From 300 Pounds To “Bossy Strong” Firefighter And Nutritionist
At her heaviest, Karla Pankow weighed 300 pounds. By her late 30s, she’d been diagnosed with a fatty liver, Celiac, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypothyroid, arthritis, hernias, pre-diabetes, and a connective tissue disorder. She also struggled with migraines, intense fatigue, depression, skin irritations, and digestive challenges. Karla spent two decades in and out of doctor offices, on various medications, and tried every fad diet imaginable. Nothing worked.
Fast-forward to today. Karla has lost more than 100 pounds. She’s now a firefighter, a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, a Certified Personal Trainer working on her Emergency Medical Technician certification, and she’s incredibly active and much healthier and happier than she’s been in years.
How did Karla accomplish all of that? Well, she says, a big part of her turnaround began shortly after she joined Anytime Fitness in Sandstone, MN, and began working out with personal trainer Heather Clark. So, let’s let Karla and Heather tell the rest of the story.
Anytime Member Karla:
“Like many folks looking for a change and a chance to improve the fresh New Year ahead, I first stopped into Anytime Fitness during that first week of January 2016. I had already lost a good amount of weight by giving up soda pop and through improved nutrition—and that gave me the confidence to take it to the next level.
“I went into my first three complimentary appointments with Heather with the mindset that I would learn as much as possible about the free weights and weight machines and then move along on my own. What I quickly realized, however, is that doing it on my own had never worked in the past and that I needed this time to be different. I needed the support, experience, and knowledge of a personal trainer to guide me. Heather was my perfect fit. As our relationship developed, she had a way of knowing when and how to challenge me and push me further. Things that I thought I could never do or accomplish, she proved wrong. I spent the next 13 months, two days a week, sweating, swearing, and succeeding with Heather right there by my side every step of the way. Six months into our training together, I went from finding difficulty in walking a 5K to running in my very first 5K race. I went on to complete 12 more races that year.”
“Additionally, I lost another 40 pounds, decreased my body fat percentage, increased my cardiovascular health and endurance, gained muscle and strength, and developed the confidence to pursue another passion—fire and rescue. That August, I joined my local fire department, successfully completed my initial round of firefighter and ice water rescue training. I went through the First Responders/EMR program, as well, and helped start our department’s first EMS/First Responders team. This fall, I begin my next level of firefighter and HAZMAT training, and start my EMT program for certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. And, as if that weren’t enough studying, I also completed the ACE Fitness Personal Training program and earned my certification as a personal trainer.”
“Absolutely none of this would have been possible without making that choice to take a chance at something new and different. Weight training can be intimidating. Gyms, in general, can be intimidating. Working with a personal trainer may seem expensive and exhausting, but it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made for my health and for my life.”
Karla’s advice for others who need to make big changes in their lives: “Step out of your comfort zone. With every new year or birthday, I would tell myself that this next year is going to be different. I’m not going to be a morbidly obese 30-year-old, or 35-year-old, and so on. But, with every passing year, nothing changed. I got heavier, unhealthier, and unhappier. Do something different to be someone different. It truly makes all the difference in your life and in your future opportunities. Tackling that world of self-awareness, acknowledgement, and action can be scary, especially when you’re looking to shed 100 pounds or more. I found vulnerability, of course, in sharing my journey on Instagram, but I also found a lot of support, inspiration, and motivation. I encourage folks to surround themselves with an environment that validates who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish. For many, social media is the way to go, while for others, not so much, but I invite others to connect with me on Instagram. Find me at @bossystrong.”
Anytime Trainer Heather:
“To keep clients on track, I do regular checkups on them, almost daily. I have found a lot of value in the Anytime Fitness App. It’s easier to reach out to them and see what they’re doing to accomplish their goals. It’s also another way that my clients feel accountable because they know that I can see if they’re checking into the gym and reaching their goals.
“I’ve gained friendships with each and every one of my clients. I always have them do a food journal for me to see where we can improve on that part. When little improvements happen with our training together, I celebrate them or give them ‘prizes’—just something to let them know that I’m thinking of them and they’re doing awesome. I teach each and every one of my clients that working out can be fun—finding ways to make working out fun both inside and outside at the gym is key, while incorporating different styles of workouts. We always do have tons of fun while sweating!”
“Others can learn a lot from Karla’s story. Once she started making small steps and feeling better, it helped her succeed more. We became really good friends in the process and she knew that I wasn’t going to let her quit. As soon as she accomplishes one goal, she continues to challenge herself and make small changes for the better. Small changes can lead to big success. If one thing doesn’t work, keep trying to find the thing that fits YOU.”