Anique Reese is unstoppable. At 56 years old, she does things today that she thought she’d never do. She became a Gold’s Gym certified personal trainer. She started working as a model after a photographer captured her dancing. She went to South by Southwest, the music and film showcase she used to think was for younger people. And she had the confidence to travel by herself to Europe, including her native France.

She wasn’t always this way. Four years ago, life seemed to come to a halt. First, her mother, Annette, died. Weeks later, Anique lost her husband of 21 years, Todd. She had trouble coping.

“I was going through grieving,” says Anique, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I’ve always been a really positive-thinking person, and I didn’t feel like myself.”

Knowing she needed a change, she made a positive commitment to herself. “I’m a big proponent of self-care, so I decided I was going to go ahead and hire a personal trainer,” she says. “It was going to be a gift for myself.”

She had no idea what was in store. But it wasn’t the first time she challenged herself to change.

‘I’m done being big’
As a teen, Anique struggled with her weight. She would wear a T-shirt to the pool and said she didn’t want to be seen. In college, after she couldn’t fit into a size 16 anymore, she vowed to change. “I’m done,” she told herself. “I’m done being big.”

Weighing around 150 pounds, she set a goal of 120 pounds. She started doing aerobics and eating more balanced meals. Once she began losing weight, she vowed she wouldn’t gain it back. And she didn’t.

Years later, as a mom, she began going to Gold’s Gym because of its child care. She soon made friends with other moms and created a real community with them. They would do BODYPUMP® classes together and have lunch at one another’s homes.

Through her 40s and early 50s, Anique stayed in moderately good shape and continued with her Gold’s Gym membership, but she hadn’t made a serious commitment to the gym. She had used cardio machines and attended classes, but she didn’t know what most of the machines and equipment were for. When she signed up with a personal trainer, Wayne, she was afraid she wasn’t ready. But she received instant encouragement.

“My first session, he says, ‘I know I can take you to the next level of fitness,’” she says. “He had so much faith in my ability. And because he believed I could do it, I believed I could do it.”

Eye-opening progress
Wayne showed Anique the proper form for a variety of exercises, introducing her to TRX® straps, kettlebells, free weights and other devices she had ignored for so long. “Suddenly, the gym was like a candy store,” she says.

He would push her and work with her to make progress, always believing in her ability to do more, and she continually surprised herself along the way.

“I never considered I could do 30 pull-ups or 50 push-ups or squat 130 pounds,” she says. “I had never done anything like that before. The fact that I could do that was so illuminating for me.”

It was revealing to others, too. Anique says regular gym-goers in the weight section would say, “How are you doing things we can’t even do?”

As she grew in physical strength, she also grew in emotional strength. “I became so fearless,” she says. When she had a life challenge, she would say to herself, “If I can do that, why can’t I do this?”

Her work with Wayne was the springboard. “I got offered a huge promotion at work,” she says. “It literally stemmed from making my body stronger.”

Once she had that inner fire, she says she realized she could do the things she really wanted to do.

Passing it on
Not long ago, Anique went for a physical. Her doctor said her labs reflected those of a 38-year-old. “I used to think my 50s were going to be one foot in the grave, but they have actually been my best years,” she says.

When other people in the gym would compliment her strength and ask for advice, she was always ready with a tip or exercise for them to try. Seeing how comfortable other members were with Anique, Wayne asked her if she’d be interested in becoming a certified trainer for Gold’s Gym. She hesitated, but after mulling it over, she thought, Why not? She wanted to help others feel the way she felt. She enrolled, studied and easily passed the exam.

Her clients today include a woman who has lost 100 pounds. With all of her clients, Anique uses the same approach she used when she worked as a teacher years ago: Show them, do it with them and then watch them do it. And it’s fulfilling for her to help others transform, just like Wayne helped her.

“I had no idea that working with a trainer would change my life.”