A Redefinition Of The Word Tough

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By Martha Hicks Leta

So, you’ve done a few adventure races in the past year? You’ve slogged up muddy mountainsides and crawled under barbed wire through filthy water. You’ve jumped into a dumpster filled with ice, run through a gauntlet of fire, been electrocuted by a curtain of dangling wires and lived to tell about it. Or maybe you’ve run a few marathons in blistering heat, or competed in a triathlon? Think you’re pretty tough, right?

Meet Emily Shames, 19, client at Fitness Together in Newton Centre. When she’s not busy with her studies and at Wesleyan University, she’s a key member of the school’s winning volleyball and softball teams. Not tough enough for you? Here’s what Emily did with her summer vacation: While  you and I were barbecuing chicken and sipping cold Corona’s Emily spent a total of 42 days surviving in the wilderness of Utah. Still not impressed? She did it with only a rain poncho, a water bottle, a knife and a sweater. That’s it. No backpack, no tent, no mess kit, not even a wristwatch. Forty-two days in full-out survival mode, seven days of which were in complete solitude and another seven with no food at all, just water. That’s one tough young lady, my friends.

Emily says it was her training at Fitness Together that got her to the point where she could even consider facing such a daunting set of challenges. “The trainers at Fitness Together got me into the best shape of my life. The motivation and the determination I learned from them echoed in my thoughts during the entire trip, encouraging me never to give up no matter how tired or broken down I got.”

A longtime outdoor enthusiast, Emily signed on for the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, (BOSS) in Boulder Town, Utah with the goal of melding her interests in fitness with her studies in environmental science and archeology.  Known for being “the toughest survival school in the country,” BOSS prides itself in teaching participants “low-technology camping and hiking techniques, exploring how traditional cultures lived comfortably without all the modern gadgets.” During the course students spend their waking hours eking out an existence and hiking long distances, from 15 to 30 miles per day over rugged mountains and desert canyons.  And the company makes no bones about it, this is not a frivilous venture. Participants can expect to lose between 10 and 30 lbs. from the taxing physical demands and lack of food.

“It was the most intense hiking I have ever done,” says Shames. “We didn’t have camp to set up or food to cook so we hiked off trail from sunrise to sunset everyday. In 6 weeks, I covered over 300 miles! I can now make fire using nothing but sticks and friction. I can make rope out of plant fiber. I can make 3 different types of traps and know how to catch fish with my bare hands.”

This is “Survivor” without the cameras, safety nets or food reward challenges. Here the only reward is personal growth and satisfaction. “In six weeks I learned more about myself and the world around me than in all 19 years of my life. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.”

Trainers Elisa Sutherland and Derik VanDyke have seen a lot of success stories in their combined years as personal trainers at Fitness Together, but Emily is one of the greats.

“Emily has a rare enthusiasm for exercise. She comes to each workout with a brilliant smile and even when she’s soaked in sweat and exhausted, the smile doesn’t disappear,” says Sutherland. “I look forward to every session with her. She inspires me to workout a little harder and to have a blast at everything I do!”

VanDyke agrees. “No matter how hard or crazy I may make a workout, Emily is always so excited to learn and do anything I throw her way! This type of true enthusiasm and passion for working out really motivates me as a trainer, as well as a person!”

Whether your goals are to fit into that skinny pair of jeans or move personal mountains, the Fitness Together program clearly offers life-changing potential for those who are willing to commit the effort. Just ask Emily.

“Fitness Together has changed my life for the better. They have transformed me not only physically but mentally, too,” says Shames. “I want to say thanks to all of the Fitness Together trainers for all of their dedication to the clients and doing the impossible by making workout out and maintaining a healthy lifestyle fun!”

Emily trains at FT Newton Centre with Elisa and Derik:


Elisa Sutherland Certified Personal Trainer

Ever since winning the 800 meter race at a mandatory middle school track meet, I was hooked on running. I ran for fun in high school, competed for the track team in college, and later moved on to marathons and trail races. I came to think of running as central to my identity. All my friends and family thought of me as the crazy girl who spent much of her free time on the pavement. A couple of years after finishing college, where I got a degree in elementary education, my knees started bothering me. I knew I needed to scale back the running and learn to stay fit in other ways. I got my start in this process at the National Personal Training Institute in Portland, Oregon. I had just returned from several years teaching English in South Korea, and I knew I didn’t want to be an elementary school teacher. While I enjoyed teaching itself, classroom management just wasn’t my thing. After an intensive, hands-on program, I was certified as a personal trainer through NPTI. My first job was at LA Fitness in Portland. While I worked there, I continued to learn more and explore the many corners of the fitness world. I picked up another certification as a running coach, and studied kettlebells with a RKC trainer (I recently became certified to teach Hardstyle Kettlebells). While I was still in Portland, I started to have some medical problems, and was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome. After losing the ability to walk, going from a wheelchair to a walker, and then finally being able to walk and now even run, my understanding of health and fitness has changed a lot. Last summer I moved to Boston, but I continued to have trouble with double vision and vertigo.  In December I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Right now, I’m very strong; no one can tell that I have MS.  There have been a lot of medical advances in the last few years, so hopefully I can continue to hide my disease!  Having MS has taught me that while my body isn’t always trustworthy, there’s always something it can do.  I love helping people build confidence, mobility, and strength through their own power.  No matter what your injury or weakness, there are ways to get stronger and feel better!

Derik VanDyke  Manager/Certified Personal Trainer

Growing up sports and fitness were always a huge part of my life. From an early age, all the way up in to my high school years, I played football, basketball, baseball, as well as martial arts. I was also exposed to bodybuilding at a very early age, because my father was an amateur bodybuilder . I instantly grew to love that sport and knew that it would always be a huge part of my life. I loved the challenges and personal sacrifice it took to excel at sports and bodybuilding. Shortly after I graduated high school, I wanted to further challenge myself as well as do something good for my country, so I joined the army as a Combat Medic. I served 4 years as an airborne combat medic in the Army, with a 15-month tour in Southern Baghdad. Throughout my 4 years in the army, physical fitness was enforced on us, and was rewarded when one would go far and beyond expectations. With my love for fitness I went far and beyond what was expected of me, receiving “excellent” marks in fitness which helped lead me to make rank quickly. Before long I was leading young soldiers in physical fitness programs myself. Upon completing my 4 years in the army, I knew I wanted to follow my heart and do what I’ve always loved and that was fitness. I attended NPTI (national personal training institute), and graduated with an even greater knowledge of health and fitness. I am excited and highly motivated to be doing what I love and that is help people achieve their physical fitness goals, as well as their goals in life. I will work hard for you so you can attain the goals you set out for! “I’m not telling you it is going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it” — Art Williams


To find a Fitness Together Studio near you, check out FTGetsResults.com


1 Comment

Filed under Exercise, Fitness, Fitness Goals, Health, In Good Health, Our Incredible Clients, Success Stories, Workout

One response to “A Redefinition Of The Word Tough

  1. Nancy C

    Inspiring us is Emily’s gift! Thank you EM.

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