Mary Hollis had always been overweight.
“I was raised in the south, so it was a lot of fried food all the time, you know, southern cooking. I had amazing parents, but they weren’t super educated when it came to healthy eating,” said the 32-year-old Hollis, who now owns Caffeinated CrossFit in Mableton, Ga.
“And I was a super picky eater, so up until I was about 25 years old, I literally didn’t eat vegetables,” she said.
This lifestyle had led her mother to develop Type 2 diabetes and her father to wind up with high blood pressure. One day, Hollis decided she didn’t want to follow her parents’ footsteps.
“I just woke up one day and I felt terrible. I was just tired of having no energy and feeling sluggish and not liking the way my clothes fit,” she said.
That was in 2012.
Breaking the Cycle
Hollis immediately took matters into her own hands, joined a gym and started researching healthier eating habits. Eventually she hired a personal trainer, and after a year-and-a-half she had lost 75 pounds, but had grown bored of the gym and her workouts had become stale.
“Then a friend invited me to CrossFit, and I never looked back,” she said.
Soon Hollis realized she wanted to help others do what she had done: turn her life around through diet and exercise. She then completed both the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certification and CrossFit Level 1 certificate course.
She began working at a personal training gym, but her heart was with CrossFit.
“So I started shadowing the owner of my (CrossFit) gym, learning from him and coaching some classes,” she said. And then in the spring of 2019, Hollis purchased the gym and is now the owner of Caffeinated CrossFit.
Changing Lives through Fitness
It never gets old watching her clients transform their lives right in front of her, she explained.
Like her 65-year-old female client, whose health markers — bone density and blood work — have improved through CrossFit.
“She told me the other day, ‘I come here because of you, because you empathize with me and talk with me and ask me what’s going on. That’s exactly what I need,’” Hollis said of her client.
She added: “I love working with her. Just to see her journey — she’s not this young athlete who wants to do muscle-ups. She just wants to stay active, and it’s so rewarding when she comes in and tells me that her blood work has improved,” she said. “She’s 65, but she just seems so young and active. I can relate to her so much.”
And then there is Hollis’ client Adam, who came in a couple years ago and had never worked out a day in his life.
“He was overweight and had lived a sedentary lifestyle, and now after a couple years he is coming consistently, has lost 40 pounds, is doing strict pull-ups, has improved his diet and has completely transformed his life,” she said.
Working with people like Adam and her 65-year-old client is what drives her to be better, Hollis explained.
“Seeing people accomplish things they never thought they were capable of, whether it’s weight loss or working out three days a week or getting their first pull-up. Just seeing that emotional and physical transformation is amazing as a coach,” she said.
The Secret Weapon
Her secret weapon for helping people is that Hollis once walked in their shoes.
“I’ll tell them my story and I think it helps them have confidence in themselves. For years, I, too, believed the myth that I would never be able to lose the weight and get healthy. But I did, and they can too.”
Each time she witnesses someone improve their life, Hollis is reminded of why she’s doing what she’s doing.
“It fuels me to want to keep learning, to keep getting better, to keep showing up. I’m passionate by nature, but it fuels that passion when I see their results. It’s as rewarding for me as it is for them,” she said.
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