Sometimes it just takes someone else believing in you to help you believe in yourself.

Nicole Ortega had already made the connection between her physical and mental wellbeing, but not in a way that was positive. “For a very long time I let my weight define many things such as my personality,” she says.

Ortega tried various classes and coaches, but inevitably finished discouraged and depressed. It wasn’t until she met fitness manager Darren Taylor that she found the trust and encouragement she’d been seeking all along. “The first thing he told me when I spoke to him is ‘I treat all my clients like family.’”

Ortega is now training with Kainoa Chaves, another coach in her 24 Hour Fitness Bishop family, who she says pushes her to her limits, but does it with plenty of laughter. He’s helped her through a difficult recovery from a broken wrist and, most importantly, expresses a confidence in her that she embraces to help her try new things.

Her experience has taught her it takes a little patience to overcome old ideas or new injuries and keep working toward a lifestyle that benefits her physically and mentally. Read on for Ortega’s insights into taking chances and reaping the rewards.

24Life: How has your experience changed your definition of success?

Nicole Ortega: This experience changed my definition of success not just by being physically active, but my attitude towards exercising is very positive. I went through depression and confidence issues. I was making really bad choices with my food. I gave up on my entire self for a really long time. I see now my coaches helped me completely turn my life around.

24Life: What made you decide to seek an expert, instead of going it alone?

NO: When I made my first attempt to lose weight, I tried a couple of different workouts. Not knowing the correct posture and how to position myself with the exercises, I ended up hurting myself multiple times. I decided to completely give up. I went back to making bad choices. But I was having multiple medical issues and I knew if I didn’t try to change something I was headed down the wrong path.

Fitness Manager Darren Taylor completely changed my mind about fitness and eating healthy. He made me see that it wasn’t something that was impossible to achieve. He also taught me so much, from good movement form, to having to discipline myself with food, and experimenting with how to cook with food. I never thought it would be possible. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have attempted to do any of those things.

Because Darren is a fitness manager, he couldn’t keep me permanently as a client. When I first met Kainoa he was really quiet. But I kept telling myself I’d made progress and I needed to keep trying. Kainoa is a good guy with a really good heart. Now, a training session with him is honestly my favorite part of the day.

24Life: How has your success affected other parts of your life?

NO: I’m able to look at myself in the mirror and treat myself with the love and respect I deserve as a person. I don’t constantly beat myself up for every little imperfection I see with my appearance. I’m a lot happier. I eat very healthy, no more junk food. Fitness and exercise are a part of my daily routine—I can’t go a day without doing some type of activity.

24Life: If you have a bad day or week, what helps you get back on track?

NO: If I have a bad day, my coaches are there every step of the way, reminding me how far I came and telling me don’t give up. I worked very hard not to go back into the bad choices I made in the past.

I did learn it takes the right coach to click with the right person. The coaches I have right now are the right ones for me. They both are amazing people, and I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am if it weren’t for them. Every session I always try my best to make them proud of me.

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: Nicole Ortega