Behind the Scenes
My lifechanging decision to get healthy started with inspiration from a colleague and some help from a fitness club

My life-changing decision to get healthy started with inspiration from a colleague and some help from a fitness club.

How a Friend and a Fitness Club Changed My Life

Club Industry Content Producer Eric Stromgren.

Hello, Club Industry readers.

I want to let you know how excited I am to have joined the Club Industry team. I look forward to covering the fitness industry and, more importantly, delivering stories on topics that matter to you.

Want to share a news tip, story or talk? Please reach out.

You can contact me at (303) 998-9297, E-mail at [email protected], on LinkedIn, on Twitter @estromgren  and on Instagram @ericstromgren.

Let me start with an admission.

I am not a fitness industry expert, but I am hoping to change that soon and am learning so much every day. The welcome has been warm, and I want to thank the Club Industry editorial advisory board members I have connected with so far.

The hard-working Club Industry team, including Pam Kufahl, Marty McCallen, Tina Beebe and Laurie Morylak, are getting me up to speed and working hard on the (awesome) Club Industry Show coming to Chicago in October.

I do know one thing about the fitness industry: it helped me become the person I am today.

I was out of shape, unhealthy and weighed nearly 300 pounds back in 2008 when I was a sports writer for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota's northwoods. Today, I am in-shape (mostly), more healthy and near 200 pounds with a pair of half marathons under my belt.

My success story is probably similar to others heard in the fitness industry.

My journey started with my friend, Brad Swenson, and a decision to live a healthier life.

Swenson was an exceptional Minnesota political journalist, quick to crack a joke and brutally honest in his advice (usually given with a touch of humor).

Swenson's biggest challenge away from the office was living with diabetes.

Brad Swenson, left, and Eric Stromgren in 2008.

On a bitterly cold winter night in the newsroom, I saw him in distress and called 911 for an ambulance. He fell into a diabetic coma, but he pulled through and weeks later returned to the job he loved.

Swenson thanked me for saving his life when he returned to the office. It was humbling and made me think about my health.

I took charge and was able afford a membership at the local Anytime Fitness thanks to a wellness plan through my health insurance provider. The employees there were so passionate teaching the fitness basics and equipment to a club newbie. I was thrilled to lose 60 pounds over the course of the next year.

By April 2012, I began a new job in St. Cloud, Minnesota and used the new start as an opportunity to lose more weight.

The thing that remained the same? The club. It was a place to focus. 

That summer, I managed my diet better and committed myself to dedicating more time to fitness. That time helped me discover how much I enjoyed the mental aspects of distance running.

I remained in contact with Swenson, who continued writing while rehabilitating and navigating health care bureaucracy. He always found ways to write about his wellness challenges with humor and honesty.

In June, a former coworker called me to tell me Swenson died in his sleep. He was 57.

I never truly told him how much his fight challenged and inspired change in my life.

As time went on, my club membership lapsed, and I dedicated more outdoor training to distance training. I ran my first half marathon Labor Day weekend and was under 200 pounds on race day. As time went on, the positive mental focus I found in training mattered far more than the number on the scale.

I haven't looked back. So, thank you to the people at Bemidji Anytime Fitness locations for getting me going.

What I discovered in my first few weeks here at Club Industry is that my experience as a consumer touches on many relevant and interesting topics that matter to you: wellnesscustomer engagementmember retention and fitness education.

I know what this industry can mean to the people in this country seeking a healthy, active and better life.

I am looking forward to working with you and for you.

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