my journey from diet coke and candy to 2-minute planks

About two years ago I was nearing 45 and realized that I needed to make some serious changes. I wouldn’t say it was a mid-life crisis; it was more like a mid-life epiphany. I was a working mother (of a teenage girl and a nine-year-old boy) and was always on the road for my job. I survived on Diet Coke and a bag of candy when I actually had the rare minute to eat. It was much easier to forgo a meal than find time to get to the gym. Furthermore, big gyms were completely intimidating to me.

Some might even say I was “skinny fat.” But I liked the number on the scale. I finally realized that my bad eating habits and lack of exercise were not sustainable. I committed to make a change.

Working out had always been a chore to me. It was a means to an end. I’m a salesperson, so it was always about a goal. A weight goal. Calories-burned goal. Number of minutes on the treadmill goal. Or numbers of days in the gym goal. I realized I needed a new goal. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be strong. Not just for me, but for my family. I knew I had to change from the inside out if I wanted to be strong versus just skinny…and it terrified and overwhelmed me. I didn’t know where I would find the time nor how to get started.


That was until a friend introduced me to Adrien Cotton at Fitness on the Run. Adrien has helped change the way I view “working out.” It used to be a chore. Now, it is a new a way of living. I started slowly with a semi-private training class every week for the first several months. It was more manageable that way and I need to learn how to get strong the right way, versus sitting in the back of the class at a big box gym just going through the motions.

Now, two plus years later, I’m in group classes at least two days a week, and I add a one-on-one when my schedule allows. Those help me hone in and perfect skills we compete in class so my class performance is top notch. It’s no longer overwhelming or a chore; it’s just how I choose to live.


I have learned that being healthy and fit is much important than the numbers on the scale, or how many calories I burn in my 50 minute class at FOR. I used to look at my scale every day, sometimes twice a day. I now know that it really is about how strong I am. My goals are now concrete things like doing a big girl push-up correctly and how many…correctly.


Having Adrien on this journey with me has been so helpful. She knows when to push me harder than I think I can go and she holds me accountable to the goals I set for myself and even adds in a few of her own. One of Adrien’s tests for strength is a 2-minute plank. Not often. It’s a test of strength. She also encourages the Turkish get up whenever she can, which she loves because it’s a total body workout. Well, of course those became a goal, too. 


In the past, when I didn’t hit a goal, I would lose confidence in my fitness pretty quickly. Before FOR, I got easily discouraged after a bad week of travel or after gaining a few pounds, I would just give up on fitness completely. Getting stronger has taught me that I really am capable of pretty much anything! I can always jump back in. When the focus is on form, it doesn’t go away as long as I’m exercising regularly.

Oh, and the calories I used to obsess over…I now burn more calories in a resistance training and conditioning class than my old treadmill days. Why? I’m building muscle and burning fat at the same time. And, the fat burns for much longer than when I walked for hours on the treadmill. No more treadmill goals anymore. My next goal is to do a perfect pull-up. (Adrien claims I am on the brink.)


Adrien has taught me that being thin is one thing, but being strong is a way of life and much more achievable, gratifying, and sustainable. She fundamentally believes (and helped me to understand) that my time in the gym, or exercising, is good for me. But equally important are the actions and way I treat my body outside the gym. That’s the “make or break” of a fit person. Sleep health, managing stress levels and nutrition, how you stand, walk and sit are just as, possibly more, important than your workouts.

I do the best I can to address my sleep and stress. I travel extensively, so that creates its own set of unhealthy habits. But Adrien constantly shows me ways to work out in a hotel room to make the most out of my time away. She’s also taught me that I can build strength wherever I am, regardless of equipment or how much time I have.
I still love Diet Coke, french fries, and an oaky Chardonnay.  But, I now know that I can have one, not all three in a day! And I challenge myself to balance it with the right dose of healthy foods. My husband and I started cooking and eating healthier, lots of veggies and fresh foods, especially when we’re at home. We’ve gone from pasta and canned foods to grilled cauliflower and black bean burgers! Even the kids enjoy it and are learning a healthier way of life.

I’m actually excited to have my whole family getting stronger now, too. My daughter (a drummer not a jock) recently joined FOR for the Student Athlete workouts and is really enjoying it. My husband just joined FOR as well. And, my son is a natural athlete too busy for FOR but is envious of the rest of us. Two years ago, no one would have guessed the Sirpis family would all be working on getting strong.


It’s been a few years and I’m still going STRONG and I’m still committed. It’s not about a passing fad diet or surge of exercising. Trust me, there are days when I feel like I’m losing. But, then I go to FOR and realize my progress. I leave feeling refreshed versus frustrated. Or, I grab a heavier kettle bell that I never expected I could lift, much less swing. I do one more than last week. And, I love it. And those are three words this former “skinny fat” girl never thought I would say.


  1. Avatar ann gray says:

    The road to health is paved with good intentions – Congratulations Hilery – love this encouraging story!

  2. Avatar Anne says:

    Way to go Hilary!

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