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Two Women Given New View Of Life And Themselves By Tewksbury Sports Club Trainers

May 21, 2015 12:57AM ● By Christine Berry MacKenzie

Looking for a little inspiration to get to the gym and shape up for spring?  Well, two local women, both members of The Tewksbury Sports Club have life changing stories that are sure to motivate and inspire you.

Dawn Cathcart

A single mother of one, Dawn Cathcart had spent years putting everyone and everything ahead of herself.  A Wilmington High School graduate and a longtime Tewksbury resident, Cathcart spent years volunteering throughout the Tewksbury community while raising her son Cameron.

Heavily involved in youth baseball, football and local planning boards, Cathcart had a long history of town service and volunteer work.  What she didn’t have over the years, however, was a lot of time for herself.

Suddenly, however, Cathcart’s son was an adult heading off to college and she was a single woman with a whole lot fewer responsibilities.  In January of 2014 Cathcart’s defining moment came when she visited her doctor and realized she was suffering from High Blood Pressure, pre diabetes and, as she put it, “heading to an early death.”

Her son, Cameron, who is, by far, her biggest fan, summed the situation up well, “Mom, I want you to be healthy and to be here forever.”  What mom could possibly turn down that request?  Certainly not Cathcart.

Carthcart started on an “at home” routine of a low carb diet and Zumba because she was, as she explained, too embarrassed to do anything else.   Finally, fifty pounds lighter by July, Cathcart decided it was time to take the next step.  She signed up for a membership at Tewksbury Sports Club and decided to take advantage of the free fitness evaluation.  The rest is, as they say, history.

 “Once my son was off to college I suddenly had time on my hands,” Cathcart explained. “I had no more excuses and it was time for me to be happy. My son had always been my number one priority and now I needed to take time for myself.”

With her trainer Matt by her side, Cathcart was well on her way to changing her life forever.  Almost immediately she saw the sincerity in the Tewksbury Sports Club crew and joked that Matt was, “the first guy I ever told my weight to.”

In the beginning of her training Cathcart could barely walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to take a breath.  Almost immediately, Matt had her climbing stairs while carrying a 50-pound weight to represent the weight she had already lost.  It didn’t take long before Cathcart was ready to take on the Fight for Air Climb,  

“I ran 41 floors in eight minutes and forty seven seconds,” she said, “And it was such an accomplishment that I felt like I could turn around and do it again.”

The road to becoming almost half the woman she used to be has been difficult but, as Cathcart said, “It hasn’t been nearly as hard as I expected.  I thought I was going to be tortured and that just wasn’t the case.” 

Instead of the torture she expected, Cathcart has found a sense of comradery at Tewksbury Sports Club that she never anticipated.

“I’ve had an incredible amount of support from all the trainers, instructors and other members of the group classes,” said Cathcart. “We are always on encouraging each other.  We truly are a family.”

Of course, no family would be complete without dinner.  “I love to cook and these days I get excited about making new, healthy foods,” she explained. “Once a week I try out a new recipe and make dinner for the trainers at TSC.”

These days, Cathcart is on hundred and thirty pounds lighter, infinitely healthier and training for her first 5K, A fun run to benefit Strongwater Farm and the Tewksbury 911 Fund.  

Cathcart spends a lot of time shopping for clothes and, of course, getting rid on the ones that don’t fit.  “I have no intention of going back,” said Cathcart. “This is not a diet for me.  It’s a whole new and better way of life.”

The changes in her weight, however, don’t mean that she isn’t the same person she always was on the inside.

“My personality is the same but I’m a lot more outgoing these days than I was when I was heavier," she said. "Now I hold my head up high and, instead of trying to blend into the crowd, I proudly put myself forward.”

Even with all the support she has received from the TSC staff and members Cathcart still has no one more devoted to her than her son.

 “Cameron is so proud of me.  He always tells me I look great,” she said.

Erin Coulter

At 15 years old Tewksbury resident Erin Coulter has made more changes to her life than most people twice her age. In February of 2014, Coulter was an unhappy teenager weighing a little over 200 pounds.  Her self-esteem was low and she was the constant victim of bullying at school.

As her mom, Liz Coulter, explained, “Erin had very little self-esteem and that made her a target for bullies.  She never wore dresses, covered her face with her hair and for the most part wore nothing but black clothes. We could see her true personality at home but, sadly, no one else could.”

Needless to say, the Coulter family was concerned and looking for a way to help Erin.  They sought advice from a counselor and, while it helped a little, the underlying problem of Erin’s increasing weight still remained.  A family fitness routine seemed like a good solution but it wasn’t until Mrs. Coulter decided to seek out a personal trainer at the Tewksbury Sports Club that Erin’s situation really began to improve.

Much like Dawn Cathcart, Coulter was immediately taken in by the dedication and commitment of the training staff at TSC.  Initially, she began her journey with a female trainer who, as Mrs. Coulter explained, “Was a perfect fit for Erin.  She was athletic and muscular and helped Coulter to realize that she didn’t need to be skinny to be in shape.”  Today, that trainer is no longer with the club but Coulter continues her journey with fitness director Arthur LaRocque.

Not entirely certain about the prospect of joining a health club Coulter is now able to look back at the decision with brutal honesty, “I thought they were sending me to fat camp!” 

 It didn’t take long, however, for her to realize that TSC was anything but fat camp. “There are a lot of very fit people here,” she explained, “but it’s also an accepting place full of people willing to support me.”

It is that very support that has helped Coulter meet her goals and become the happy young woman that she was meant to be. 

 “Even during my first workout I didn’t do much but everyone was cheering me on,” she said.

It didn’t take long, however, for Coulter to make progress and start reaching goals.  As Mrs. Coulter proudly explained, “Arthur has taught Erin that even when she doesn’t succeed at something the first time she can still work hard and reach her goal.  A year and a half ago she couldn’t even run for three minutes and now she’s running miles.”

From the very beginning Mrs. Coulter knew that she never wanted the focus of her daughter’s training to be on the numbers on the scale. LaRocque, Mrs. Coulter and Erin all agree that the most important goals have always been good health and positive changes.

Today, less than a year and a half after her journey started, Coulter has lost seventy five pounds and an astonishing twenty inches around her waist.  More, important than the weight loss, however, is what Coulter has gained.  A shy young lady who barely talked when she first came to Tewksbury Sports Club, Coulter has become outgoing and confident.

A teenager who once thought up excuses to skip running the mile in school, Coulter is now a member of the Tewksbury High School Track Team proudly competing and setting personal best records on a regular basis. In addition Coulter is an avid volleyball player and even made the cheer team. “I love playing sports,” Coulter said, “Sometimes I still don’t trust my own physical abilities but I’m very competitive and I make it happen.”

These days Coulter loves to wear dresses, pulls her hair back from her face and prefers bright colors to black.  She’s quick to mention, however, that in spite of the drastic change in appearance, she is still the same person she always was.

 “Your weight does not define who you are,” Coulter insisted. “I may not look the same on the outside but I feel like this was always me on the inside. Before this I was shy because I was always afraid that people would talk behind my back.”

As a teenager who knows what it’s like to bullied, Coulter find herself fiercely protective of anyone going through the same situations that she did. “I’m very protective of people and I don’t like to see anyone getting picked on.”

Coulter’s advice to other kids is simple and straightforward, “You should never change for anyone else. If you want to change you need to work hard and do it completely for yourself.  Whether it’s about getting in shape or leaving behind someone who doesn’t treat you right you need to make the change.  Someday you will look back and think you should have done it sooner.”

While Cathcart and Coulter have different stories to tell they do share one very common thread.  Both women have made astonishing lifestyle changes and could not be happier.  The support system they found has been an irreplaceable step in their journey and each of them serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges. 

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