Anything is Possible: The Story of Matt Martin-Hall (And His Quest for Running Success)

Anything is Possible: The Story of Matt Martin-Hall (And His Quest for Running Success)

I’ve always had a strong academic and metaphysical fascination with what makes us human. So much so that while studying digital video and audio production in college, I also majored in Anthropology- the study of human beings.  Fast forward five or six years after graduation and I find myself sitting behind a desk well into the “cushy corporate gig” phase of my career, still making videos and producing a wide range of audio projects for LA Fitness; feeling like I’m only using half of my education; that question still relatively unanswered and still burning.

What makes us human?

If asking that question is ultimately asking, “What makes us unique from other mammals or creatures with whom we share the condition of possessing vertebrae?”, then the answer is simple: Bipedal ambulation (walking on two feet) and our brains ability to create and operate abstractions (imagine a cat composed of various citrus fruits with a baby shark for a tail. That thing you see in your head, that’s what I mean. So far as we know, only humans can conjure that up).

After a few existential breakdowns into my job here at LA Fitness, I had resigned myself to the reality that these partial answers to such a big question would have to suffice. There was no sense in pursuing them further. I worked for a gym. The place people go to get fit, not answer big questions. In my mind, those two things were forever incongruous.

Then a few important things happened that changed my mind quite profoundly:

  1. I read a book titled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall to learn more about the indigenous Tarahumara of Mexico’s Copper Canyons.
  2. I fell in love with a long-distance runner (whom I originally bought that book for).
  3. I succumbed to the unbridled peer pressure to try and be fit at work. Something that naturally exists in a place whose primary function is to promote and provide an environment to do just that.
  4. I agreed to be a part of a spotlight series at work where I go from the couch to accomplishing some athletic feat.
  5. I fit into a pair of jeans.

I think the most magnificent abstraction we’ve created as humans is linear time. The idea of seconds begetting minutes begetting hours begetting days and so on as if a series of incremental points on a timeline. None of this existed until the 14th century, whence the clock prevailed as a timekeeper. It’s from the invention of the clock and the hours and seconds contained within it that we have this perception of time. What makes this seem like such grand ruse of an abstraction is that: it wasn’t until I fit into some jeans yesterday that I realized or felt like all these things happened FOR something. I mean, of course, I knew sequentially when I had read and finished the book; what made me fall in love with my girlfriend and when; why I had agreed to do the spotlight series; when I walked into the gym and started forming that habit; when I fit into the jeans; and in what order these all occurred. But some genie was released from the bottle when I clasped the top button and didn’t feel like I should face away from the mirror out of fear of that button bursting off and shattering my reflection. A genie that couldn’t be returned after I needed a belt to fasten those same jeans to my waist.

All at once past, present and future, happened to me; The book I read piqued my interest in long-distance running; it taught me about our adaptation to sweat and endure beyond that of any other vertebrate. I was standing at the finish line of her marathon, the first one I attended, filled with pride as she caught her breath. I was walking into the gym for the first time at 29 running a 5k on the treadmill to see if I could (I could). I was poised and excited to pounce on this opportunity at work to serve my (until now unadmitted) vanity. I was attaining the great sense of accomplishment after fitting into three older pairs of jeans. And I was standing there, at the end of my own first race, dead tired but proud beyond comprehension.

The last of these events hasn’t happened yet. But it will. Past, present, future: All at once. I intend to explore the depth of the answers to my initial question. Though, presently, I find myself in a familiar dilemma: exploring and challenging the nature of human abstraction is only one part of the answer. If I’m to truly dive into this journey, I must do one more thing. That thing will require me to not just push myself, but figure out how to push myself, and what it means to push myself to do it. It’s no big reveal, you see, I’ve already told you what it is. It all happened at once, remember?

I. Must. Run.

And I will. A half marathon at first, a full marathon at last, and I’ll tell you all about it.

*Matt is a current employee of LA Fitness.  While the opinions herein are Matt’s own, Matt receives a free membership in connection with his employment. 


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Member Spotlight | Understand Your Body and Change Your Life

Member Spotlight | Understand Your Body and Change Your Life

What are your current fitness goals?

My number one fitness goal, now and always, is to keep my autoimmune disease under control. Additionally, it is always a goal of mine to live a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. I like to find the balance between enjoying my time in the gym and enjoying other activities, like eating out and having popcorn at the movies or a hot dog at a baseball game. It is so important to me to maintain a long-term and sustainable healthy lifestyle. Being too restrictive with my diet does not work for me!

How has training helped shape/change your fitness lifestyle?

Training has changed my mind, body, and soul! I remember how uncomfortable I felt in my body before I began my fitness journey, and before I started lifting weights. I hated the way I looked and I had to change my outfit 500x before leaving the house because I couldn’t stand the way I looked in my own clothes. Through weight training and proper nutrition, I have been able to shape a body that I truly love and enjoy. This has absolutely transformed my mindset. I am more self-confident and comfortable in my own skin. This transformation not only has an impact on my relationship with myself but also has leaked over into other aspects of my life, such as my job and relationships with others.

Left: July 2017 | Right: July 2018

What got you to join LA Fitness? How has it influenced your life?

I had tried different things to try to get in shape and lose weight in my young adult life, from Weight Watchers to diet pills. None of these options worked for me because they were not sustainable long-term. The turning point for me was my diagnosis with an autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Syndrome in March of 2017. Autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body mistakes its own healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them. In my case, Sjogren’s Syndrome mainly affects the moisture-producing glands, such as the nose, mouth, and eyes. I was 23 years old and the doctors told me I had to be on medication for the rest of my life. Fearing the implications of what a long-term medication might do to me, I started seeking out holistic treatment options. First and foremost, I researched foods, proper nutrition and how I could use food to heal. I eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet to see how I would respond. Although I wasn’t eating those “unhealthy” options, I still struggled to lose weight because I didn’t know much about general nutrition and hadn’t learned proper portion control. Within two weeks without dairy, my cystic acne disappeared. I knew that I was on to something with food for healing and eating for health. I reintroduced gluten successfully, with no issues. When I reintroduced dairy, my stomach was very upset and my acne returned. I am still eating a dairy-free diet to this day. It was such an empowering experience to get to know how my body responds to certain foods.

Around the same time, my boyfriend and I decided to join LA Fitness in hopes of getting into shape. We realized we had put on some “relationship weight” in our first year together, but it wasn’t until we started actually getting into the gym that we realized how bad it had gotten. Between his knowledge of weight training and my knowledge of nutrition at that point, we began to learn and share with one another. We decided to start tracking our macronutrient intake and weighing out our foods. It was during this time that we learned the proper portion sizes for our bodies and the nutritional value of different food options. It was the perfect combination and it started to actually work. I have lost a total of 30 pounds and my boyfriend lost a total of 75 pounds, leaving us with over 100 pounds lost between us!

If you could give others one piece of advice, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice would be to be patient with yourself and stay committed to your overall health. It’s not just about how you look, it’s about how you feel in your body, and how your body is functioning. By staying committed for the long haul, you will experience sustainable, long-term health and fitness. There are no quick fixes. Just keep going to the gym, keep fueling your body with healthy and nourishing options and the rest will follow.

Summer S.

LAF Member

IG: @summersenna 


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Member Spotlight | Aim for Progress, Not Perfection

Member Spotlight | Aim for Progress, Not Perfection

I have been a member of LA Fitness for the last 4 and a half years – I joined the LA Fitness Vanderbilt Beach location in January of 2014! Over the last 4.5 years, I have used my gym (my second home) to do countless things including lose fat, build muscle, gain self-confidence, train for a bikini competition, prepare for a mud obstacle course race, and just plain get my endorphin fix!

Right now, my fitness goals are to continue to beat my personal records, try new things, whether it is a fun Zumba or Cycle class, sign up for my first marathon that I need to use the cardio equipment to build stamina for, and last but not least continue living healthy and staying as active as possible.

When I joined LA Fitness, I had never lifted a weight or even stepped foot in a gym, I was actually the girl who opted out of PE and team sports in high school for fear of failure. I was self-conscious and shy at the time, but the other members of LA Fitness and its employees welcomed me with open arms. I enjoyed learning about the different machines, experimenting with different workout routines, and of course, rewarding myself with a delicious shake from the smoothie bar after a hard work out! I’m not sure of how much weight I lost or how much muscle I’ve gained, I’m only sure of how my transformation has made me feel.

I’m much happier in my own skin and I have a sense of confidence today that I never knew prior. LA Fitness has felt like a home away from home for me for close to 5 years and I’m excited to see what amazing changes the next 5 years bring! Thank you, LA Fitness, for changing my life!

My piece of advice to others would be – its progress not perfection that matters! Set little goals for yourself and pat yourself on the back when you conquer each one. If you focus too much on the long-term goal you may get discouraged and feel like you’ll never get there. Continue making progress on your short-term goals every day and every week and I promise you’ll blow your own mind when you look back at how far you’ve come!

Left: January 2014 | Right: January 2018


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Member Spotlight | The Sunshine of the Gym

Member Spotlight | The Sunshine of the Gym

Let me introduce myself. I am Donna S., and this is how my fitness journey began. On January 6th, 2016 I joined Weight Watchers and Curves for Women. At 198 pounds, I knew I had to take charge of my life. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Polymyositis, in which I was prescribed Prednisone for 4 years, my weight started creeping up and up until it was out of control.

I began this fabulous journey towards a healthy way of life. I used a different weight loss program to learn how to eat healthy and by tracking what I ate, my weight started going down. However, after 7 months I realized that it wasn’t giving me the results I really wanted. After my daughter had taken me to an LA Fitness club, I knew that I would get better results going there.

I should tell you that my daughter has been my biggest mentor and supporter during my weight loss and fitness journey. I was apprehensive at first to join LA Fitness, but my husband and I joined together in August 2016 when it opened here on Hollywood Road. We walked on the treadmills, rode the stationary bikes, and did some of the machines.

Pictured from left to right: Mary N., Donna S., and Cassie S.

Then on August 28th, 2016, I had a fitness evaluation with Mary. At that time my weight was down to 160 lbs., but I was still overweight for my health. My body fat was 41.7%, BMI (body mass index) was 31.3%, and I could only do a plank for 31 seconds and a wall sit for only 43 seconds. I trained with Mary for over a year every week, and then once a month for 6 months until I decided that she taught me all the skills I needed for me to meet my fitness goals.

On December 4th, 2016, my weight was down to 120 pounds, my body fat went to 27.5%, and my BMI was down to 22%.

I started going to the classes. I started with Zumba®, then added Body Works, Kickboxing, Power Circuit, and Boot Camp. I have a regular routine schedule for each day of the week. I go to the gym 6 days a week now.

Mary has always called me the “Sunshine of the Gym”. Yes, I do dress in colors and for all the holidays.

It’s something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember since I taught primary grades for 40 years, and my students always loved the colors.

I feel younger today than I did 20 years ago, and I owe it all to the support, help, and confidence that everyone, especially my daughter, has given me and still gives me. I have met a lot of people here and have fun every day.

I’m living a very healthy and happy life.

Some slight adjustments have been made to the member’s story for grammatical reasons, length, and/or clarity.


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Instructor Spotlight | Practice What You Preach

Instructor Spotlight | Practice What You Preach

Before I was an instructor, I ran a daycare business from my own home. I had such a great time raising my own kids that I wanted to continue doing what I loved and luckily started a business out of it.

When my dad reached his 50th birthday, he was diagnosed with Diabetes. It was heartbreaking to hear. A while later, my eldest brother was also diagnosed with Diabetes when he reached his 50s. This was a wakeup call to me and the rest of my family. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet was not something that my family was accustomed to.

When I first started out, losing weight for me was very difficult. After having 3 children, the weight would just come back any time after seeming to make a little progress with weight loss. Naturally, this became very frustrating for me. In 2010, my husband and I made a commitment to educate ourselves on nutrition, diet, and exercise. We researched everything we could on the internet and even started going to our local gym together. We became so addicted to this lifestyle that we were going to the gym 6-7 days a week for 2-3 hours a day. After some time, I started seeing results again, only this time things were different. I was able to lose weight and keep the weight from coming back. I realized that before, my results were poor because I wasn’t properly educated on proper dieting and exercise.

I think a main reason why people fail in their fitness goals is because they are misinformed. Everyone’s body is different, and therefore everyone’s plan should be different. I want to show and teach people that they can get the body they want if they take the time to learn about the diet and exercise that is right for them. In addition to that, I want to show people that making these changes to their lifestyle can make them more confident and ultimately bring more happiness into their lives. This was when I knew I had a passion for teaching.

Teaching was a natural career transition for me. I had a thirst for knowledge when it came to diet and exercise. I also love to dance and interact with people. Before I became an instructor, I attended many different conferences and certification courses. I wanted to learn as much as I could so that I could share the information with others.

I got my start at LA Fitness a couple years ago through a friend of mine who got me an audition as a Zumba® Instructor. I am so thankful for that reference because it has opened so many doors for me in the past couple of years. Not only do I teach Zumba®, but I also run boot camps and Aqua Fit workouts now.

At the end of the day, I feel very blessed to be where I am. I LOVE what I do and hope that people can feel that when they attend my classes.

Q: What are your current health and fitness goals?

My short-term fitness and health goals involve me getting as many people as I can to be excited about exercising. I’m a huge believer in spreading positive energy and getting people motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes. That type of energy/motivation can be infectious.

For the long-term, my goal is to maintain a healthy, happy and balanced lifestyle for myself. I’d like to teach for a long time, so I need to stay as healthy and happy as possible to do so.

Q: How has instructing helped shape/change your fitness lifestyle?

Instructing has definitely shaped my fitness lifestyle in a positive way. I’m a huge advocate of practicing what I preach. If I’m going to advise students to exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses) then I absolutely must do the same. Before I even got into instructing, I really enjoyed living a healthy lifestyle – teaching became a very natural transition for me because of that.

Q: If you could give others one piece of advice, what would it be?

Living healthy and happy isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. My only advice would be for people to give it a try.


Member Testimonials

Marilou has changed my life and many others in the most positive ways.

As a 54-year-old woman, I came to Marilou’s class with some problem areas that I would like to work on. Marilou immediately assessed my issues and told me to commit to coming to her class twice a week along with my weekly class routine.

Almost 5 months later I am a changed person for the better. Not only am I sooooo happy because I am seeing results that hard work and dedication can accomplish but I am drinking more water, I am standing proud, I laugh, I listen, and when I do things now I say to myself CHECK ME OUT. Marilou has been the nurturing force behind all of these things I have accomplished.

Everyone wants to be around her due to her infectious personality. She explains the correct form and corrects us to do so. She explains nutrition. She laughs a lot and everyone loves it. She has changed the way I think. I like what I am seeing and am so proud of myself for getting there.

Her classes have doubled in size due to everyone wanting to be inspired by Marilou’s wonderful way of feeling good about yourself. I love going to her classes. I am not turning back as I know how hard it was to get here.

I not only think Marilou is one of the most knowledgeable instructors but I consider her a friend. I met so many new friends in her classes that all are inspired by her wonderful way of teaching. I told her I’m hanging a picture of her on my refrigerator as a reminder of all the things she taught me and how I love the transportation I am seeing when I look in the mirror.

Ann G.

LA Fitness Member

My experience in Marilou’s class has been nothing short of fantastic! She is very genuine when it comes to making sure we understand what it is that she is trying to show/ teach us. She is a very motivated individual that knows how to get myself and the class energized and ready for the class. For myself personally, the class and Marilou has made my fitness journey very enjoyable.

Zoe Y.

LA Fitness Member

Marilou is the best instructor! I have been attending Marilou’s bootcamp classes for over a year now. I notice my strength and flexibility increased and even my friends and family are impressed with the outcome. I never attended a fitness class before hers. Marilou inspires me to attend twice a week. She has an unstoppable enthusiasm that helps carry you through the entire hour. She is attentive to the newbies and the seasoned workout junkies. She takes time to ensure proper form and follow through on each exercise during and after the class. Her bigheartedness and carefree laughter are extremely welcoming and make me feel that I accomplished a great workout and I look forward to the next one.

Fay D.

LA Fitness Member


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