If you’re a member at the South Oakland YMCA, you’ve probably seen Alexis Sumner. She’s very active, taking classes, working out in the Wellness Center and “lifting with the big boys” as she says with a laugh.
What you might not know about her, though, is that she’s lost more than half her body weight since joining the Y in 2008.
She hit her all-time high weight of more than 400 pounds then, at the age of 24. As shocking as that was for her, she realized it was time for her to make the commitment to taking better care of herself. And she knew she needed the motivation of going to a gym, versus trying to exercise at home. “I knew if I was paying for something, I would do it,” she says. “I just told myself that you’re here for these three or six months or whatever it was I paid up front for, and you’re all in.”
She felt accepted and comfortable immediately at the Y. “It’s always interesting looking at things that happen in your life and seeing the little blessings,” she says. “When I was walking in, the people who were greeting me were so genuine and nice, and then the people that took me around and helped me do all the weight machines could have all had attitudes, like ‘why should we help her’ but none of them were like that.” If they had been difficult, she admits, she would have left as soon as she could, but instead, because people were so respectful and kind, she felt empowered to get her exercise program off the ground. “I found my fit here,” she says.
She started out on the elliptical for only five or ten minutes at a time, and gradually progressed to an hour. After losing about 100 pounds, she decided to start running the mile and a half between her house and the Y. Now, she regularly does sprint-distance triathlons, and is training for her first marathon this fall. “I could barely walk 100 feet when I started telling people at the Y I wanted to do a triathlon,” she said. “Everyone was really encouraging.”
Now, she says, “I’ve become one of those people!” She was recently visiting a friend in another city, and her friend’s roommate mentioned she was going to do a 5K run one morning. Alexis joined her without a thought, and then went hiking for a few hours that afternoon before embarking on the long drive home. She also bikes back and forth to her 3-hour Hawaiian dance classes, runs to friends’ homes rather than driving there, and generally is constantly active.
People always ask her how she lost the weight, and are surprised when she tells them that it was simply diet and exercise, done consistently over time. When she started, she told herself it took all 24 years to get to this point and it might take her 24 more to get down to a healthy weight. That sort of patience, perseverance and determination led to her success.
“I had to make the decision for myself,” she says. “I had to tell myself that I want something for myself down the road which is better than what I have now.”
She found that, and continues to evolve into a healthier, more active person…and it all began at the Y.