These five women, from all different walks of life, share inspiring stories of their fitness journey and triumphs.
Hunt Valley, Maryland
Stats: 56 • 121 lb • 5’5”
Gig: Certified fitness professional, real estate agent, former NASA software engineer
Though working as a NASA software engineer for 20 years was rewarding, Reba Floto was compelled to accomplish more. Over the course of 40 years, she acquired three graduate degrees, sold real estate, raised two sons and became a certified fitness pro.
A Midlife Journey
Floto’s weight fluctuated throughout her life, and by her 40s, she was carrying an extra 50 pounds. The turning point came when she signed up to chaperone her son’s Boy Scout bike trip. “I brought my bike thinking I would ride a little, but I kept going,” she says. Encouraged, she resolved to get fit and healthy.
Floto’s transformation propelled her to complete physical tasks that she had once deemed impossible, including completing a marathon, several half marathons and two century races. She also became a certified group fitness instructor, a personal trainer, and a life and health coach.
Mind Over Matter
These days, Floto is an avid hiker, and she now celebrates birthdays with barbells, medicine balls and adventure. On her 54th birthday, she jumped out of an airplane, at 55 she tackled a Tough Mudder, and at 56, she did an NPC bikini competition. “Life comes with unexpected twists and turns,” Floto says. “But anything is possible with the right mindset.”
Stats: 36 • 120 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Office administrator
Overcoming the Odds
Tinea Hatcher could have been a statistic. She grew up in the Bronx with no role models for guidance. She was a single parent of two by age 24. She was a victim of domestic violence and suffered from paralyzing depression, which she treated with medication — and alcohol. “I knew deep inside this was not who I was,” Hatcher says. “Upon reflection, I realized I was happiest when I was going to the gym.”
Motivation to Move
Since January 2019, Hatcher has been consistent with her self-care and she regularly trains. She no longer suffers from depression and has given up the pills and alcohol. “The gym has helped me regain focus and clarity,” Hatcher says. “It is a constant reminder of how strong I really am, and I love being a petite lady lifting heavy weights with the big guys!”
These days, Hatcher trains five days a week in the evenings after work. “This enables me to be at home by 7 p.m. to assist my boys with their needs,” she says. Hatcher also makes time to meal-prep so she — and her boys — always have healthy food on hand.
Paying It Forward
Hatcher has become an empowering role model for other women, and she is taking classes to become a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. “I am no longer doing this for myself — I am doing it for others who may have encountered some of my same hardships,” she says. “My goal is to show them that it is possible to survive circumstance, whether it be abuse, depression, self-doubt or poor career and life choices, and thrive.”
Stats: 29 • 135 lb • 5’9”
Gig: Flight attendant and fitness coach
Up in the Air
When Charity Nelms became a flight attendant five years ago, she didn’t anticipate how demanding it would be physically. “I was traveling and seeing the world, but my body wasn’t keeping up with what I wanted to do,” she says. Exhausted and run down, Nelms needed a new flight path.
Slow and Steady
Because of her history with eating disorders, Nelms opted for a healthier, sustainable path this time around. She started going to the gym and downloaded the Couch to 5K app to motivate her to move. This kick-started a love for all kinds of movement and eventually the desire to share her expertise with others. “It’s been an amazing journey, and it all started with that simple little app that gave me a slow and steady plan in the gym,” Nelms says.
Because Nelms travels often, she has to be adaptable with her training. “I regularly use hotel gyms and have to be very creative if there isn’t a lot of equipment,” she says. “I do a lot of dumbbell-only moves and HIIT cardio, and I try to lift five days a week and do cardio two days a week.”
Nelms now knows that a healthy mind begets a healthy body. “I was never the skinny girl growing up and hated who I was for well over a decade,” she says. “But once I partnered the inside work with the outside work, I began to transform. Working from the inside out creates a new level of confidence that allows you to make maintainable, sustainable changes.”
New Braunfels, Texas
Stats: 38 • 130 lb • 5’4”
Gig: Certified personal trainer
After the birth of her second child, Leanna Baucum was overweight and weak, and she had developed a strange pain in her left wrist. Worried that the pain might make her drop her daughter, Baucum began lifting weights. In just one month, the pain disappeared and she lost 7 pounds. Now Baucum was strong enough to lift her daughter — and her jogging stroller — without issue.
Baucum continued to lift weights and had soon lost 30 pounds and became stronger. She wondered how far she could take her transformation, so in 2012, she decided to enter a bikini competition. Baucum enjoyed the experience so much that she has since done 16 contests, and she has twice qualified for nationals. “Lifting weights changed my life, and I learned that growth doesn’t happen in your comfort zone,” she says.
Baucum thanks her two children for being the motivation behind her fitness lifestyle and mindset. “I knew that I couldn’t properly take care of them if I wasn’t first taking care of myself,” she says. To that end, Baucum has set strong personal boundaries and isn’t afraid to say no to anything that doesn’t support her goals.
Sharing the Shred
The feeling of freedom and ease she gained from her experience led Baucum to become a certified personal trainer in order to help others achieve their fitness goals. She loves spreading the joy of becoming stronger and preaches consistency, which she believes is more important than any particular type of workout.
Queen Creek, Arizona
Stats: 33 • 130 lb • 5’8”
Gig: Stay-at-home mom, blogger
During high school, Jessica Adrian’s peers called her “Buff Barbie” because of her naturally muscular arms and legs. “I remember being embarrassed and ashamed of my body,” she says. Then one day while looking through a fashion magazine, Adrian saw Oxygen on the newsstand. “There was a beautiful woman on the cover who was muscular, just like me,” she says. “I put the other magazine back and went home with Oxygen. The message it sends is what I love most — that you belong and are accepted.”
In 2005, however, Adrian faced sexual and verbal harassment in her workplace and began to binge-eat. “Food became my solace,” she says. “It didn’t try to touch me or make me feel uncomfortable.” Within six months, she weighed 180 pounds. Realizing her situation, Adrian quit and took a job at a boxing gym. There, she was again inspired to strengthen her physical person, and she lost the weight and regained her once-healthy outlook.
Relatable and Real
Adrian uses her own struggles with sexual harassment — as well as psoriatic arthritis, depression and postpartum weight gain — as learning tools to inspire other women through social media and blog posts. “I don’t have a huge following or the best abs, but I have relatable, real-life experiences,” she says. “Through self-discipline and hard work, I became a woman who doesn’t allow any excuses and who pushes through, even on the worst days.”
Why for the Win
Adrian encourages those new to fitness to determine their why. “Once you figure out your why, you will be unstoppable,” she says. “Start with one small promise to yourself and stick with it.”
Calling All Fit Women
Think you have what it takes? Send your story to email@example.com.