Andrea Steffens: Her Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle

Andrea Steffens, the Recreation Manager here at the RiverPlex, decided two years ago that it was time for a healthier lifestyle change. After going through a few rough years of life, with little support on her decision, she made that change and hasn’t looked back.

Since 2016, Andrea has lost 50 pounds. “Body composition is a great thing. I had lost weight on the scale, but because of the way I trained I have gained so much muscle and so much confidence.” There is so much more to being healthy than losing weight on a scale! Like we’ve stated in previous blogs, muscle is denser that fat. Meaning, the more muscle you have the heavier you may be on the scale, but you will appear fit! Andrea noted that weight loss doesn’t have to be all about losing. “I’ve gained so much from this lifestyle change of mine.” Andrea focuses on how she feels in her own skin, how she is able to live life day to day and is able to prioritize her health and her daughter (Alex) instead of feeling ashamed of herself.

The first time she really exercised, Andrea was in college and had a long commute to classes.  She decided that she would exercise in between classes instead of going home. “I would run on the treadmills in the recreation center, but I wasn’t training with a coach to help push me. It wasn’t enough for me to see results, it was only enough to keep me busy.” Fast forward to December 2017 when Andrea decided to really start training specifically and consistently with our coaches here at the RiverPlex. Andrea has always been goal oriented with her training, and I will be the first to say that she takes each and every training session seriously. She never cheats a repetition, always listens to coaching advice, and most important she communicates. She communicates her feelings, injuries, goals, concerns, etc. I think this is really a key aspect in training with a coach. You have to be able to communicate how you feel as the participant and you have to let the coaches know what you want to gain from training. Otherwise, you’re exercising freely, not training!

“Right now everything is more focused in and specific with my training. After college, I had a baby and “all that stuff” and I kind of gave up and lost focus on my health. I was focusing everything on my kid. Life had hit me hard (not regarding her daughter, just other life events) and I needed to regain focus on myself.” Andrea’s first goal was to run a half marathon now that she had hit her 30s. “I started small. I did the couch to 5K program on my phone. Then once that was successful I then did the couch to 10K on my phone. Then couch to 13K. That program had a lot of interval training and sprints. It would tell me when to sprint and when to jog. I started running outside even in the winter time.” Andrea worked her way up to her first half marathon where she was happy to finish in 2 hours and 2 minutes. She was dang proud of herself for accomplishing this first goal! “I held a 9:20 pace overall and it was pretty hilly in Door County. I was really proud of myself. After the half marathon was over with, I was like okay what’s next? And that is when I started gaining interest in weight training.

“I fell in love with toning; specifically Burn Zone and HIRT (offered here at the RiverPlex in the training studio). I love the aspect of seeing what my body can do. I never imagined being able to bench press two 45 pound dumbbells. You don’t have to run 12 miles a day every day for a year to see results. Coaching, working full time, playing sports, being a single mom, there are absolutely no excuses for taking care of my health. I don’t beat myself up if I don’t work out one day. You have to be consistent. You don’t have to make up that missed training sessions.” *Note that this is a key piece of advice here: you will miss a training session, you will be busy, and you will have to find a balance between work and personal… however, if you miss that session don’t beat yourself up over it. That will only snowball into you being hard on yourself and having unrealistic expectations. Take it one day at a time! Missing one workout won’t change you just like eating one healthy meal won’t change the way you look. J

Andrea’s secret advice? “You have to stick with it. No results are immediate. You have to give 110%.” If you haven’t found something that you love and something that you look forward to doing every day, then you haven’t found your calling! Andrea found hiking and backpacking. Outdoors is where she can be alone with her thoughts and center her energy. “You have to put in the work to see that breath taking view at the top.” “To train, I would condition myself but I was doing minimal weight training. I would go on long hikes with my pack on to practice for the real deal; I would put my pack on and walk on the stair stepper for a certain amount of time.” For Andrea, it’s (backpacking) about the challenge- mentally and physically.” She mentioned that on the trails she would pass people and they would say “jeez that girl is a beast!” and it was empowering! “To be able to set goals and crush your goals is empowering.” In September of 2016, Andrea hiked Glacier National Park. In 2017, she hiked Isle Royale National Park. Earlier this year she backpacked her way through Havasu Falls and part of Utah. Her goal for next year is to backpack through Maroon Bells Wilderness in Colorado with her niece.

I asked Andrea, “now that you are in this phase and that you have lost this weight- how do you maintain or continue to lose weight and gain muscle?

“I always try to be conscious but living life at the same time. I have a daughter to teach moderation to. I teach her the benefits of eating healthy – bring stronger physically and mentally. We always slip up, but my daughter is aware that McDonalds is nasty and subway is healthier. The decisions you make today are going to affect you the rest of your life. And not only do I know that, but now my daughter knows that too and we work together on being better about it.”

“My advice to those that aren’t seeing results yet, it takes time. Stick with it. There is no immediate remedy to make up for years of bad habits. If you want to see results you have to give 110%. Whatever you choose to do you have to say that you want this for you.” Not all of us are fortunate enough to have found backpacking like Andrea did, but regardless of what it is you choose to do with your health, just make sure that you have found something that you love.

author: Angela Bland