"What's the most important step a man can take?
It's not the first one. It's the next one."
Rewind to September 2016 and you likely wouldn't recognize Mark Vines. Now a regular in Beast Mode classes at the Powdersville YMCA, Mark weighed 441 pounds and was ready for a change.
"A couple of months before that I decided I was tired of living that way, basically having a hard time living life," Mark said.
After consulting with a doctor, Mark had surgery and quickly lost weight.
But Mark knew he needed more - he needed a lifestyle change based around exercise and healthy eating.
"One of the things they hammered home about the surgery is that if you abuse it you won't get what you want out of it," Mark said. "I decided to be very focused on the diet and to go as hardcore as I could at exercising. At 400+ points, that was difficult."
Mark started out doing what he was physically able to do - primarily the elliptical, walking and some weight training.
Between the surgery and exercising, Mark lost 100 pounds in six months, reaching the pinnacle of what statistics said the surgery would do on its own. But Mark wanted more.
"At that point, I was still overweight, and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity," Mark said.
In April of 2017, at 290 pounds, Mark took a step outside of his normal routine, implementing exercises he saw the Beast Mode class doing. He would even go outside to work out on his own after the class was over.
"Two people in the class encouraged me to come out and join, and I just shrugged them off," Mark said.
After talking with Wellness Director Paulo Passini about how to implement more of the exercises into his workout, Mark decided to join the class and hasn't looked back since. At the beginning of May 2018, Mark was down to 207 pounds.
"It's not easy, but it's not easy for anybody. It's about going out there and working hard," Mark said. "It's not just that one number everyone thinks about, but it's about the fitness that has come from it."
Eighteen months ago, Mark had pre-hypertension and had health issues like gout, but at a recent checkup all of his markers showed he's in perfect health.
"I had all these things looking me in the face saying, 'You're not sick right now, but you're going to be very sick in the future,'" Mark said.
Mark has lost weight, but he has gained SO MUCH MORE in the process - health, wellness and new friendships.
"One of the greatest things I've gained is relationships. I've gained some of my closest friends in the last 18 months, and they mean so much to me," Mark said.
Mark said he always had an excuse for not exercising and being healthy. But he overcame that mental hurdle, and his story shows the importance of choosing to take that step.
"What's the most important step a man can take? It's not the first one. It's the next one," Mark said. "Every time you have an excuse, or every time you eat poorly, you just have to get up and do it again."