Life Fitness program hailed
The Mary Meyer Life Fitness program has touched many lives, two right here in West Seattle.
Sharon Best had a history of struggling with her weight. In the past, she carried as much as 192 pounds on her 5-foot, 4-inch frame. After trying different diets, Best decided to try something different: exercise.
After hiring local personal trainer Annette Herrick in 2004, Best increased her activity level - but not her dieting. Dissatisfied with her progress - she was tightening up, but losing little weight - she was finally motivated to make a change from her "very poor, McDonald's-laden diet" when she was diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
To combat the disease, Best started on the "Fat Flush Plan," which she said "basically encourages all the healthy foods and strongly discourages bad fats, white potatoes or flour, sugar and alcohol." By combining this diet with thrice-weekly workouts with Herrick, Best lost 60 pounds - and resolved to push herself harder.
In 2006, after successfully climbing Mount Rainier with the aid of John Colver, a "great guy who is a mountain guide," Best decided she wanted to overcome a life-long fear of water. She began to train for the Danskin race, a women-only triathlon. This is where Best met Mary Meyer, founder of Mary Meyer Life Fitness.
Since Best was not familiar with water - "I really could not swim at all," she says - she began attending the Mary Meyer Life Fitness drop-in classes for beginning adult swimmers. "I went there every Sunday, like clockwork," Best says.
In the beginning, Best simply worked on overcoming her intense fear of the water. She had anxiety just from the smell of chlorine and had trouble learning to breathe, because she couldn't exhale under water.
"Ed Artis, the coach, was very good, very accepting of people's fears," she said.
It took Best several months to decide she needed more one-on-one training. She began meeting Artis on Thursdays, individually. With his coaching, she moved from barely being able to swim in a pool to being able to complete, freestyle, a full half-mile in open water.
Best also attended the Mary Meyer Life Fitness triathlon clinics and open-water swim clinics. She feels that each one was "excellent, especially the group swimming." Best appreciated the positive attitudes of Mary and the other coaches, which was passed on to the participants.
"Thanks to Mary and her coaches, I went from feeling debilitating fear before even getting into the pool, to finishing the Danskin half-mile in open water in about 21 minutes," says Best. "I still feel that conquering that fear is my greatest triumph in many years."
Today, Best says she is "still trim," and will climb Mount Baker and go on a two-week sea kayaking trip this year. She plans on swimming at the Colman Pool this summer when not training for other things, and adds, "Every time I go, I'll be thanking Mary Meyer and her crew."
A love of triathlons
West Seattle resident Ericka Dunham knows how to swim. She had been a competitive swimmer in high school, but didn't keep up with it. Recognizing her need for motivation, her trainer - who doesn't coach swimming or biking - suggested that she participate in the Danskin triathlon, and directed Dunham to the Mary Meyer Life Fitness program. This was in 2003.
Dunham began attending the Mary Meyer Life Fitness open-water clinics.
"I discovered that I loved doing (triathlons), so the next season (2004), I was back."
That year, Dunham attended the triathlon clinics and offered to be a "floater" coach for the open-water clinics.
"I literally floated on a giant paddleboard and helped out swimmers who tired or got a little panicky," says Dunham. She also completed the Danskin for a second time, as well as another sprint triathlon.
In 2005, Dunham "upped the ante," and completed four triathlons: two sprints, an Olympic and a half-Ironman. She continued to volunteer at the Mary Meyer Life Fitness clinics, and began to assist with coaching.
Dunham had not ridden a bike much since she was younger and lacked confidence. With the help of Mary Meyer Life Fitness coaching, she overcame this fear. Her knees were in "awful shape," and Dunham was advised to quit running. Not wishing to give up entirely, Dunham completed the 206-mile Seattle-to-Portland bike ride in 2006 - in one day.
Although Dunham admits that she has not kept all of the extra weight off, she says, "I still have great confidence." She attributes this confidence to Mary Meyer Life Fitness, the coaches and training she experienced through the program.
"I am not petite, but I put on a swimsuit every Sunday and get in the pool with a big group of people," says Dunham. "(Mary Meyer's) confidence in me gives me confidence in myself."
Mary Meyer started her program gradually, beginning as a personal trainer in 1992 and adding a few clinics for triathlon training. In 2000, the program "blew up," and she began receiving attention from the Danskin coordinators, as well as other triathlons. Currently, she has expanded to giving lectures at REI.
Although she endeavors to get people in shape physically, mental health is equally - if not more - of a priority to Meyer.
"The head is so important for competing, at the beginning of a workout, etc.," says Meyer. "You gotta believe you have the athlete within you."
Mary Meyer Life Fitness offers swim and personal training as well as triathlon coaching. Various clinics are held at the Queen Anne, Mercer Island and Green Lake pools as well as Madrona and Seward parks in the summer. A "boot camp" workout is offered on Monday and Wednesday nights in Magnolia. For a complete listing of the programs available, as well as times and locations, visit the Mary Meyer Life Fitness Web site at www.marymeyerlifefitness.com.
Mia Steere is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory and may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org