Lani Fry Reclaims Her Life

By Emily Beers – September 22nd, 2018

Lani Fry was tired of going to funerals.

Her mother died from an aneurysm—attributed to high blood pressure—at 48. Two of her brothers died of congestive heart failure, both in their mid-30s.

Fry’s remaining siblings aren’t in perfect health, either. Two have Type 2 diabetes—one had to have her leg amputated—and another is battling heart failure.

“I wanted to avoid all this,” said 45-year-old Fry, who started experiencing health problems of her own in her 20s.

“I had high blood pressure already when I was 25, and I found out my heart was enlarged at 26,” she said.

Fry assumed she was destined for poor health. She chalked it up to genetics.

“I was born on the island of Guam, which is known for Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” she said. “I’m also part Filipino, and there are a lot of scientific studies that show that Filipinos are more prone to diabetes.”

ALT TEXTBlaming genetics for her health issues, Lani Fry passed on hiking with husband Eric and Boston the dog. (Courtesy of Lani Fry)

By the time she turned 37, Fry weighed close to 200 lb. at 5 foot 4 and had an A1C level of 9.6 percent. The A1C test measures average blood-glucose levels over a period of approximately three months, and a reading over 6.5 percent is indicative of Type 2 diabetes—putting Fry well into the diabetic range.

“That’s when they started me on diabetes meds,” Fry said. She also began taking medication for high blood pressure, and at one point her doctor recommended she take cholesterol medication as well.

Her life “pretty much sucked,” Fry said.

“I sat at home every day. Every day. Every day,” she emphasized. “I didn’t have an active life at all. My husband is nine years younger than me and he has always been an active hiker and liked running, and I was always like, ‘I can’t do it. I might die.’ I lived in total fear.”

Then one day in 2017, Fry’s sister-in-law paid a visit.

“Her muscles were sticking out all over; I was totally blown away,” Fry said. “And she said it was from CrossFit. I had heard about CrossFit before and had done a boot camp once, but there was no personal attention for me. That’s what I struggled with. I needed coaching.”

The visit was the push she needed to start focusing on her fitness. She contacted Cody Looney at CrossFit Advantage in Lynnwood, Washington, and began training in July 2017.

“I was so anxious and didn’t think I could do it. I felt old and weak, but Cody and coach Sarah (Griffin) were so encouraging right from the start,” Fry said of her first days at CrossFit Advantage.

ALT TEXTFry’s transformation is proof that genetics don’t define your health and longevity. (Courtesy of Cody Looney)

Today, Fry weighs 180 lb., and her bloodwork shows a dramatic improvement in her health. Her A1C level is down to 5.8 percent—below 5.7 percent is considered normal.

“My doctor took me off my diabetes meds at the end of 2017,” she said. “And I’m waiting to see the doctor next month to see if I can get off my blood-pressure meds now, too.”

In just six months, Fry reversed her diabetes. But it took more than just working out consistently—she also overhauled her diet.

“I have been counting my macros to make sure I’m getting the right amount of carbs, protein and fat,” she said, adding that she now eats mostly unprocessed foods.

“We used to have muffins and cookies on the counter, but now we have cherries and bananas,” she said. She also quit her six-pack-a-day soda habit.

Her improvements at the gym have been significant.

“I know it sounds silly, but when I got there I couldn’t run more than 100 meters without dying. Now I can run 400 meters just fine,” she said. “And burpees. I can do burpees with my eyes closed now. … I can’t do a pull-up yet, but I’m going to. Before, I would have just said, ‘I’m never going to be able to do that.’ Now I believe I’ll be able to one day.”

But we train for life, and Fry’s newfound fitness isn’t limited to the gym. Just two months into her training, she walked into a beehive, inciting a swarm of angry bees to attack.

“I started running and jumped over the fence to get away. Before, I never would have done that,” she said. “I literally would have just given up and let myself get stung by the bees. For other people, that might not sound like a big deal, but for me, it was a big win jumping over that three-foot fence.”

And as Fry’s fitness has improved, so has her outlook on life.

“I used to just stay in the house 24-7, but now I get up and do things. CrossFit has made me want to get up from my couch and get outside. Before, I wouldn’t get up unless my husband dragged me,” she said. “And I actually laugh again. I’m alive now.”

For that reason, Fry says she’ll be a client for life at CrossFit Advantage.

“I feel sorry for Cody, but I’m never going to leave. He’s stuck with me,” she said.

ALT TEXTPictured with coaches Cody Looney (left) and Sarah Griffin (right), Fry said getting fit has helped her enjoy life outside the gym again. (Courtesy of Cody Looney)

A client for life is music to any coach’s ears, said Looney, but he’s more excited about Fry’s accomplishments—especially her attitude adjustment.

Fry used to dwell on the things she couldn’t do at the gym, Looney explained, which negatively affected her performance and mentality. Looney worked with her to get rid of her negative self-talk, and it’s made all the difference.

“Now you can see in her face and hear in her words that she’s starting to look at difficult tasks and challenges as opportunities instead of obstacles or barriers,” he said. “We use the phrase ‘say yes to life’ here lot, and seeing her embrace that and apply it to her words and actions inside the gym and outside the gym has been really cool.”

Her transformation is proof that hard work yields results, he continued.

“Life isn’t a spectator sport,” he said. “You have to get out there and play the game even if you were dealt a different hand than others, and Lani is a great example of someone who wasn’t living the way she wanted to and decided to do something about it.”

Fry admitted she used to play the victim card, blaming the hand she was dealt for her struggles with health and happiness.

“I used to think that my body and my genetics were just bad,” she said. “I always felt like I was just given a bad card, but I don’t anymore.”

She added: “And it’s because of CrossFit. I told Cody, ‘You saved my life.’ He really did. The coaches and the gym, they saved my life. They gave me a new outlook on life. Every time I talk about it, I just want to cry.”

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.

About the Author: Emily Beers is a CrossFit Journal contributor and coach at CrossFit Vancouver. She finished 37th at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Cover image: Courtesy of Cody Looney

This article was originally published on the CrossFit Journal. You can find it here.

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About The Author

Neil Scholtz

Neil Scholtz is a certified Personal Trainer turned CrossFit coach. He has competed at the CrossFit Games and coached athletes that have competed at the CrossFit Games, but that's not his main focus. Most of his time is spent consulting or coaching individuals to improve their lives through fitness. He has worked with over 1000 individuals from various walks of life. Tailoring solutions to their lifestyle needs.