Building a fitness Sisterhood: Women find success, empowerment through sweating it out together

Published on Saturday, 24 May 2014 17:35 - Written by Coshandra Dillard cdillard@tylerpaper.com

There’s something about a sisterhood that helps women overcome challenges. It’s even more important while attempting to lose weight or get fit.

For the women who attend the fitness class, Body Combat, at Glass Recreation Center, that encouragement has changed their lives.

Ashley Britt, 28, lost 80 pounds after joining the program one year ago. Starting at 301 pounds, she not only dealt with health issues, but also suffered from low self-esteem.

During a class last week, Ms. Britt blasted through a series of knee lifts, leg lifts and mountain climbers, all while smiling and maintaining good form.

“When I started I’d only been working for six months after staying at home with my child,” she said. “I put on a lot of weight, and I really wasn’t taking care of myself.”

When she started going to the center, she wasn’t sure how to exercise, so she and a friend would walk the track.

“We didn’t know what we were doing. We don’t exercise. Exercise is not fun,” she recalled saying.

Things have changed over the year. She joined the Body Combat class, led by 31-year-old Rashad Espie.

“We made it a regular thing,” she said. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to exercise at all. … Coming here, I like exercising. It’s kind of my ‘me’ time. Those endorphins, those are serious things once you get into it.”

Today, her persona is the opposite of how she felt about herself a year ago.

“I never thought of myself as a pretty person,” Ms. Britt said. “I took care of everybody else. I would be so stressed out that I couldn’t put on a happy face. Now everyone sees that I’m upbeat. I’m normally a reserved person. I stayed to myself, but I’m a little more outgoing now.”

Espie is at the center of some of the women’s successes, as they say he’s been an inspiration to them.

When he started working out at the center, shedding about 45 pounds, they took notice and he showed them how to be successful, too. It wasn’t long before he was teaching his own class.

In addition to demonstrating exercise workouts, he shares nutritional information.

“I took it seriously,” Espie said. “I preach this natural thing. I’ve never been on any supplements, any type of herbs. Just change the lifestyle, what you eat and work out hard.”

That has worked for Ms. Britt, whose initial goal was to lose 20 pounds. Now she wants to continue a healthy lifestyle. Since she started clean eating and regular exercise, her cholesterol and other blood chemistry numbers began to improve.

Many other women have developed friendships while shedding weight. Ms. Britt was praised by Espie for her ability to motivate women who struggle with weight the way she did.

For some women, they just want to improve their overall health.

Jamilia Williams, 36, has been attending the class off and on for about one year.

Her goal is to avoid diabetes, which has affected her family. She lost her father to the disease and her mother and paternal grandmother are living with it.

“I wanted to get fit, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that when I get older,” she said.

She doesn’t count pounds but said her clothes are fitting looser. Already confident, she said exercise makes her feel even better.

“I love the skin I’m in regardless,” she said. “When I get through working out, I feel awesome.”