As a busy mother of three children with a husband who served in the military, like many mothers, Ingrid Herrera-Yee of Ashburn often finds that it is difficult to prioritize her own health and fitness needs.
Last year, Herrera-Yee, 54, said she had high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels and was on the obese side of the body mass indicator (BMI) chart.
“I was stressed out and did not feel well,” she said. “I had a host of health problems and, for me, I was always unhappy. I tried to exercise in stops and starts but never found the right fit for me.”
Herrera-Yee, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, said she knew she needed to get healthy again after a health scare put her in the hospital where she had emergency gallbladder surgery.
“I needed to pay attention to myself and not put myself last on the list,” she said. “That surgery was a wakeup call.”
Her husband joined OAK Health Club in Ashburn and told her he thought she would like it too, so she decided to give it a try.
While taking the first step was difficult, she immediately felt comfortable in the gym and began her journey toward a new, healthy lifestyle.
“I was overweight and at the gym you often feel like you don’t belong there. You almost feel embarrassed. I never felt that was and received a lot of support,” she said. “This is like a home and it helped motivate me to continue a journey. The program is incredible,” she said.
On day one, she met with a nutrition specialist who helped identify what she should be eating every day. They took body measurements and calculated how much water she should be drinking. She now knows about carbs and proteins and how to cook so she can make healthier food choices.
She started taking classes using weights, and was worried that she would “bulk up,” but found it was actually a “game-changer.”
“None of that happened,” Herrera-Yee said. “Because I have been doing strength training and a fusion class, I was able to train to run. Before, I couldn’t make it more than a mile. I started training on the days I wasn’t in class and would run on the treadmill. I went from 20-minute mile to 16-minute mile to a 14-minute mile and kept going. The week before the Marine Corps Marathon I was doing a 9.5- to 10- or 11-minute mile. It was a huge change for me. I have always loved running but didn’t think I was a runner,” she said.
In October, she completed the Marine Corps Marathon’s 10K, which she believes was an “impossibility” before joining the gym.
“They got me there. I knew I needed to get healthy and it worked,” she said.
Finding a healthier way of life has improved not only her physical health, she said, but also her relationships in her family.
“I have more energy to play with my kids. We go for walks and run around. Before I was always exhausted and not feeling well,” she said.
So far, she has lost 65 pounds.
“I went from a size 16 to a size 4,” she said. “I got rid of my entire wardrobe.”
Herrera-Yee continues to train – the next goal is the Rock and Roll Half-Marathon in March — but her ultimate goal is to run the entire Marine Corps Marathon or even the Boston Marathon.
“That feeling of crossing the finish line, I can’t even describe it,” she said. “My coach knew what my strengths were and she pushed me and encouraged me, but did not make me feel overwhelmed throughout the process.”
“With the right training and nutrition, I found that my body can do it and get to a point where I don’t even recognize myself anymore,” she said.
She now goes to the gym five days a week, often with her husband and teenage son.
“It’s been quite the journey in just one year and it has been a full family experience. I’m so grateful for that and it has been life changing for our family.”