At 56 years old retired teacher, and minister Vinny Russo was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease. What he would later call a ‘gift from his father’ led to his triple bypass surgery a year later. Vinny had eleven blocked arteries, over 90% blockage, and had seven stents installed. Following surgery, Vinny made the decision to take charge of his life, and joined Ellis Athletic Center.
Nearly ten years later, Vinny can do eight pull-ups, he’s lost two inches off of his waist, weighs eight pounds lighter than he has in his entire working life, and is in the best cardiac health he’s been in since his surgery. “You don’t choose when you’re going to die. How you live between life and death: That’s your choice!” Vinny exclaimed. After stating how he’s been off all major medications, and on the lowest dosage available for the two minor pharmaceuticals he takes.
Vinny started working out casually in his mid-forties, training in Kenpo, (An American Martial Art) and occasionally attending the gym. It wasn’t until after his surgery he started to get serious about living his life to the fullest. “The more money and time you spend at the gym, the less time and money you’re spending in the hospital,” Vinny says his biggest motivator is the community and staff at Ellis. The ability to come into a place and have a conversation with the people here matters, and gives him more motivation to push himself further every day.
I am so happy that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and signed up for this. My ‘comfort zone’ was becoming a place I was no longer comfortable. With two young kids and very busy husband, I was always worried about caring for them, and wasn’t taking the time to care for myself. I was running 3x a week, but not seeing many results.
Over the 6 week challenge, I lost 10.5lbs and 2.5 in from my waist and improved my overall level of fitness more than I thought I would!
I found myself in the gym 5-6 days a week, and actually missing it on the days I didn’t go! Handing in food logs and being accountable was definitely a key to success for me. I loved working out with Justin and Becca, and I have enjoyed trying different classes.
I would definitely sign up for this again, and would encourage anyone to give it a try. I am surprised how quickly it went by, and crazily I was actually a little sad at the end of the 6 weeks!
“It was 1998 when Chris was in California. He was over-worked, over-weight, and under-slept. On a work-schedule of 10-12 hours per day his diet consisted of the most convenient food he could get his hands on. Often, this would turn into a muffin for breakfast, and fast food for lunch and dinner. Exercise was no-where in the equation. Then, Chris woke up to his back being completely blocked. “It was impossible to move” he said. Chris went to the doctor the next day to find if something didn’t change; he was dead in two years.
The first thing he did was buy a pair of hiking boots, and a gym membership. He set his starting goal to 15 minutes on the elliptical. “Within the first three minutes I was in hell” he said. When he went on a relatively flat mile and a half long hike; he was pushed to the “absolute limit”. Chris didn’t quit. One year later; he was completing 12 mile hikes regularly, and his diet was, by all accounts; perfect.
In 2007 Chris saw a sign for Ellis Athletic Center’s Weight Loss Challenge. Having recently move to Pennsylvania, he decided to give it a try. After the first few visits, he asked Patrick, General Manager, and Trainer at Ellis Athletic Center, if he could train him. In working with Patrick his work-outs were always “completely different”. Even “After eight years; every time [the workout] is new”.
During one particular work-out, Chris felt that something was off. It could have “easily been ignored” had he not known his body as well as he did. Chris had enough knowledge to go to the hospital, and after a brief, 20 minute procedure, he had prevented what could have been a major heart attack.
“Beyond the advantages of being fit; there is a discovery of what the human body can do”
He said that working with Patrick, and later, with Willy “They know you, and they know where to push”. That push helped Chris the most. After working with Patrick he says “You know the good signs, you know the bad signs”. Those signs saved his life. In eight years Chris has re-scheduled his sessions less than five times.
“Never hesitate”; if you want to make a change, you just have to start. There were days the idea of training was giving him nausea.” He’s lost 15 pounds, and is considered one of the strongest people in the gym by all of his peers. That being said he’s proudest of “The discipline, and persistence”. As long as you keep trying; you will find results.
Chris was given two years to live. That was in 1998.”
“When I first came to Ellis I was flustered. I had reached a milestone age and all of a sudden, (no really all of a sudden) I was 10 pounds heavier than the already 5 pounds I thought I needed to lose. I really never worked out before and never really had to. But reaching that unmentioned age changed my metabolism and woke me up. I saw the sign for the Ellis Athletic Center six-week challenge and thought it would be a way for me to shed the pounds that I had put on. Prior to that point in my life, I always felt like I needed to lose about 5 pounds and would off and on diet and lose it and then ultimately gain it back, but it never got to me the way that this did so I figured exercise might help. I also thought, “It’s six weeks then I’m done,” and I wasn’t required to take on a year’s gym membership. I never thought I would continue after losing the weight at the end of the six weeks. That was in the fall of 2012!
I began the six-week challenge and Marissa was our team’s trainer. We met several times a week and having a trainer like Marissa and teammates really persuades you to continue. In the beginning, I was totally shocked when I realized how completely out of shape I was. I remember Marissa telling us to do sit ups from a lying down position all the way up. I couldn’t do one! But that’s impossible, I thought. I mean how could that be? Well, after training with Marissa for those 6 weeks alone, I was doing more than I thought I ever could, and I actually won the six-week challenge (not just on our team but on all the teams combined!) I lost 16 pounds but more importantly I gained muscle, strength and an understanding of nutrition and the importance of both diet and exercise. In the past, I just limited my calorie intake and lost pounds, only to put it back on. So far, I have never gained the 10 pounds back that came on suddenly and the original extra 5 fluctuates but is less bothersome because I am more toned.
Marissa is a great trainer. She is well-qualified and compassionate in her work. She truly wants to educate her clients in both nutrition and the right way to do various exercises to achieve results. She keeps up with the new training techniques and suggestions and doesn’t do the same old things at every work out. It keeps you interested, as a client. I would recommend her services, (and have), to anyone looking to learn the right way to exercise and looking for motivation to continue even when you think you can’t. Marissa provides small group training and personal training that I participate in and not only trains her clients but educates them along the way.
The classes at Ellis are great. When I first started at Ellis I thought that there was no way I could keep up in some of the classes. All of the instructors are helpful and make you feel that you can go at your own pace. Becca teaches a number of the classes that I take. I love her circuit training and CLIMB classes. She has the perfect personality for the job. She is down to earth and is not there just to facilitate but to actually teach. She also does small group training for me with some of my friends. She puts you at ease and determines what you need to do to hit the muscles that you want to tone. She is also very qualified and is determined to motivate her clients (even those who don’t feel like being motivated). I never thought I would get to the point where I would say that I actually enjoy going to the gym, but since I began training with Becca I actually no longer dread it, but do enjoy it. And while there are days that I try to think of excuses to not workout, I am motivated to continue by Becca and Marissa. The small group training sessions with Becca and/or Marissa are what really keep me coming back. Both Marissa and Becca combine both the science of exercise and its application in their personal training and class instruction. Both believe that form is extremely important to reach the goals that you are setting.
Overall my experience at Ellis, with the classes and the trainers has been terrific. I would recommend that anyone who is looking to lose weight or just get and/or keep in shape join Ellis, take the classes and more importantly think about personal training with Marissa and Becca.”
The program’s combination of nutrition and group training along with some of the other classes that Ellis provides instead of just strictly cardio made all the difference for me. After the six weeks, I am down 9.2 lbs, 3 inches off my waist, have a better handle on portion control and seriously improved my fitness level all while having fun!
Justin and Becca were awesome to work with and kept me accountable. Even when I was feeling discouraged with the nutrition plan, they were there to push me and keep me going. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to improve fitness levels and overall health.
This was also something special that I was able to do with my sister. We encouraged each other to make it to those 6 am workouts, shared healthy recipes and motivated each to push ourselves to be better. I have already recommended this program to so many people and hope they have as great of an experience as I did. Thank you Ellis!
At 220 pounds Chris realized he needed to do something about his weight. In mid-August he started watching his diet, walking, and jogging around the Ellis Preserve Corporate campus. After seeing Chris’s effort his co-worker, Tivon, pushed him over and over to “Get to the gym”. After one month of independent training Chris finally took Tivon up on his offer.
Only three months after joining, and countless miles later Chris lost a total of 53 pounds. After a leg injury two months in, Chris thought he would have to pause his progression. He was proven wrong when consulting with Becca, Ellis’ training manager. She directed him to exercises that used less impact, and allowed him to make progress while still recovering.
“I knew it was bad when I was out of breath tying my shoes” Chris jokes. Location was a big factor for him. On top of giving him something to do on his lunch break, he was able to break up his day and get out of the office. The gym helped a lot Chris says “[Ellis Athletic Center] didn’t allow you to fail. They would help you out when you’d need it. They’d push you to work harder, and every day they would tell you you’ve got to keep going and it makes you want to go.”
Chris is now at his goal weight. He says that his biggest accomplishment (Next to losing 53 pounds) is sticking with his program. Though he’s in his 20s Chris says he feels younger. He’s not as sluggish as he felt before he started, and finds that he isn’t as hesitant with decision making. When asked what he recommends for others starting Chris says “If you accept failure one time in your life, you’ll continue to accept it many times. Failure is not an option”