When James Fisher says, “You have no idea what you’re capable of,” he means if you have the desire to change, you just might surprise yourself. Fisher says he was an obese teenager, at 5 feet 8 inches and 250 pounds. While he managed to slim down as an adult, he spent decades struggling with his weight and body image. At 60, Fisher decided he was finished with the exhausting, negative thought pattern and decided to join a gym.

Fisher trains with 24 Hour Fitness coach Kim Germain and four years later, not only has conquered the remaining weight but also has gained muscle. “The day I first posted a progress photo—shirtless—on social media for the world to see was the day I fully realized I was no longer the same person,” he says.

We asked Fisher to share what he learned and tips for anyone who’s in the same place he was, mentally or physically.

24Life: Your effort to lose weight began years ago, so how did it take a turn for the better?

James Fisher: All that time, I never exercised; I hated it. When I joined 24 Hour Fitness almost four years ago, I decided to work with a trainer. My first trainer and my current trainer, Kim, inspired me with their skill, knowledge, patience and kindness. I’ve been able to accomplish things in the gym I could never have imagined—I am physically and mentally a different person now and could not have done it without them. I lost the last 20 pounds; I am lean, with real muscle (at 64 years old!). And now when I look in the mirror, I smile. As Kim says, I’ve made this my lifestyle now. Who would have thought?

24Life: Tell us more about what you’ve learned about yourself on your fitness journey.

JF: I learned I could do what was unthinkable to me: I learned that I could transform myself physically and mentally to the point that I would be willing to be seen in public, shirtless.

For more than five decades, I would never consider taking my shirt off in public, and I wore tight undershirts to flatten a flabby chest. I would not look at myself in the mirror below the neck unclothed—ever. Working with Kim and watching my body change–dropping clothing sizes and seeing my chest, arms and abs develop–was equally mentally transformational for me. I don’t think twice now about being shirtless on the beach.

24Life: What advice would you give someone else who wants to make a change?

JF: If I could slough off decades of negative thoughts and transform physically into something of which I’m proud, anybody can. Read and learn about health and your body, get help with your exercise routine, work with a trainer to support and guide you, if possible. Find an exercise program that works for your needs; most people aren’t power lifters. They just want to be a little better. Don’t look at exercise as a price you have to pay to look and feel better; consider it a gift to yourself, something that can bring you energy for the day, calm you down and center yourself.

You can also think of it as an investment for your future. Because of my investment in myself, I was back in the gym (with Kim helping me) five days after having a full knee replacement. My surgeon said my recovery progress was in the 95th percentile of all his patients.

Results may vary. Please consult a physician before starting or changing a fitness routine. Personal training and virtual personal training available to 24 Hour Fitness members for an additional fee.

Photo credit: James Fisher