Struggling with life’s challenges? Don’t be afraid to reach out for support — you’re not alone.
Open heart surgery, young children, a miscarriage, 30 pound weight gain, new career, and more. Each one of these on its own is a life challenge. But when combined, these elements can be the making of a disaster.
Although she came close to surrendering to these challenges, rather than letting these massive setbacks take away her spirit, Stacy Beckly was determined to plow forward, heal, and make solid changes in her life.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Stacy about to learn more about which programs and support helped her overcome her struggles to eventually find her true self.
“I Am Enough”
A mantra we should all adopt, expressed by AVAC® member, Stacy Beckly.
Stacy grew up involved with sports like playing tennis, swimming and running track, and had always considered herself an athlete. She worked out regularly, took care of herself, and like many other young women in their 20’s felt pretty invincible. Stacy was studying to become a Nurse Practitioner and things were rolling along smoothly until one day when she recalls experiencing chest pain. She made an appointment to see a doctor, but after asking her questions and assessing Stacy’s general health, the doctor dismissed her complaints due to her young age and healthy track record. They chalked her symptoms up to stress that many people experience while trying to navigate their early 20’s.
In time, Stacy graduated with her nursing degree and became a nurse practitioner at VCU Medical Center/MCV Hospitals in Richmond, VA. From there, she eventually found herself a job with Stanford Hospital in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit as their Skin and Wound Nurse Practitioner. At this point in her life, she was extremely active running about 24 miles/week, and found herself looking forward to running her first half-marathon.
In September of 2014, Stacy ran a half-marathon in San Francisco. In the immediate months following that race, she starting feeling “off”… as if something wasn’t quite right. That December Stacy had another severe episode of chest pain. Instead of ignoring this pain or attributing it to stress as she had before, Stacy decided to take advantage of her employer relationship and see a Stanford Cardiologist. It was at this point that Stacy was diagnosed with a Myocardial Bridge.
Initially she was shocked. But this diagnosis helped Stacy finally understand the mysterious chest pains she had experienced for years. Generally, a myocardial bridge is benign. However, some patients can develop myocardial ischemia (lack of oxygen) because of the myocardial bridge. As a result blood flow is decreased, especially during exercise or when the heart is beating quickly. This is what was happening in Stacy’s case.
A myocardial bridge is a band of heart muscle that lies on top of a coronary artery, instead of underneath it. With a myocardial bridge, part of a coronary artery dips into and underneath the heart muscle and then comes back out again. This condition can cause chest pain, arrhythmia, stroke, and may even result in sudden death.
Three months later (March, 2015) under her doctor’s recommendation, Stacy underwent open heart surgery. The surgeon successfully removed the bridge that was pressing on her coronary artery. When she awoke, rather than letting this setback define her or take away her spirit, Stacy was determined to do everything in her power to heal and recover quickly. Because of her overall good health, strong body, and positive attitude, she was able to get out of the hospital in just 4 days. But she didn’t stop there – in just 3 weeks after surgery she actually walked the MS 5K in San Jose. Even though she finished very last, Stacy believes she was by far the happiest of all the race participants!
Two years later, Stacy discovered she was pregnant. This was a busy time in her life – she was raising young children and had made a career shift into acting (and was attending professional acting school.) While Stacy and her husband weren’t trying for another child, they welcomed this surprise pregnancy and became excited about what another child would bring to their lives. Unfortunately, this pregnancy would end in miscarriage. This devastating loss brought on waves of depression which caused Stacy to turn to food as comfort. She withdrew from normal activities, stopped attending acting school, and wasn’t exercising like she had in the past. Before she knew it she had gained 30 pounds, was extremely uncomfortable, and felt just plain awful.
During this sorrowful time, an acting friend of Stacy’s invited her to the Mammoth Film Festival. With this and the help of her fantastic acting coach Bonnie Gillespie, Stacy took this opportunity to dig deep and decide enough is enough – “I am enough. I’m going to embrace my size 14!” She went to Target and purchased new outfits, then headed to Mammoth with her friend and a newfound sense of self-love. Suddenly a light bulb went off. Stacy wanted to get in shape, to re-engage with acting, and re-charge her life to feel better, more healthy, and energetic like she was in her past. She was also wanted desperately to fit into her old clothes. Stacy. Was. Motivated!!! She was ready to take control of her life!
A Newfound Motivation for Fitness & Health
Having recently landed a lead role in the play “Queen”, Stacy knew she needed to update and modify her look to align better with her own weight loss goals, and those of her character.
Although Stacy came to AVAC® and worked out on her own, she wasn’t seeing the results she had hoped for. She fell into the common trap of focusing on exercises she “enjoyed” but would avoid those she didn’t. For example, she would spend time working on her arms or using cardio equipment, but would neglect her core.
Stacy eventually reconnected with Shannon Larsen, AVAC’s Bikini Bod Squad (“BBS”) program instructor. The two had met years prior through a mutual modeling agency. Shannon told Stacy about the BBS Program, and Stacy was immediately intrigued. She was honestly doubtful that BBS could make a difference, but tried a class demo anyway. Stacy enjoyed the demo so much that she signed up for the beginner session.
The first actual class was hard! Stacy started with 2 knee push-ups, but found that even basic planks, burpies and sit-ups were extremely difficult! She would struggle through the first few BBS class sessions fighting nausea and exhaustion, but sincerely tried to keep her eye on the end goal of improved health. Shannon continually reminded participants of the importance of core strength, which Stacy found helpful. After keeping on it, Stacy began to feel her core slowly transforming. She felt stronger and the weight was beginning to come off! Her posture was improving, as was her on-stage voice projection and singing ability. Her breathing became more regular, and she even started to sleep better. Things were really looking up!
During this time Stacy found it helpful to mix things up by taking a few GroupFIT classes at AVAC® in the evenings, while incorporating 30-min cardio bursts each week alongside her BBS classes.
Stacy’s own words sum it up best: “My favorite part of Bikini Bod Squad is how FUN the classes are! The environment is supportive, encouraging, and completely motivational. I love how this class reminds us all to help & inspire others… to essentially help others rise up, rather than watch them fall. To remind them that they are enough!” Well said, Stacy!
After 16 weeks in the BBS classes Stacy decided to switch up her exercise routine and try something new. She was pleased with her weight loss but had her eyes set on landing lead action roles and knew that she needed to get extremely fit and lean in order for that to happen. So she enrolled in John Kensit’s Metabolic Conditioning class and immediately loved the format and how he pushes his clients to work to their limit. “Taking BBS classes was a great stepping stone for me to get fit to the point where I felt I could take my workouts to the next level with John’s classes.” Stacy then started working with him as her personal trainer so she could work on individualized specific areas she needs to improve on in order to reach her overall fitness goals. “John Kensit is known as a tough trainer that gets results and his incredible knowledge and skill along with his ability to inspire, believe in and push his clients to their max is why I knew I would enjoy working with him.” Stacy has no doubt with John’s help she will get to her very best. In meeting twice weekly focusing on building and shaping muscle and cardio and really fine tuning her diet she has continued to define her muscles and lose more weight.
“AVAC® is a wonderful fitness center and the trainers are amazing. I have worked really hard to be able to get from a size 14 to a size 4 in just 6 months but I know I would not have been able to do it by myself. If it weren’t for the outstanding trainers at AVAC® I would not be where I am today and I am forever grateful for that.”
I asked Stacy a few additional questions:
Q: Have you made adjustments to your diet during your journey?
A: “Yes, basically I tried to eat small amounts of food every 2 – 3 hours so I didn’t ever feel starved. Now I am eating three meals a day focusing on eating only lean meats, veggies, some fruit and limited complex carbs. For me this is the diet that helps me maintain my weight loss. I like to substitute foods smartly. For example, hummus with carrots instead of crackers, and cauliflower rice instead of regular rice. I also incorporate Beach Body’s Shakeology into my diet as extra help as needed.
Q: Did you enlist the help of a Nutritionist at any point?
A: Yes. One of the perks of taking BBS is access to AVAC’s Nutritionist Laura Hsu. Laura reminded me abount the damage that sugar causes our bodies. She helped me eliminate as much sugar as possible from my diet. I stopped adding it to my morning cup of coffee and completely cut out soda and processed foods. I also tried to limit my alcohol intake and made a conscious decision to eat fresh, organic foods, paying careful attention to avoid the “dirty dozen”.
Q: How do you feel, overall at this point in your health & fitness journey?
A: Although I’m still a bit self-conscious, I am very happy being me. I now have confidence and energy to enjoy the pool with my children. I feel like I have been given a second chance at life, and I’m making good on it! The day I was being rolled into heart surgery I said to myself, “If I make it thru this situation alive and healthy, I’m going to do everything in my power to make a positive difference for others.” My acting coach encourages a healthy lifestyle. Coupled with my recent weight loss, this has helped me believe that “I am truly enough.” I hope to inspire others to pursue their childhood dreams and change mindsets for people who need health and weight loss motivation.
Q: Do you feel like your relationships have changed as a result of your success?
A: Yes! Over the past 6+ months I have made a tremendous lifestyle shift. This conscious effort to surround myself with inspirational people has helped my confidence and well-being. My family and friends are also proud and supportive, helping to keep me on track. I believe that I have also inspired them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Q: Are there any words of advice you would give to someone in your situation? Perhaps someone who might have tried and failed with a weight loss regimen before?
A: Workouts should be fun & beneficial! They occasionally may result in a bit of mental or physical pain, but the key is to strive to get over these plateaus and at least you can enjoy the benefits of labor and success. The one thing that I have realized during my journey is that it’s easy to lose part of yourself, especially as a woman, when becoming a wife, getting pregnant, becoming a mother… It’s critical to keep your dreams alive. When I was rolling into surgery, I made a promise to myself that if I made it through alive and healthy I would live my life to the fullest and make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Q: What are your favorite, inspirational quotes?
A: My own original quote is that “You can do ANYTHING with the right mindset!”
However, I also love these three:
- “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
- “Never, never, never give up” by Winston Churchill
- “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” by Jim Rohn
– Stephanie Doty
Almaden Valley Athletic Club®
Cardiac Source: www.texasheart.org “Myocardial Bridge”
Visit AVAC’s Website for more information on the above programs www.avac.us.