Maria Mickles had tried revamping her diet and exercise routines before.

It was always an on-again, off-again relationship. She didn’t know what to do at the gym.

But last summer, Mickles got serious. She eased into an exercise routine through group fitness classes.

In one year, she’s down about 40 pounds. Now she feels confident and comfortable enough to hit the gym solo. She squeezes her workouts in around her full-time class schedule and job. Mickles, 21, works out five or six days a week.

“Knowing other people there and starting with group fitness, I’ve become more confident when I go there,” Mickles said.

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Q: When did you start working out and why?

A: I got serious about a lifestyle change last summer. I took advantage of the group fitness classes we have at UNO. I ended up doing more than 150 group fitness classes one semester. I was meeting all these instructors and other participants. It really motivated me to keep pushing.

Q: Describe your workouts. How many days per week do you exercise?

A: I typically work out around five to six times a week, mostly weightlifting and cardio. I’m mostly on my own now. A lot of group fitness classes are in the morning, and I can’t fit that in.

Q: What is your current fitness goal?

A: Toning. I’m not really focused on a number on the scale anymore. I want to set some personal records with weightlifting.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

A: Making fitness and balanced eating a lifestyle rather than a forced or brief diet. Now, it’s naturally part of my day.

Q: What has been the toughest hurdle and how did you overcome it?

A: I think two of the toughest hurdles would be self-comparison and dependability on the number on the scale. I always have to tell myself to live one day at a time. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. So as long as I do that, and if I do good today, that’s all I can do. I don’t go on the scale as much as I used to because a number really doesn’t tell you how far you’ve come. It just tells you a number.

Q: What helps you stay on track?

A: Accountability and the overall wanting to make health and well-being a lifestyle. At the end of the day, I put a focus on me.

Q: What is your gym pet peeve?

A: People who don’t put the weights back where they found them.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t in the gym?

A: I’m in school, I work on campus and I have an internship. That’s kind of filling my days.

Q: What is the piece of equipment, supplement, clothing, etc. that you can’t live without?

A: My Fitbit. I need my Fitbit. It takes the guesswork out of a lot of things and makes calorie counting a lot easier.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their fitness journey?

A: Don’t let self-comparison and fears dictate how you choose to live your life. I think those two things involve mental health. Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. If you want to do something for you, go do it, because no one knows what tomorrow brings.

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