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When Sherry Chaffin found out her good friend Heike LeMaster had died of cancer, she felt an immediate shift in her outlook on life. “It was like a hypnotist snapped his fingers and I woke up,” she recalls of the moment in November 2010. “I knew at that second I needed to actually live and not merely exist.”
LeMaster had breast cancer that had gone into remission, but several years later, it came back and spread quickly. “She was amazing — one of the strongest women I knew,” Chaffin, 44, says of her late friend. “She lifted weights and kept telling me that I should.” Chaffin, who weighed 199 pounds at the time, shied away from strength training because she was worried about bulking up.
Back in high school and junior high, the Virginia native was a competitive swimmer and never had an issue with her weight. But after getting married and giving birth to her son, Sawyer, and two years later to her daughter, Maison, Chaffin dedicated herself to being a mother at the expense of her own health and fitness. Her weight ballooned. “I was married to a great guy, but I was unhappy in my marriage,” Chaffin says. “Because I didn’t want to hurt him or my two great children, I subconsciously buried my feelings and focused on being a mom.”
The loss of her close friend became a catalyst for Chaffin’s start to a new life. She began working out on an elliptical machine and lost about 11 pounds. One day while she was on the elliptical, she remembers wondering how she had allowed herself to get so out of shape. “And for the first time since my marriage, I was brutally honest with myself,” she says. “I decided — no matter what — to start being true to myself. I had no desire to hurt my husband or my kids, but I couldn’t keep hurting myself.”
Chaffin called a personal trainer, Chris Innocenti, whose number she’d kept in her makeup drawer for a year, given to her by a friend who had trained with him. She thought Innocenti would laugh her out the door, but he turned out to be supportive and welcoming. Innocenti taught Chaffin how to correctly combine weight training, diet, cardio and rest. She hit the weights four times a week, did two of Innocenti’s boot camps and threw in some cardio on her own. Over the next seven months, Chaffin went from 188 pounds to 130 pounds.
“Weight training has changed my life and reshaped my body,” Chaffin says. “I wish more women would try lifting heavy.”
She’s no slacker when it comes to endurance, either, having run a marathon in 3 hours, 56 minutes in 2012 at the age of 42, plus two half marathons.
In 2013, Chaffin took to the stage in three figure competitions, leaning out to 119 pounds, and earned her masters pro card. “I plan on doing more, plus whatever new fitness adventures that are on my horizon,” she says. “I’m loving this new life! I finally feel like I’m living the life I’ve always wanted, and I am the person on the outside that I have always been on the inside.”
Sherry Chaffin’s Secrets to a Fit Life
Realize you’re important and stop the “mom guilt.” Your family will benefit from your health and happiness.
Be mentally tough
Your determination and your mind can make or break you.
Find a good trainer
Find a knowledgeable trainer who can help you achieve your goals. It’s worth it!
Women should never be afraid of bulking up.
Get your diet on point
No hard work in the gym will be seen without a clean diet. Six small meals has always worked for me.