When 26-year-old Diana Vega moved to Huntington Beach from the Philippines six years ago, she couldn’t have felt more out of place. She was in a new country, learning a new language and struggling to make friends.
Within her first few visits to her local 24 Hour Fitness, Vega was drawn to the palpable energy coming from inside the GX24 studio.
“There were people of all ages and body types, having fun dancing or lifting weights, sweating, strengthening — while there I was, outside, jealous of their confidence, sick of the treadmill,” she says. “I had a fear what other people might think of me, but I saw the diversity of the people inside the room. I saw their confidence, their lack of care for left or right, or whether they swayed their hips right. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be in there.”
Vega finally got up the nerve to try a class. She says things really started to click when she began taking Zumba® classes. Her instructor spotted her lurking in the back and eventually pulled her to the front of the class: “I became more confident in my speech, in my stance, with the way I danced, punched uppercuts, squatted.”
As she found and followed her passion, Vega saw results: “My body looked better. My mind was stronger. My heart was bigger. I looked forward to every class, because in there, I would test my strength and endurance and become my best self.”
But the group of friends Vega made — from millennials to baby boomers, from around the world — became her true motivation. “We all fit together because we got to know each other in our wet, sweaty gym clothes,” she says.
“I learned that I can be fun when I reach my 60s. I can still be graceful and strong, always willing to learn and try new things. They built up my self-esteem. They helped me believe in myself more.”
From Friends in Class to Help in a Crisis
After countless classes, 5K runs, dinners, house parties and trips to the beach, Diana’s group of friends was there for support when she needed them most.
“In September 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer,” Vega says. “A rare, fast-growing sarcoma on my left breast needed aggressive treatment and, at the same time, I was going through a divorce.”
Her GX24 family stepped up to the plate, offering to take Vega in and help her through the battle. She chose to stay with one of her classmates, and says, “She was, in every way, a mother to me — and she still is, and always will be.”
Vega adds, “It’s surreal that just two years ago, we were just gym friends. And now, we have an inseparable bond.” Vega’s GX24 friends even held a fundraising event and contributed more than $3,000 to assist with her medical bills.
Today, Vega is back to her routine, rocking out with her friends in Zumba and doing it cancer-free.
“I will always be a fan of GX24,” Vega says. “I know that every day there is someone on the treadmill, elliptical or step mill looking in and seeing how much fun we are having. There will always be someone out there like me who will face their fears and come in. And I will be there, along with my friends, to welcome them.”