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Whitney Walton

Treadmills, ellipticals, and weighted hula-hoops OH MY! This was my idea of health before my life with Versus Strength and Conditioning.

Let’s not even get started on the endless weight loss attempts I’ve tried. From Weight Watchers to the Southbeach diet, I tried it all. Nothing worked… Well let’s rephrase that, I didn’t care for it to work.

In my mind I was always meant to be the girl with “big bones” and a “fluffy tire” around my waist that was too uncoordinated to walk on a flat surface without tripping on air. I had always been the heavy girl and constantly struggled with my weight. So, trying the new health fad seemed like a hopeless loss. I knew it would work for a little while.. but then what? Old habits would sink in and I’d find myself repeating the same toxic lifestyle.

That was until I was invited to my first outdoor Versus class. The summer of 2012 was when I first began my journey at Versus Strength and Conditioning. Keep in mind, my idea of a workout was walking until I had barely made a sweat. At the time, I didn’t really know what a blessing I was agreeing to, but when I was asked to try it out, I just said “why not. In my head I was thinking… I’ve tried everything else, I guess Versus Strength and Conditioning can be added to the list of methods to check off and move on the next best option.

Now, if someone would have told me I’d be doing deadlifts and burpees , and loving it,..well..(minus the burpees because let’s be honest, those hateful things belong to the devil himself) I would probably have a big belly laugh. But here I was headed to the grassy field behind Temple Baptist church.

When I got there I was instantly greeted with friendly faces and Coach Michael. With their help and encouragement I rode the struggle bus to the end of the death on a whiteboard. If the workout wasn’t intense enough, the soreness my body felt the next day remains vividly etched in my memory of feelings I hope to never revisit. Despite feeling like a train had run over me forward and backwards, I decided to be strong and give Versus Strength and Conditioning a 2 week try before saying I’d never go back. Welp.. 2 weeks quickly turned into 2 months and then even more quickly became the only gym I had ever wanted to call home.

But you know the problem of calling anything a home? We get comfortable. No doubt I had made serious improvements from being the same girl I was before I started Versus. My confidence had spiked, my weight had dropped a little, and I finally figured out I wasn’t as much of a klutz as I had originally thought. I had even participated in a couple of I Am Versus Challenges. So, I kind of knew the foundations of a healthy lifestyle and how to make it happen. However, comfort got in the way. I got comfortable with doing a mediocre job in the gym and in what I ate. So the results paused and then…life happened.

Now time to get into the heavy side of what made my story a success story. Without these next few experiences (or as my mom calls it, character building lessons), I doubt the opportunity to tell my story here would have been possible.

In the fall of 2015 I was months away from graduating college and had actually made some decent progress with my health at the gym. I thought I was on the road to the good life. But sometimes life has a way of taking a quick turn down some bumpy, bumpy roads. I met someone, moved away from home, and thought life would be peachy. Some of you ladies and gentlemen know what I’m talking about. In the process of loving someone I thought loved me back, I lost myself. I forgot how to stand up for myself, knowing my worth, knowing I matter, knowing my health and happiness was more important than the happiness of a person who could care less.

Thankfully, at the beginning of 2018, I woke up from the toxic lifestyle I had been stuck in and by the grace of God, got out of that situation and took a one way ticket back to Hattiesburg, MS. I plugged myself back into all the things that I had once loved, including going back to Versus Strength and Conditioning.

I was going through all the motions I thought would bring the old me back, which is crazy right? I had changed, life had changed. How could I expect a positive outcome if I was trying to return to this negative comfort that I had obtained before all hell broke loose? So, guess what happened… all the weight I had gained after leaving Hattiesburg, MS and all the depression of thinking I wasn’t worth a dime never went away. In fact, I would say it got worse. Then, life gave my family and me another slap in the face. Thankfully, this slap was the turning point of my self-worth and happiness.

In January of 2019, my family started out the new year with the loss of my uncle. This man was a huge part of my life and meant the world to me. Unfortunately, my uncle fell into some serious health problems due to years of a toxic lifestyle. Due to his unhealthy habits, our family lost him way too early.

As heartbreaking as this news was to our family, it provided me with an incredibly new and raw perspective of how precious life is. There is a song sung by the Bethel band called Raise the Hallelujah. One of the lyrics sings “I’m gunna sing in the middle of the storm, louder and louder, you’re gunna hear my praises roar. Up from the ashes, hope will arise.” Yall, if that hasn’t been my anthem since that sorrowful day. I prayed for a way to make my life mean something, some way to rise from the ashes that was pathed in front of me. A way that I could be here for the people I cared about as long as possible and honor my uncle in the way I knew to make him proud. .

Well, you know how you pray for a sign, and the sign he is giving you isn’t really one you want to explore? Yea, that was me with the Clean Kitchen Challenge.

Versus Strength and Conditioning had been advertising the Clean Kitchen Challenge on Instagram and Facebook soon after my uncle had passed. I had given the challenge some thought in the past but even as it was being blasted on my newsfeed then I was lying to myself. Thinking: “I know how to eat right on my own.” “That is a bunch of money for something that may not even work.” Blah blah blah. In rolled the excuses. So, instead of enrolling in the winter challenge, I decided I was going to take reigns into my own hands. When Lent began in February, I told myself I was only cooking from the Clean Kitchen Cookbook because that’s got to be all Clean Kitchen is right?

Long story short, doing things on my own only worked so long, but God has always had this sense of humor in showing me working on my own in anything never turns out to my benefit. So, as he opened the opportunity to rise out of the ashes again, I finally gave in at the end of April 2019. I used the last chunk of tax return money and enrolled myself into the Summer Clean Kitchen Challenge. I expected to lose some weight, maybe even improve in the gym. What I didn’t expect was to become an entirely different woman. I totally surprised myself and lost roughly 30 pounds, a caboodle amount of inches off my entire body, and I even came in 2nd place by the end of the challenge!!

Since then I have been able to successfully maintain my Clean Kitchen results and lifestyle. In fact, it’s been enjoyable and fun to learn new ways of improving my health.

Since beginning my Clean Kitchen Challenge I have lost 50 pounds and have gone down 4 pant sizes.

I got the joy of throwing out all of my “big Debra” clothes and my old ways of thinking. What was self-pity became self-worth. What was not feeling enough became more than plenty. What was once a mind full of doubt became a mind full of goals and achievements. What was once a heart of depression and anxiety became a heart full of joy and love for myself. Once all of these realizations became new in my mind and soul, there was no turning back. I was and am now ready to take on the world.

Versus Strength and Conditioning has an incredible team of people willing to help in every aspect of life. Whether it is Coach Mason pushing me to my potential on days I want to be lazy, Coach Nathan’s positive grins as he’s relaying the daunting workout, Coach Steve believing in me on the days I didn’t believe in myself or Coach Marshall who insists on pulling on the heart strings when life kicks me in the gut, someone has been there to help me confidently be successful at my new healthy lifestyle every step of the way.

This gym is so much more than a tin building to get a workout in and make a sweat.

The community Versus creates is like no other place I’ve ever been a part of. I have created lifelong friends, bonds with coaches that I could never find anywhere else and a place that has become my safe space to be me. It’s a place I can forget about all of my stressors from the day and just have fun! I’m certain that if I had not been invited to Versus Strength and Conditioning on those hot summer months, the woman I have become today would have been a long distance dream. Versus has become a vital part of my lifeline. It’s not just something to squeeze into my everyday life, but it is an essential part of my personal growth and well-being. Versus Strength and Conditioning is my home! I know, I know.. there’s that “home” word again but don’t worry, getting comfortable isn’t going to be possible for the year 2020. Bring on the goals and gains!

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