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  • Brandon Lamphier-Shaffer

7 Stories in 7 Days: Day 5 - Fitness as a Catalyst for Change, Marilyn Penoyer's Story

I was always very active as a kid, grew up skiing and playing scholastic sports. As an adult participated in sprint triathlons, ran marathons, practiced yoga, and enjoyed most any activity with friends. These endeavors were all primarily recreational for me, and did always bring about a feeling of wellness and accomplishment. However it wasn’t until later in life that I turned to fitness as a form of medicine and mental health support that would ultimately change the whole course of my future.

My story like many others can start with a culmination of life experiences that ultimately puts us on a certain path. Mine included a great deal of death, grief and loss, a very scary brain tumor diagnosis and treatment, autoimmune disease, the normal daily stresses of running a family business and raising four children, etc. They always say its not what life gives you but how you respond to it. Like all moms do, I just threw myself into raising my kids, spending as much time with them as possible, and putting my own needs on the back burner. That worked out okay for a little while as they were all very active, playing sports and participating in various activities. With each passing year, I hid deeper and deeper behind those four amazing kids, and before I knew it, I had completely lost sight of who I was. What I enjoyed doing, or even who I was supposed to be moving forward. I adopted the mentality that there would be time for me later. I had no idea how profound that thought would be when the time came.

As I approached my 50th birthday and had this overwhelming feeling of doubt and uncertainty for what comes after 50. I was grieving the loss of my father, and for me suddenly life felt “almost over” mentally, and I could see myself slipping further and further into a hopeless frame of mind. I had become less active and stopped enjoying things that I had previously enjoyed. My weight began to creep up little by little, until eventually it hit an all time high just entering the Covid pandemic. I felt depressed and very pessimistic about the future.

The pandemic and time shut in with family gave me some perspective. As the worst times of the pandemic passed and we started to re-enter society and normal daily living, I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to live the second half of my life like this. Sedentary, inactive, unhappy. I turned my focus to my health, nutrition, and activity. I started reading and researching, and before I knew it I was enrolled in a course to become a certified Health Coach, Nutrition coach, and a certified Yoga Instructor. That gave me a lot of the tools and knowledge that began my transformation. However, it was ultimately joining a local gym, hiring a personal trainer, and learning the real benefits of strength training and conditioning that everything would change. I started out going to the gym to lose weight, and although I did that. What I have gained from my fitness journey is so much greater than weight loss. The greatest benefit of my transformation journey was finding myself. Learning to be patient and trust the process, having faith, and relying on mental fortitude. More profoundly I found that being at the gym and lifting weights gave me confidence and made me optimistic for other things that I could accomplish. Being fit and active quickly became my primary focus, and I realized that fitness, weight training, and yoga were consistently there for me, both on good days and bad days. My mental health and my ability to clear my head and see things from different perspectives changed dramatically when I was able to use fitness as an outlet for stress. Setting goals for myself and consistently meeting them raised my self esteem and gave me the mindset of a winner, regardless the task. An added benefit of fitness for me has been being surrounded by like minded people who are supportive, encouraging, and also aware of and enjoying the many benefits of living an active healthy lifestyle.

Fitness was the catalyst for a 100 pound weight loss, improved strength and flexibility, and a whole new mental outlook on life. My goal now is to help as many people as I can to see just how accessible a healthy and fit lifestyle are, and share the tools and knowledge I have gained through personal training, nutrition coaching, yoga instruction, and as a health and wellness coach.

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