education about new programs, the latest exercise tips and the best ways to increase his strength.

     "Each time I leave the gym, I feel really good about myself. It's changed my way of thinking. Now, I do everything else around exercise. My gym time comes first, everything else, after. Years ago when I was getting heavy or out of shape, I would say, 'I have to go on a diet.' This thinking was wrong, as it was only a temporary fix and only part of the picture." 

Once Galante went off the diet, he'd be back to square one and then some. "Now, I see that I needed to make a complete lifestyle change. Cardio Exercise + Weight Training + Eating right is the formula for success. I started jogging, but was only able to run a half-mile. Eventually, I worked up to 4 miles and began to enter local races. I joined the Massapequa Road Runners and met new friends. Determination and will power prevailed and within 16 weeks, I had lost 40 lbs. 

     I recently went for my annual physical and my doctor told me I was down 35 pounds since my last visit, my bad cholesterol was lowered and my good cholesterol had increased. He said, 'Whatever you're doing keep it up! Your standing heart rate is 43!" I asked if that was good and he said 'are you kidding? It's a marathon man's heart rate!' Galante smiles. "I said to myself 'well, at least a half marathon man's heart rate!'"

     Wendy Pepe is a personal trainer at Synergy, Massapequa, NY. Interested volunteers for the Fitness Study can contact her at 516-541-4400 for more details.

     If you're a personal trainer and you have an inspirational story to tell us about one of your clients or gym members, please email an 850 word story to us with photo: We'd also like to hear from regular folks on how turning your life around with exercise and healthy eating has improved  your life.