Changes in life can derail your health or changes in life can be used as fuel to improve your health. You decide. One local woman did it both ways. Her story is inspiring.

Life changed in 2007 when Sandy Konarzewski, 44, moved away from her home in Michigan to Indiana and later New Mexico for her husband’s job. He was working a lot of hours. She did not know anyone.

As an Alpena native, she was lonely and missed her friends and family. The pain of losing her sister to a brain tumor before her move coupled with feeling isolated made her depressed. The stress impacted her health. She gained 25 pounds.  She did not want to go out. She felt like nothing looked good on her and she did not want to be around people.

This was the first time in her life she had felt overweight and unhappy. Looking back now at pictures from that time, she does not recognize that woman.

Thankfully she and her husband Chuck moved back to Alpena in 2010. Sandy was happier, but still overweight and feeling sluggish.

When a co-worker asked her to join his team for Bay Athletic Club’s annual Thinner Winner weight loss competition, she jumped at the chance. Thinner Winner brought back her love of working out and she started to find herself again.  She jumped into every group workout and fitness class and left energized.

She also made huge strides in her nutrition.  She had been living on fast and unhealthy meals like lasagna, pizza, burgers and Mountain Dew. She was ready to change.  She started drinking more water and incorporating healthier carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. 
In just six weeks, she dropped 10 pounds and 10.5 inches. She found momentum and never stopped.

For the past five years, Sandy has been in the front row of group fitness classes and boot camps at Bay Athletic Club.  She is proud that her endurance has skyrocketed and she can tackle any fitness challenge put in front of her.

Sandy chooses to not measure her results by the scale anymore, but rather by how her clothes feel. She is down four sizes. She is leaner and stronger.

Not only has fitness changed her body and her health, fitness helped her deal with other changes and challenges in life. When she moved back to Alpena, she was struck with a medley of family health scares. Her mother-in-law had a heart transplant and was in hospital for eight months, her brother had a brain aneurysm and her mother had breast cancer.

During the time they were sick, Sandy would go to an early morning boot camp workout to release her frustrations and worry. Afterward, she would feel strong enough to help her family through rehabilitation, treatments and doctors visits. She fell in love with how fitness made her feel during this difficult time and looked for extra ways to squeeze it in. She often used down time at their appointments to sneak in exercise. She would run up the stairs in the parking garage, do burpees in the hospital room, and complete small five-minute workouts from local personal trainer Sarah Morrison’s social media page everyday. Even when she was away from home at the hospital, she felt connected through fitness.


Staying active kept her mind busy. She was able to lower her stress level to make better decisions and support her loved ones. She used fitness to fuel her own health during a time in her life that many things were out of her control.


She now lives life happier, stronger physically and mentally, and can take on any changes that life throws her way.