Thanks to a fitness model convention called FitPosium in Phoenix, Arizona, we have met some incredible women with amazing stories over the years. To us, they are true inspirations! Check out their stories …
Niki Zager was welcomed to the world in Salt Lake City, Utah by her parents, both practicing lawyers. They moved to San Diego when she was 5. A rough-and-tumble tomboyish kid, Niki played sports and for Halloween she was Peter Pan. At age 7, she uncharacteristically complained to her parents that she felt pain in her left hip. She was soon diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes, a childhood hip disease claimed by doctors to only be treatable through a radical surgical procedure and prolonged recovery.
Niki’s family decided to beat this disease without surgery if possible by learning everything they could about the disease. The first nine surgeons were unreceptive to the family’s proposed treatment regime of crutches to keep the hip non-weight bearing, swimming to avoid atrophy, and manual manipulation for range of motion. The doctors insisted that radical surgery was the only option. The tenth doctor, however, agreed that theoretically it could work with a compliant patient.
Niki used the crutches at school religiously. (She forever thanks her best friend Caitlin for carrying her books and sitting out during recess to eat with her.) Niki’s dad carried her up and down the stairs of the three-story house and to the pool to swim. He did the range of motion exercises every night without exception.
When Niki was 9, she was fully recovered, better – according to the doctors – than if she’d had surgery. Despite the early medical doubters, her recovery was so spectacular that in high school, while captain of her cheer squad, this flyer could perform the “scorpion” (holding her foot with her hands behind her head), a tribute to her dedication and strength. Her spark was recognized while in cheer each year with the “Most Spirited” award for her positivity, empathy, and enthusiasm. As a by-product of her swimming treatment for her hip, Niki became a competitive individual medley (butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke, free style) swimmer.
Niki’s broad range of accomplishments didn’t stop there. She went on to become a UC Irvine honor’s graduate in three years, a competitive triathlete, a professional cheerleader for the L.A. Kings, and an NPC Bikini Champion. She owns her own training and motivation business and has plans to launch an online Mind, Body & Spirit Membership Program this year. In 2020, she and a carefully selected team will be embarking on a national motivational fitness tour, encouraging others to reach their goals in both health, fitness, and life.
Niki’s motto, to live life to the fullest degree for you only get out of life what you put in to it, is evident in her actions. Her most recent accomplishment, an aspiration since childhood, to be on the cover of a magazine, was just realized with this issue of Max Sports & Fitness magazine.
Follow Niki on Instagram @nikizager
Kelley Patrick, a mom and full-time traveling sales rep, had no self control with food for many years. Whatever sounded good or looked good, she would indulge, which often meant finishing an entire pizza, container of ice cream, or full box of cereal. For five or so years while weighing 200+ pounds, she tried dieting pills and the latest diet fads to lose weight, but nothing helped. “I found myself maybe going down five pounds but then jumping up 10 or more,” she said.
For Kelley, it was a complete dieting roller coaster and the hardest part was the emotional toll and epic failure of what it had done to her self worth. She was depressed to the point of seeking antidepressants from her doctor, had a high BMI, would often get sick, and suffered from hip and back issues. She also avoided social situations because she was embarrassed of how she looked.
“The inability of becoming the best version of myself in any capacity was not only affecting myself but it transpired to me not being the best I could for my family, work, or friends,” she said. “After numerous, quite honestly, 100 attempts to get on the right track to my fitness and health goals, I found it was more about finding the willpower and having the mental focus and toughness to accomplish it.”
Today, Kelley is fit and healthy. Her upbeat, positive attitude are infectious and she is an inspiration to everyone she meets. She has since started a brand called Fit In Transit to help people who travel all the time to stay healthy and fit. She is currently putting a free seminar together called, “Becoming Your Own Best” to help inspire, motivate, and transform women for the better. “My goals in life have changed over the last decade. I’m trying to find ways I can help create a positive change in others and have an impact based upon my own experiences,” she said. “I don’t want anyone remaining at the state I was once in, because you CAN get out of it!”
Presentations at the seminar to be held in January in Mesa, Arizona will address how to find your why and not let excuses get in the way, how to be unstoppable at any age, how to find the keys to success for holding yourself accountable, self body love at every stage of the journey, and so much more. To find out more about the seminar or to sign up, search for “Becoming Your Own Best” on Facebook to find the EventBrite invitation.
Follow Kelley on Instagram @fit.in.transit
Tiffany Gaston embarked on her fitness journey more than 20 years ago, not out of vanity, but necessity. Having always been an athlete, she unfortunately developed a twisted perception about her muscular body at a very young age. As a gymnast, the notion that her muscles were unattractive ultimately led to a lengthy battle with anorexia.
At 82 pounds and 12 years of age, she finally sought professional help. “After extended therapy to regain a healthier state of mind over the devastating body dysmorphia I was suffering, I discovered an internal strength I had never known before,” Tiffany said. “This newfound determination to embrace my athletic build, led me on a path to prove first to myself, then to the world, that strength is beautiful.”
Today, Tiffany is proud to say she no longer has a poor relationship with food, which was not an overnight task. By learning how to fuel her body properly, establishing balance, and implementing a lifestyle that works for her, she feels she has found her truest sense of self. “Learning to appreciate my athletic build took years for me, but I’m so grateful to be part of the movement in which women see their strength as beauty in any size or shape they were meant to be,” she said.
Tiffany’s experiences have shaped her goals, which include helping others see that if she can overcome these challenges, they have the power within them to do the same. “‘We rise by lifting others’” has never rang more true than it does to me these days,” Tiffany said.
One way she is trying to lift others up is through her role as an executive board member for the #LoveUP Foundation. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness and funds for the 18K+ vulnerable children in foster care in Arizona (learn more at loveupfoundation.org). The hashtag/movement, #LoveUP, has even more meaning behind it, as many have been moved to pay it forward or give back in some small way.
Tiffany is turning 40 in 2018, which means she has been reflecting on her past and where she sees herself in the future. “I no longer feel like the helpless little girl I was. I was so confused and uncomfortable in my own skin. I looked to others for approval. I admired rail thin super models, which I would never look like,” she said. But that has all changed now.
Tiffany hopes her passion will challenge others to take control of their lives and broaden their minds to embrace all types of beauty and self love. “Giving back to your community, being a good person, and being a positive example for your children or those around you – that is where it’s at!” she said.
Follow Tiffany on Instagram @tiffanyleegaston