Loni Basciano, 39, had hit rock bottom — and she knew it. She was 234 lbs, depressed and not taking care of herself. So in an effort to turn her life around, she got nutritional and training help to shed the weight, get stronger and finally be able to tackle her first Spartan race this weekend at Citi Field, NY. Here’s her inspiring transformational story.
As told to Patty Hodapp. Photos courtesy of Loni Basciano.
It wasn’t until I saw pictures of myself on a cruise with friends that I realized how badly I had let myself go.
By 38, I had packed 234 lbs into my petite 5’2’’ frame. I had just been through tough times with family, and my own health and wellbeing took a back-burner in a BIG way. Not only did I feel depressed and tired but also I lacked the motivation to do anything at all. When I’d look in the mirror I hated the person I saw. I knew that if I didn’t make a change — and fast — I never would.
My boss at my IT job in Poughkeepsie, NY had been tackling Spartan races for several years and he was always encouraging me to give it a try. I laughed at the idea. “You’re kidding, right?” I’d say. I couldn’t even walk up a hill let alone attempt to run, and obstacles were just out of the question. But that day, when I saw those photos of me on the cruise, I decided right then and there: enough was enough.
I made a solemn vow to myself that in the new year of 2018, I was going to lose 100 lbs — no matter what it took. I wanted to be healthy and fit. I wanted to be able to do crazy things like run a 5K and maybe even attempt a Spartan race someday.
After seeing amazing weight loss transformation stories on Instagram, I reached out to Mike Doehla, the CEO of StrongerU Nutrition, a tool that personalizes meal plans and educates you on how to eat. I joined StrongerU on January 4th, 2018 (I’ll never forget that day) and they assigned me a personal coach, Aaron. He taught me how to count macronutrients like proteins, carbs, and fats, and better fuel my body to lose weight. For the first time in my life, I learned how to eat, how to track food, and unlike the million other diets I had tried, I didn’t have crazy restrictions or have to eat food I hated. Honestly, I had been a yo-yo dieter for years, probably since high school. My weight would fluctuate 30 or 40 lbs any given year, and I tried every “magic” diet pill, powder, smoothie — you name it. None of it ever worked. But when I started eating clean, the pounds melted off.
Simultaneously, I hired a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym and started working out 1-2 times per week for several months. Obviously, I couldn’t do anything crazy until I shed some weight, but he gave me the tools I needed to train without getting injured. As the months passed, I was able to do more. I started lifting weights and prioritizing conditioning over longer cardio workouts. In August, StrongerU put out a challenge to members to walk or run one mile every day that month. Until that point, I’d been doing the elliptical and a lot of walking but absolutely zero running. So I took the challenge and ended up crushing over 45 miles in four weeks. And to my surprise, actually enjoyed it. I realized I had become a runner just by habit and discipline. So on a whim, I signed up for a local 5K in September to see if I could complete it. Not only did I finish, but also I placed 10th in my age group (out of 41) and 136th overall (out of 495 runners). It was my first race ever and I didn’t die (as I joked with my friends). I felt great!
By November, all of my blood, sweat, and tears paid off. I stepped on the scale and hit my weight loss goal. I couldn’t have been happier. It felt like a HUGE reward for my efforts. In just 11 months, I had dropped from size 18 in jeans to a 0 — my waist shrunk 20 inches! (This still blows my mind.)
I had to celebrate, so I decided to take my boss’s advice and sign up for my first Spartan Race. I chose the Citi Field Stadion in New York this Saturday because I thought it would be good to start with a 5K. I started lifting heavier weights and working on my upper body in preparation for some of the tough obstacles I’ll have to do. I knew the stairs would be a big challenge so I jumped on the Stairmaster at the gym every chance I got. I also started hiking trails outside which strengthened my legs and increased my endurance.
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The transformation in my body through all of this training has been insane. I am a little nervous (especially about the rope climb and the walls because I’ve never done those before) but I’m hoping I’ve trained enough to complete all the obstacles. And you know what? If I can’t, I can’t. I’ll burpee out and then I know what I have to work on when I get back to the gym. I’m racing with a team of five other StrongerU members who have supported me through my journey, and no matter what happens we’re going to have fun. Together we’ve shed several hundred pounds and transformed our lives entirely. They’ve become great friends and I wouldn’t want to be doing this crazy thing with anyone else.
In pushing my limits, building endurance, and improving my PRs over the last year, I’ve never felt stronger and healthier. I look the best I’ve ever looked in my life. At almost 40 years old, I never thought that I could feel as good as I do. Physically and mentally. I smile more, I laugh more. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone socially, made new friends, and tried new things. I even joined a book club! I think physical and nutritional health is the basis to feeling your best and can’t say enough good things about StrongerU and Spartan for pushing me to set new goals and become a stronger person. I am SUPER excited about this race. And to finally tell my boss I am a Spartan runner too! Up next? I’m racing the Spartan Sprint in Tuxedo, NY in June and eventually want to tackle an Ultra. If I can do it, you can do it. Feeling good and kicking butt is all about loving yourself and making the changes every single day to get there. Onward to Citi Field!
Find out how Loni Basciano and the rest of the Spartans racing Citifield took on race day here.