When Gray Boone started working as an administrative associate at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Business Center, she was excited to be working for the area’s leading health care system.
She had no idea that she was about to transform her own life.
Gray’s introduction to health and fitness started with the 12 to Life program at the Jack Barto Center for Employee Fitness. The program gently immerses newbies like Gray into the fitness center, where they learn how to use the equipment and receive exercise tips and nutritional guidance. Dozens of NHRMC employees have begun their fitness transformations in this program.
Encouraged by the support of trainers Courtnie Whaley and Jeff Randol and the fitness center team, Gray joined Stay Fit workout groups and completed two sessions.
By this time, Gray had lost some inches and was enjoying the accountability and camaraderie of the groups at the fitness center. She attended healthy cooking classes, did a 21-Day Whole Body Reset, and took advantage of the gym’s massage services to help her sore, tired muscles.
Trainer Jeff Randol encouraged her to join the Spartan group, a team of employees who train for 10 weeks and then tackle a challenging obstacle course together.
“I must have told him no 1,000 times,” said Gray, who was 47 at the time.
Finally Gray agreed to try the Spartan class, and her transformation escalated dramatically.
At the time, Gray was unable to perform a single pull-up, and running Spartan distances (3+, 8+, and 13+ miles) seemed unimaginable.
In her first group of 30 participants, Gray found inspiration from others like her – office workers and medical professionals in average shape with little athletic training in their backgrounds.
Soon she was doing push-ups on asphalt, climbing ropes like an 8-year-old in gym class and was crawling through mud with a smile on her face.
Her strength and endurance improved, and her body continued to morph into an athlete. She did that first pull-up, she aced the monkey bars, and she swung across the elevated rings like a gymnast. Every obstacle became a challenge she could overcome.
During her first Spartan Sprint in 2017, she learned that NHRMC Spartan teammates always ensure that every team member clears each obstacle, or that the team shares the penalty burpees.
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“The goal is to keep every member engaged, and when you have that many people invested in helping you succeed, you are encouraged to try to conquer new obstacles,” said Jason Albertson, Fitness Center Manager and a fellow Spartan team member.
Soon, Gray was the encourager, the back-patter, the inspiration for other beginners.
In 2018, she completed two 3-mile Sprints, two 8-mile Supers, and finally two 13-mile Beasts. Together, they are the Spartan Trifecta, an accomplishment Gray would never have dreamed of when she attended New Employee Orientation at NHRMC in 2015.
During the course of her Spartan training, she has focused more on nutrition and eating healthy. Altogether, she has lost more than 30 pounds and at age 48 is in the best shape of her life.
She can now do 10 pull-ups at a time, and has set her sights on performing a muscle up – a complicated strength move that is roughly the equivalent of climbing onto the roof of a house without a ladder.
“I used to always tell Jeff (Randol) that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for him,” Gray said. “He would always tell me back that it was me -- I was the one putting the work in. So I have learned to own it and to be proud of where I am and the work I have done.”
Gray has now become one of the lead organizers of the NHRMC Spartan team, and none of the 70-plus members brings a bigger smile.
“Being on a team gives you the power of others to pull from,” Gray said. “You can draw from others’ knowledge, drive, attitude, success, determination, and perseverance. I made this choice to improve my health and fitness, but the people and the success I have experienced help me stay motivated and make the entire experience – even the burpees -- enjoyable.”
Gray was recently named the fitness center’s Member of Excellence and was named the NHRMC Employee of Excellence for January.