SUCCESS TRANSFORMATION STORY – JAMES HANTON’S GOT EM FIT PROGRAM
CONGRATULATIONS HEATHER SPRINGER
High school journalism teacher
I have NEVER been a person who enjoys working out or anything fitness-related. Even in high school, I took the singular required year of gym class and avoided anything physical for the remaining 3 years. Throughout high school and college, I was a fairly thin person, but never “in shape.”
In post-college, I started to gain weight, but never really did anything about it. I tried a few times to get in shape and always fell off pretty quickly, usually blaming my “lack of time.” I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in early 2020, which causes hypothyroidism.
In August 2020, I was frustrated with my weight and body image (again) and I saw an ad for GotEm on Facebook. I filled out the form; I did not expect anything and figured it would be too expensive for me to justify doing. The next morning my mom called and her first words were “don’t panic, but I’m at the hospital.” (Like, who doesn’t panic after someone says that?)
As the day progressed, she was moved to a larger hospital, tests were run, and ultimately the doctors found she’d had a heart attack and would need triple bypass surgery later in the week. During surgery, they ended up doing a quintuple bypass. My grandpa died at 56 from a heart attack, and my mom was only 50, so I was terrified that I would be next.
I met James the next afternoon and knew before I even walked in the door that I was going to do whatever it took to not end up like my mom. I signed up for a six-week challenge and hoped for the best. Part of me still thought I’d end up throwing away that money and quitting before six weeks were over.
In the first class, I’m pretty sure I almost died. I had zero ideas about what I was doing. In my infinite wisdom, I paired up with the only other person taking a class that night, who I found out later is a trainer (Eli). There was something different about GotEm from the beginning because even though I left feeling like I was going to throw up and die at the same time, I still wanted to come back the next day. Even when one class felt like torture, I still wanted to work my way up to taking two classes back to back.
In the first 6 weeks, I lost 9.4 pounds and 4.3% of body fat. In 6 months, I was down 31.5 pounds and 11.8% body fat. Now I’m down nearly 18% and have been going to GotEm for 18 months.
GotEm has taught me a lot more than just how to get in shape – it taught me how to put myself first and prioritize my well-being even when I felt like I couldn’t. Even though improving and maintaining my physical health was a huge motivating factor, and ultimately the reason I keep going, I love being able to look in the mirror and appreciate what I see. The confidence that has come with my lifestyle changes is something I’ve never had before.
In your opinion, weight loss is more of a fitness issue or a health issue, and why?
It’s both, but to me, it was an issue of health. People can fit at any size, but life has proven to me that you can be both thin and out of shape.
Can you share with us your goals for fitness and life?
For fitness, I want these changes to be something I can commit to for the rest of my life. I’d like, at some point, to be able to give back and help others. I have lots of smaller goals that I strive for in training, like hitting certain weights or reps, but those change and evolve often.
What does your Coach James mean to you?
James changed my whole perspective on “athletic” people – he’s authentic and passionate. It’s obvious that James invests himself in every single person who comes into GotEm and meets people where they are. I’ve never felt like what I was doing wasn’t good enough because James met me where I was and pushed me from there.
James sometimes takes classes when he’s not teaching, and he’ll purposefully do the circuit backward so that he gets to work out with every person taking the class. It’s little things like that that set James apart from other people in the fitness industry.
“Heather is a very driven individual who puts her mind to what she wants, and she won’t stop until she gets it” – Coach James Hanton
What’s it like being part of the “GOTEMFIT” family? What impact does a positive community have on your life?
The GotEm family is a huge source of encouragement. When I started at GotEm, the encouragement from others was part of why I kept going. Even when I didn’t have any faith in myself, someone else at the gym did – and they made sure to tell me about it too. The first time that I did two classes back to back was because a trainer told me I could – but she also made sure that I knew there’d be no shame if I started and couldn’t finish. Had she not given me the safe space to fail, I probably wouldn’t have tried.
GotEm, and particularly Eli, gave me the opportunity to try obstacle course races, and who doesn’t want the chance to get absolutely filthy and climb through stuff?
What is the biggest lesson you have ever learned?
In fitness, I’ve had to learn that the scale isn’t always a true representation of success. There have been times I’ve been frustrated with the number on the scale only to find out that I’ve lost body fat or that my clothes fit better. The first time I got my body fat where I wanted, I bounced back up. It’s fluctuated a lot since then, but it never feels like defeat. It’s easier, and more enjoyable, to set smaller goals and recognize the process. There are days I look at myself and still see who I was before any of this started. It’s always one step at a time. When I started at GotEm, even the smallest weights were a struggle. I modified almost everything. If cardio had the word “plank” in it, I was doing jump rope instead. About 6 months in, I started recording my lifts and taking pictures. Looking back on those pictures shows me more progress than I had any idea I was making. Even when it feels like the progress is slow, or not happening at all, those photos and videos help me see the progress.
In life, it’s that “failure” is an incredibly powerful word. It’s impossible to fail until you stop trying.
What is your number one tip for people on their fitness journey?
Figure out your “why.” It’s way easier to keep going or to go to the gym on days you don’t feel like it when you know what the reason behind it is. I gave up so many times before finding GotEm. The difference was this time I really knew why I was doing it, and the culture at GotEm supported me in that.
What does success mean to you?
Success means not giving up. There have definitely been moments where I’ve struggled or felt like I wasn’t doing anything right, but I kept showing up, anyway. Success, for me, means committing to sustainable changes I can maintain through the rest of my life.
Share your unique training/coaching methods.
I’m not super unique. About six months in, Eli started pushing me to add 5lbs to my weights during the second class. That’s helped me consistently move up in weight training. If I’m not going to the gym that day, I try to add in some other sort of extra movement like a walk or doing something active outside.
Two HIIT classes a day, 5 days a week at GotEm. Weight training 1-2 days a week doing squats, deadlift and bench.
I focus heavily on protein and aim to eat 110-130 grams of protein every day. Beyond that, I try to keep my carbs and fat reasonable for my calorie goals. Since I eat so much protein, it’s pretty easy to keep the other numbers in check.
I eat gluten-free because I’m gluten sensitive and eating it makes me feel like absolute garbage. I also focus on “gut health” with things like kombucha and fermented foods.
Honestly, I still like sugar a lot and I haven’t completely eliminated my consumption of “bad” things because I know I’d crash and burn out. These diet changes and fitness changes need to be sustainable for the rest of my life, so I focus a lot on making sure I don’t do anything that will burn me out. I still splurge and enjoy things that aren’t healthy, but it’s also not something I eat all the time.
It’s pretty simple. I take a multi-vitamin daily and drink protein once or twice a day. I add creatine into my post-workout protein. Two or three days a week I’ll take a pre-workout before going to the gym but I don’t do it every day because I don’t want my body to get used to the caffeine.
Do you prefer to take and recommend all-natural (no sugar, no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners) supplements or supplements with artificial flavors and sweeteners? And Why?
I like both. I really like the NutraBio proteins because they are so clean, but I know that my diet isn’t completely clean either so I don’t exclude supplements with artificial stuff. I’ve found a few proteins that I really enjoy but aren’t completely natural. I think it’s a balance of enjoying those and recognizing that even though they aren’t the cleanest/healthiest, they’re still a lot better than other things I could be eating and they’re helping me reach a goal.
What separates Status from other fitness magazines?
Status features real stories from normal people who may not otherwise be featured – people who aren’t or haven’t been athletes but have made changes in their lives for the better. That’s infinitely more motivation for people than seeing another fitness model, which feels unattainable for a lot of people. There’s such a variety in what Status offers that there’s something to inspire everyone.
What is your favourite quote to live by?
There are three things in life that can kick your butt:
- Someone else
- Regret – Regret never stops kicking.
5 things people don’t know about you:
Oh gosh, this is hard. I’m an open book!
- I was in a marching band for 9 years (high school through college) and it’s still a huge part of who I am. I volunteer at a summer band camp.
- Outside of teaching, I’m a wedding photographer. The company I work for has been published in Vogue.
- In 9 years of teaching, I’ve taught 13 different courses/subjects at 5 different schools.
- I have a ridiculously large collection of plants – my apartment sort of looks like a jungle.
- I have two paw print tattoos, which are from actual inkings of my first cat’s paws.
If you could inspire one person, who would that be?
Not so much a specific person, but I hope I can inspire people who didn’t think they could do it. I hope to inspire people who avoid the gym because they’re “not fitness people” or they’re afraid to fail.
Who inspires you? And why?
My mom – after her heart attack and surgery, she’s had to make some pretty substantial life changes, and not once has she complained about any of it. It’s been a long, difficult road with lots of medications to figure out, complications from surgery, and new requirements, but she takes it all in stride.
Eli – Eli is the epitome of dedication. Even when things get hard, even when the results aren’t what he wants, even when he’s exhausted and everything hurts, he doesn’t give up. Not only that, but he’s usually pushing me too. When we do OCRs, he’ll push me over the 10’ wall, then pull himself over. On days I don’t want to work out, he’ll kindly remind me that I’ll “feel better if you do.”
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