‘I fell in love with exercise. Now I want to be a personal trainer.’

After decades of yo-yo dieting, Dawn Denyar found a healthy, balanced exercise routine’and kept the weight off for good. Now, she’s training to help others do the same

'I fell in love with exercise. Now I want to be a personal trainer.'

Source: Web exclusive: May 2009

During her 20s and 30s, Dawn Denyar, a 50-year-old personal banking officer living in Kentville, N.S., must have lost and regained the same 25 pounds at least 10 times. ‘I did Weight Watchers’I wasn’t committed. I did the grapefruit diet. I did the starve-yourself diet. I even tried weight loss pills. Nothing worked.’

Carrying around the extra weight was a burden on Denyar’s knees’arthritic since she was a child’and she was experiencing bouts of back pain. She had done low-impact exercise sporadically all her life, since it helped reduce her knee pain. But she just couldn’t make any of her health intentions stick.

The breaking point

In 2000, Denyar’s mother passed away suddenly at the age of 61 from an aneurysm. ‘I knew I didn’t want to go like that, that early," Denyar says. "She was out of shape. She smoked. All my family has passed away young. That was really my big wake-up call.’

At the time, Denyar was training to walk and run the Arthritis Foundation’s Joints in Motion marathon, which she completed in Disney World, Florida, in January 2001. After a year of training, she says, ‘I couldn’t give up that feeling, how healthy I felt. My legs didn’t hurt anymore.’ So she signed up for cardio-kickboxing classes three times a week, which she continues today. However, six years later, the classes hadn’t ‘fixed’ Denyar’s up-and-down battle with the scale. She was also a cardio junkie at the expense of weight-bearing exercise.

The challenge

To exercise right, with the goal of increasing upper body strength and preventing back pain, and to ultimately keep the weight off for good.

The plan

‘I knew I couldn’t do it alone anymore," says Denyar. "Something just wasn’t right. And I needed help to learn how to lift weights.” So she hired personal trainer Sherry Swanburg, who developed a suitable program for Denyar. Today, she hits kickboxing classes and weight-trains three days a week, and she power-walks over lunch twice a week (instead of the five times she had been going). ‘I really focused on eating healthy, and didn’t overindulge because then I felt I was compromising my last workout.’

The biggest obstacle

‘The greatest challenge is balance," Denyar says. "I really had to achieve balance. Balance working out. Balance work. Balance family. You just have to make time for yourself, make yourself the number one priority. I told my family, this is about me. I have to take this time.’

The results

Since working out with Swanburg (whom she meets with once a month), Denyar has kept off those 25 pounds permanently over the past two years‘the longest time yet. She now weighs a steady 136 pounds at 5’3″.

And Denyar has a new goal: to become a personal trainer. She’s already started classes, and hopes to work with young adults and seniors on achieving their health goals after she retires in four years. ‘I don’t want to sit around and do nothing. I want to see people be healthy!

The tips

Set rewards, not goals
Rather than setting goals, Denyar chooses key life moments during which she wants to look and feel her best, such as the annual beach getaway she takes with her husband. One of her fondest memories was on a trip to Cuba shortly after she’d lost the weight for good. ‘The security guard told me he wanted to marry me. It’s just nice when people say you look great, and you know you feel great.’

Find a friend
Denyar meets a friend at the gym every Tuesday and Thursday for lifting weights. ‘No phone calls allowed. That way I know I have to be there no matter what. She’s waiting for me.’

Take a day off
Friday night is date night for Denyar and her husband, to go out for Chinese food. She doesn’t gobble up everything in sight, but she also doesn’t feel guilty about not eating healthy that one night. ‘I behave 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent I give in to temptation.’

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