After a cruise with his wife and friends in February 2014, Ahmed El-Aref was looking at pictures and decided he had enough.
“I was repulsed,” said El-Aref. “I had always been a bigger kid growing up. Not like obese, I was just out of shape. After I got off the cruise ship, I looked at myself in the mirror and said it was time to make a change.”
He tried P90x, Insanity, diets and visited a local gym. While some weight was coming off, it was not as quick as he wanted it to be.
In September 2014, five months after he started his fitness journey, he walked into Gold’s Gym ETC in Woodbridge, Virginia with his neighbor. They began by going twice a day and tried MMA.
There, El-Aref got plugged into classes and connected with Vicki Burnett, the group and signature fitness instructor at Gold’s Gym ETC.
“She saw, I guess, a nice amount of fight in me. She was like, ‘Well, let me help you out.’ And she kind of took me under her wing and she became my mentor at the gym. After that, it was all over,” explained El-Aref.
Burnett put him in multiple classes, and he saw his cardio, weight training and general endurance improving. He went from going to the gym once a day, three days a week, to going twice a day, seven days a week. As a result, in one year he lost 52 pounds and over half his body fat.
In the middle of his journey, a group of friends noticed El-Aref’s improvements and asked if he wanted to run a Spartan Sprint with them. “It was happening in a couple weeks. It was the DC Spartan Sprint that happened in Budds Creek, Maryland. I said, ‘No brainer. I’m down. Tell me when and where.’ I went there, and I ran the race. I fell in love with it.”
Since August, El-Aref has completed six Spartan Races.
“He was hungry and he wanted it badly,” said Burnett. “He just needed to be guided and for someone to believe in him and show him the way. I began educating him on the benefits of each one of these programs, and he followed. He rapidly began to see the changes and his confidence took a 180 in a short amount of time. He was getting a lot of acknowledgement in the gym and he was leading by example. People were witnessing his journey.”
El-Aref is now on staff at Gold’s Gym ETC as a Spartan STX Training Coach. He is in the process of becoming a certified Spartan Race Training Coach as well.
“I don’t have any regrets in life,” said El-Aref. “I learned a lot of lessons from it — good or bad, so I have no regrets. But if I could go back in time, I would go back to eighth grade, the summer before and I would pull the Snicker bar out of my hand, I would pack my own lunch and I would throw every idea of junk food out the window. I’d throw away the game system and I would start fresh. I would workout everyday and I would give myself a routine to follow.”