Jerry Berger's Y Story | Group Fitness Instructor & Personal Trainer

My Y story…I’ll take you back a few years, all the way back to High School (early 90’s).  I was very active, fall, winter, spring sports; I was in shape and could eat whatever I wanted and burn it off quick and fast.  Bring it to senior year in high school, my son was born, 2nd semester March.  I was 17, finished school and started right into the work force.  Starting a family right out of school was a bit tough, but we made it work.  A few years in, my son found a video game we both liked.  We started playing it together and really spend a lot of time playing it.  So much that it was really a focus in our lives.  Friday night consisted of video games all night, supper was usually a Big Mac, 20 piece nuggets, and 3 or 4 large energy drinks. Full Throttle “Blue Demon” was the favorite of my son and me.  Also at the same time, I worked at the FDL Cinema.  Usually after I started the 9:00 pm movie I’d walk over (or drive) to Hardees and get 2 ½ pound thick burgers, a large curly fry, and a large Mello Yellow.  If you’re doing the math, that’s about 2,500 calories that I would eat after 9:00 at night.

I knew I was gaining weight, didn’t really care too much.  A couple pounds here, a new pair of pants, no big deal, I’ll diet later.  200 pounds quickly became 220, OK at 225 I’ll diet, 230 pounds…maybe next week.  250 pounds, it didn’t matter anymore.  Life went on.  About 10 years later I’m up to about 300 at 30 years old, at 35 I’m up to 385!

The final straw was a visit to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants.  (Still one of my favorites!!!)  I went with 6 or so of my office co-workers. We were seated in an area that ended up getting pretty tight.  By the time we were ready to leave I had to have about 12 people stand up to let me pass through the small area to get to the door.  As you can imagine I was completely mortified by that.  I was maybe 5’ round, wearing size 62 pants with elastic waist.  None of my co-workers said anything to me, they didn’t need too.

I decided to get very serious about losing the weight.  I booked a consolation with a bariatric surgery center.  It took more than a year to finally get approved for bariatric surgery.  Here is how the weight started to come off.  At 385 I started the 2 week liquid protein diet.  That was a very difficult 2 weeks.  I dropped 20 pounds.  Even after the surgery it was difficult.  I went from a stomach the size of a basketball to the size of a strawberry.  No matter how many classes you attend, no matter how many times they tell you “It’s a big adjustment” I wasn’t prepared for this.  First 2 weeks was another liquid diet.  This time I didn’t care so much.  I didn’t feel well most of the time.  What kept me going was the weight loss.  Three months after the surgery I was down to around 330 pounds.  At the 3 month point I was cleared to start working out.  My starting work outs consisted of 5 minutes on the tread mill, 5 minutes on the elliptical, and of course 3 rounds working the Biceps!  My back was a wreck, my knees were screaming at me.  I just couldn’t give up already.  A few weeks went by of watching Studio C from the tread mill.  Loud music, a room full of women, why the heck wouldn’t I try a group class.  It may have been 2 more weeks before I finally got the courage to walk into that room.  That was a life changing moment.

Right away, the people in there were so helpful.  No sooner did I walk in and 3 or 4 people helped me get set up.  Bench, bar, weights all set up in what seemed like a few seconds.  I really didn’t know what I was in for.  The music was loud and all I had to do was what the instructor said to do.  Easy enough in the warm up…then came the rest of class!  I was pretty wrecked and I loved it!  The next day was tough, stairs were the enemy, sitting down on anything but a pillow sucked, but I went right back the very next day!  The first person to greet me when I walked in… surprise-surprise BECKY W., the best “Work Out Buddy” you could ask for!  There are really only a few people that knew me when I was big and still treat me the same now, most of those people are the people I met at the Y.  So I’m hooked on group fitness at the Y.  What really sealed the deal was the people I met in those classes.

I crave the group fitness classes.  I like when others ask “Why weren’t you in class yesterday?”  The accountability and the friendships that come from group classes are what keep me motivated.  Being an instructor now gives me even more opportunity to meet people and help them to hopefully change their life in the same way my life was changed. Now I’ve lost about 200 pounds.  Every day now it’s about the choices I make to eat and what I choose to do with my free time.  If I want to eat badly, I know that I’m going to have to work that off in class!  The first 75 or so pounds really melted off, the rest…I had to work hard for.  There is no way I would have gotten to where I am right now without the group fitness classes at the Y, and even more than that, the people at the Y that I’ve met.  All the way from the newbie in class that put 2.5 pounds on the bar to do squats to the person now that tries to motivate you to go farther than you thought you could.  Just remember, the more I motivate (yell at the top of my lungs, lol) I’m really pushing myself, to keep getting more fit, to help others get fit and have fun, because if you can’t have fun while working out…WHY DO IT?!?!?!?

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Your story of connection, health and well-being, pursuing a passion, learning a new skill, or reaching a goal might inspire someone to reach out to the Y and change their life. Please share with us how much you love the Y and how we have made an impact on your life. Email your story to Kim Laws, stop by the Welcome Center desk or call 920.921.3330.