REGENERATION – Transformation Stories

GX24 Instructor Maggie Chen Pays It Forward After Dropping 60 Pounds

By 24Life

“Someone gave me a corporate membership, and I was thinking, How could I even walk into that gym? I’m more than 60 pounds overweight,” Maggie Chen says.

Chen hadn’t been to a gym in 10 years, she estimates, but she thought that at the price of free, she had nothing to lose. “I wore this gigantic T-shirt so that I could hide behind it,” she recalls, “and I stood behind this gigantic pillar, and I thought, Please, nobody say anything to me. Nobody notice me, and by golly, somebody said, ‘Hi.’”

It was a GX instructor who greeted Chen. “Because she said ‘hi,’ I stayed and I lost 60 pounds.” That’s when Chen thought to herself, I have to pay this forward.

Thinking she might possibly teach a class or two, Chen asked her instructor about it and was encouraged to attend an expo where she could take classes and get started on an instructor certification.

The first class Chen taught was Turbo Kick. “I love to watch ‘Kung Fu Theater’ on Saturday afternoons, and Turbo Kick gave me that feeling of mimicking some of those moves,” she says. It bolstered Chen’s confidence as she realized she could teach people who didn’t believe they could do it that indeed they could. (When asked what her superpower is, she easily replies that it’s seeing someone at their best when they cannot see it at all for themselves.)

Come for the camaraderie, stay for yourself

As someone who told herself, “I’m not good enough to be in the gym because I’m so overweight and I don’t even know if I remember how to exercise,” Chen now wants anyone with those thoughts to know the following: “Every step that you make and every day that you go in, you’re going to learn something new. There are people there to help you take one more step, and each step gets you closer to that goal you thought that you could not attain.”

Chen found the helping hand she needed in the GX studio. “There’s just this camaraderie and no one gets left behind,” she says. “You could go on a treadmill and get bored and shut the treadmill off and go home. But in class, we start the music together, we end the music together, and everyone is in unison in heart and body.”

From Chen’s perspective, choosing a class is “as personal as choosing your watch or your shoes or your clothes.” She encourages newcomers to give a class format three tries and to modify movement as needed so that they feel successful—and good, so that they can come back feeling good.

Over the 12 years that she’s been teaching, Chen’s motivation for fitness has evolved, as well. While she started because she wanted to lose weight and gain a fitter, better-looking physique, she says that one reason she continues is because she loves the way she feels when she moves. “I love that my joint function is continuing to improve and not declining with age, so while I still love to have a smaller waistline, I find greater motivation in the fact that I get to feel good when I do move,” she says.

However, Chen adds, her deepest reason for staying fit is that “I learned to regard myself as someone worth taking care of, and that’s a more lasting reason that helps me continue to stay motivated. When I was 60 pounds overweight, I literally stayed in the house because I was so scared to leave and risk that someone might see me like that.” She recognizes that kind of discomfort “comes across when you do a job interview, when you go on a date or when you are relating to other people. You just don’t have the same amount of self-respect.”

As for failure, Chen now puts it in the perspective of fitness. “You have to fail at the gym to succeed,” she says. “To grow, your muscles have to be pushed to some point of failure. So now I think of failure as, OK, I’m coming up against that place where there eventually will be a door for me to go through.

Video & photo credit: Tom Casey,


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