Three years ago, Andrea Hall’s mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, and her whole life flashed before her eyes.
Her mom’s cancer worsened and she eventually died. Two weeks before that, Hall, a San Bruno resident, lost her job. Two weeks after her mother passed, her grandmother died of congestive heart failure.
To make matters worse, Hall found herself morbidly obese at 345 pounds at the age of 27.
Instead of wallowing in her sorrows, Hall turned her hardships into motivation to get her health back—for her mother, for her family and, most importantly, for herself.
So she began to walk, which turned into running, which turned into working out on a regular basis at the Millbrae 24 Hour Fitness. Hall has now lost 120 pounds and is training for her first half marathon. It was all because she made a choice.
“I just wanted to move—it came to that,” said Hall, now 30. “It was life or death. That was my ‘aha’ moment.”
With such a dramatic transformation, one would think Hall might have turned to some special diet and exercise plan advertised on TV. Rather, she turned inward and decided to hit the gym the old-fashioned way.
At first, she started with cardio—running on the treadmill, working on the Stairmaster and using the elliptical machine—and lost 75 pounds. But then she hit a plateau.
That’s when she met Ralph Brooks, a personal trainer at the 24 Hour Fitness, and her fitness success kicked into high gear.
“For her, when she shared her story with me, it was about earning that trust and showing her that I saw her potential because you can teach technique, you can teach skill, but you can’t teach that human connection,” Brooks said. “I just really believed in her.”
On a weekly basis, Brooks began working with Hall, who had a more flexible schedule now that she was out of a job.
He began coaching her on her nutrition, and he gradually began introducing more complex exercises into her workouts to “shock the body,” as he described it.
Through a lot of hard work, Hall eventually began to shed the pounds.
The whole time, Hall said, she hasn’t bought into any fitness dream. Although she still wants to lose more weight, she isn’t so focused on being thin as she is on being healthy. After all, she said, she’s Italian, she can’t live without pasta and she wants to keep her curves.
“I was fat. Now, I like my body,” she said. “I realized that I just have to be realistic with myself.”
Brooks said he has been impressed by Hall’s determination not just because she made a decision to exercise but also because she had a reason why she wanted to exercise—and she stuck to her plan.
“She had a strong why—her mother and also herself. She didn't want to live an unhealthy lifestyle and go at early age,” said Brooks, who is now the fitness manager at a 24 Hour Fitness in San Mateo. “A lot of people who join a gym do it as a New Year’s resolution and they’re gone by March because they lose focus. What people don't understand is that this is a lifetime commitment. You’ve got to put in the work, and you have to have patience.”
Hall hasn’t stopped with working out at the gym, though.
She is about to go into her final year of her master’s program at St. Mary’s College and had some time off during the summer, so she has decided to train for a half marathon, which will take place in August.
She doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone, so she’s not worried about how long it takes her to get to the finish line.
Just like in life, she just wants to make it to the end.
“I’ve always had to be in a losing mode,” Hall said. But after completing the upcoming race, she knows she’ll be determined to win every challenge from now on.
Who knows? she said. If all goes well, “My next big challenge would have to be a triathlon.”