In December of 2016, at age 38, Shannon Dalley made the difficult decision to leave a marriage she describes as “unhappy and unhealthy.” And then she made another bold decision: to take responsibility for her own health and happiness.
“I joined Anytime Fitness in Glendale, AZ mostly to lose weight,” Shannon said. “I was not happy with my physical self. I really never have been. I always had a weight problem – even as a child. This time, I knew I wanted to hire a trainer because I have tried gyms before and just lost interest after a couple of months.”
Shannon and the trainer whom she met at the gym, Alli Hill, connected on a personal level almost immediately.
“I was surprised with how open Shannon was with me, and her willingness to submit to a process,” Alli said. “She had tried a lot of diets and programs in the past, so I was worried that she may start off strong and burn out. I decided to start focusing on why all those other programs did not get Shannon the results that she wanted and to use those failures as lessons. The majority of her goals, in the beginning, were aesthetic, which I can respect. But as an athletic performance coach, I am always trying to encourage my clients to also have functional and health goals. I remind them to trust the process, train for the health, and the aesthetic changes are a natural by-product.”
“My first impression of the gym was that it is small – which I LOVE,” Shannon said. “I’ve been to bigger gyms and I just prefer a friendlier, family vibe. I love Alli. She is well-educated, experienced and down-to-earth. She is really a strong woman and has helped me physically and emotionally this last year.”
Shannon began exercising at the gym three days a week, usually two days of cardio work and one day a week on the strength-training machines. Then Alli introduced Shannon to the sport of power lifting.
“Very early on Alli told me, ‘Motivation will last you two weeks. What will keep you going is discipline.’ So, I just remember that when that alarm goes off at 5am. What I really enjoy is lifting heavy weights. I also enjoy the acquaintances and friends I have made at the gym.”
Where diets and exercising alone had failed in the past, Shannon says working out with a trainer has been the key to her success.
“Alli is always changing things up and helping me work on my weaknesses,” Shannon said. “At age 39, I’ve competed in two power lifting meets and I have another coming up in June. I have some awesome goals I need to accomplish.”
Alli recalls seeing Shannon’s face light up the first time she realized that she could lift 100 pounds.
“I enjoyed watching her discover her strength,” said Alli. “Shannon has learned to be strong, and if she misses a lift, we sit back and analyze and try again.”
Shannon says she’s also benefitted greatly from a nutritional support group lead by the owner of the gym, Natalee Sticht.
“It is amazing,” Shannon said. “It’s takes effort. Planning, prepping, self-control, discipline, etc. But it is worth it. I have gained so many physical and emotional benefits from it. I participated in the Whole30® program for about 38 days. I know how my body responds to certain foods. Eliminating foods from your diet and paying attention to your body really improves your self-awareness. I’m sleeping better, my skin is healthier, I lost 20 pounds (mostly inflammation), I have energy, I’m happier, I fit into smaller clothes, and my body looks and feels better. I actually stopped eating when I was hungry. I realized how much of an addiction I had and now I’m more aware of what I have to do to regulate my body. When I eat ‘non-compliant’ foods, my body feels bad. I was always concerned about losing weight, just to lose weight. I now want to change my diet to fuel my body to perform better in the gym.”
Natalee says disciplined learned in the gym can positively affect eating habits.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people are either really good at sticking to a workout routine, but eat crappy, or people eat well but don’t invest in a good workout routine,” Natalee said. “But when you combine the two, people gain results much quicker and it becomes more sustainable. A good workout routine encourages someone to eat healthier, and when you eat healthier, you become stronger and more energized in the gym.”
Shannon says she’s come to realize that investing in a personal trainer, and a nutritional support group, is really an investment in herself.
“Even if you think it’s expensive, give it a month or two and see how it goes,” Shannon recommends. “I know, for me, I am more successful when someone is tracking my progress and holding me accountable. My life has completely changed in the last 14 months! My self-esteem and confidence have improved. I am more aware of myself as a person and what I need and WANT. I am physically stronger than ever. At the gym and in my personal life I have grown and tried new things. And every new thing you try and do on your own, for you, empowers you like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve traveled alone – out of the country! I bought my own home, I made most of the repairs on my home. Every positive step you take is a snowball effect. You just have to take that first step.”
Alli believes other women can learn a lot from Shannon’s experience.
“Find your passion, take risks, they don’t need to be big, have a small goal, and get professional help,” Alli said. “It may sound clichéd, but try new things, find your ‘tribe’ of people. Find other women that are encouraging and are doing what you want to be doing.”
Shannon’s advice to others, meanwhile, is simple: “Make that first step a positive one and it will continue. When you have no motivation, remember that motivation lasts a couple weeks. Discipline will get you through it. And any morning when I did not feel like going to the gym, but I went anyway, I NEVER regretted it. I ALWAYS felt better (physically and mentally) walking to my car after my workouts.”