Lisa Cartoosa's Fitness Journey

Q+A With the Newbie Turned Leader

For Lisa Cartoosa, her fitness journey is rooted in connection. After trying and failing to lose weight and get healthy over the years, she found herself yearning for a change at the age of 48. 

"I was the heaviest I've ever been, and it was starting to get hard to go up and down the stairs. Something had to change," she says. 

In the year and a half since she walked into the Aurora Health and Wellness Center, Cartoosa's whole life has changed. She's lost 65 lbs and gained a new vocation: fitness instructor with the Les Mills fitness system. What made the difference for her? Connection to people that invested in her well-being. 

What was the turning point for you when it came to committing to your health?

The first person that I connected with was Kayla. I didn't know how to plug in my headphones into the treadmill. I asked her if she worked there and she said yes. She helped me figure that out and then asked me if I was interested in training. She was my first connection and my first foundation here. I started coming back because I couldn't let Kayla down. My method of operation has always been to start the diet and the gym and then disappear. There was nothing that kept me going. For me, it was the people that kept me coming back. I trained with Kayla for nine months, met some of the other trainers, and then Sarah Esposito asked me if I was interested in a part-time position at the front desk. I said, yes. 

What training modality was the most effective for you? 

My first class was Zumba because I love to dance. And I left that class in tears because I couldn't move my body the way I remembered. I have always had a bathing suit phobia. But that Zumba instructor told me that it would come and to try the pool until I had made enough progress to try the land-based classes. Kayla told me to do the pool and weight lift with her. I lost the majority of my weight in the pool. And I always thought, 'Oh, aquatics classes are for old people.' But the pool eliminates the pain on your joints and lets you ease into things. 

What inspired you to become a fitness instructor?

If I had done what I had always done, I was going to have the same outcome. Initially, I thought that becoming an instructor would hold me accountable. Then it became about the people. A lot of people here are just trying to live every day, free from pain. But this place is so multigenerational--there are people here living with severe diagnoses that are overcoming their limitations. It made me think, 'What I'm going through is nothing. If they can do it, so can I.' It was those connections that kept me going. 

I think that so many of these popular workouts are intimidating to people; they see ads with the super fit, beautiful people. I was intimidated by Les Mills too. But that made me want to conquer it even more and let people know that these workouts are for everyone. 

What is the most significant victory in your body? Of what are you the proudest?

I wouldn't say my victory is physical. My victory with my body is emotional. A year ago, I would have said to myself, 'Yes, I've lost 60 pounds, but I want to be 120 pound. I need to lose 40 more.' I don't have that in my head anymore. I feel strong. I feel confident. And I know that tomorrow if I choose to do something else, I may not be the best at it or the most athletic, but I can do it.  

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