Working out is hard. There are times it can be daunting, times it’s just not fun, and times when there seems to be no motivation in sight. I’ve been watching a small training group for the past two years, the Beast Mode Squad, led by personal trainer Mike Gallo from RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club. Not only have they inspired me because I’ve watched them grow (meaning more and more people are actually signing up and paying money to get their butts kicked), but I’ve watched the group shrink in size (meaning weight loss and inches). I’ve watched them get stronger and I’ve seen a community created.
I decided to connect with a long-standing member of the squadron, Brad Hilderbrand, who has been part of the group since November 2014. I love his story because it’s the real deal and worth sharing.
“Having a group helps me stay motivated and pushes me to get better. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s 100% true. I think it’s also a bit of ‘misery loves company’, as it’s always a little easier to survive a hard workout when there are other people going through it with you. Most of all, training together builds friendships, and the folks I work out with aren’t strangers lifting weights at the next machine over, they’re friends I care about and I want to see succeed.
“My two biggest passions in life are football and video games, so it was pretty much a dream come true when I managed to land a job on the communications team at EA SPORTS in Orlando working on the Madden NFL franchise. My wife and I have been in Florida about five years and we love it here. Even though I landed a dream job, it isn’t exactly an active one, and I found myself spending long days at a desk and gaining weight. Eventually I decided enough was enough and took advantage of a chance to join RDV through EA’s corporate membership. My wife also joins classes and training sessions with me, so we both come home equally exhausted most nights. We love it though, and have found that working out is a great way to spend time together and stay healthy.
“I began training with Mike two years ago and have been getting here pretty much every week since. I typically do 2-3 sessions a week, and any weeks I’m out of town for work, I definitely miss it. Even more than the exercise, I miss being with the group.
“I’ve always had better results working out with others rather than on my own, so I started with group classes before I ever tried training. I went to my first session and it kicked my butt, but in a good way. I thought I was in decent shape before I started training, but it opened up a whole new way to exercise for me!
“I’ve had great gains both in strength and cardio, and continue to see improvement. I remember one of my first sessions we did hex squats with the bar and 45 lb plates and I could barely do 2-3 reps. My form was terrible and afterward my legs burned for days! Today, that’s a warm-up. We also do tons of push-ups, so these days my push-up form is on point. It’s also helped with everyday aches and pains. I used to have low back pain, weak shoulders and pretty bad posture, but all that has improved dramatically since I committed to training and getting in shape.
“My first year coming to the gym I didn’t really know anyone except my wife, but now I’ve got this whole group of friends that I get to hang out with almost every day. Most people probably only know us as that group of people who flood the corner of the gym near the basketball courts every evening and hog all the foam rollers, but we’ve grown very close over time. We get together to celebrate birthdays, go to brunch after a weekend training session or just hang out on the weekend because we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. My wife and I have hosted the Squad at our house on several occasions because we love getting everyone together outside the gym to just hang out and have fun!
“I’m a class fiend, in fact my secret ambition is to get my certification and become an instructor someday. If I’m not in training, I’m in a class, and a lot of times I’ll mix in a class right before or after training. I love the cardio-based classes, so I frequent Fight, Blast and TFW Hurricane, or I’ll mix in Group Power if I haven’t trained in a couple days so I can get in some weights. I started out in Group Active, and still try to go when I can. About the only thing I avoid are the dance-based classes, because no one needs to see that!
“Take it slow and don’t let early setbacks discourage you. My first ever RDV class I walked out halfway through because I just couldn’t keep going. After my first training session I had to lay still for a solid five minutes before I could stand back up, and I thought I was going to be sick at any second. If you’re truly serious about getting fit, you have to be in it for the long haul and willing to take the setbacks right alongside the gains. However, I promise that if you stick with it you’ll get stronger, your cardio will improve and you’ll get to the point where what once seemed impossible is almost easy, and you’ll be looking for the next fitness challenge.
“Of course, it also helps if you’ve got a few friends helping you along.”