In September of 2017, 27-year-old Meghan Benware moved to New Jersey to start a new life. She was ready to make changes to her health. She’d tried to get in shape before, but the story was always the same—either gyms didn’t make her feel worth their time or she was actually turned away. When she got to New Jersey, she clocked in at 320 lbs. And she didn’t want to be anymore.
Almost immediately after her move, Meghan walked into Jersey Strong Wall.
“I was really nervous and scared,” she says. But something clicked after speaking with Lauren Brown. In October, just a month after she moved, Meghan became a Jersey Strong member. She’d start training with a personal trainer for one year, three times a week.
It sounds like the perfect start to a success story. But for Meghan, there was a small twist. A week before she moved, her mom got news that she had stage four brain cancer.
It was totally unexpected. She’d felt a tingling in her fingers one day, got her brain scanned the next, and just like that, the Benware’s lives were permanently altered.
Suddenly, although Meghan moved with her mother’s blessing, there was more weight to starting over. It felt heavier. So, three times a week, as she was building her new life and dealing with her current one outside the gym, she would walk into Jersey Strong and do what she said she would: train.
Starting a fitness journey at 320 lbs isn’t what one would call easy. Staying focused on one when dealing with the sickness of a loved one is even tougher.
“The first six months were really hard,” says Meghan. “I was short of breath, my joints hurt. My trainer had to modify a lot of [the exercises].”
She had plantar’s fasciitis, which made training painful. But she came ready to workout. She would work through physical pain. She would work through emotional turmoil. It didn’t matter if it was hard. Studies have shown that six months is usually the mark when people abandon their training. But Meghan was tired of feeling like she was “missing out.” She was tired of having to shop in specific stores. She was tired of worrying about whether or not she would fit in a plane seat.
“I always wanted to keep going,” says Meghan when she’s asked about what makes her fitness journey different. Giving up was just never an option. That even rang true for Meghan after her mother passed, about halfway through her fitness journey. She died on Mother’s Day, in 2018. And still, Meghan stayed focused. After everything, she wanted to have something to show for it.
And she would. Because somewhere along the line, the workouts were getting easier. And she was getting stronger. She dropped 10 lbs. Then 30. Then 70. Then 120.
This past December and then again in January, Meghan had her first and second skin removal surgeries. Her surgeons removed about 25 pounds of skin, which chopped another 10 lbs off her scale. Today, after a year of personal training, she’s down 130 lbs.
She credits much of her success to the support she received at Jersey Strong Wall. When her mom was sick, her trainers would hug her and ask her how she was doing. Members and employees alike would check in with her. “I didn’t feel like I was just a member,” she says.
So, after finding her community, what’s next for Meghan Benware?
“I really want to help people the same way people have helped me,” she says.
After her year at Jersey Strong, she’s thinking of becoming a personal trainer herself.
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