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Carrie Newell had been overweight her entire life, but two years ago she decided to change that.

Weighing in at 250 pounds, she remembered her first day walking into Shawn Frankl’s Big Iron Gym feeling apprehensive about her new commitment.

“It was intimidating,” she said. “I was this extremely overweight girl walking into the gym with power lifters and all these people that are healthy. I needed to start losing weight. I was miserable. You shouldn’t be out of breath bending over to tie your shoes. And I was. I have two little kids and I was always too tired to do anything with them.”

Newell blocked out times in her busy schedule for regular visits to the gym, receiving guidance from a personal trainer along the way. Newell made a total lifestyle change, and it didn’t come easy. Her relatives even had their doubts.

“That was more motivation for me,” she said. “I never gave up.”

Now, minus 100 pounds later, Newell is feeling the difference, both physically and mentally. Her schedule is just as busy as it was before – raising two kids, working full-time and taking college courses. She made the time.

Photos of Newell’s progress are pinned to a collage in Shawn Frankl’s gym office. The images share space with other before-and-after pics of Big Iron Gym members, some of which look like entirely different people. The owner of the gym pointed to each and every person on the board, calling them out by name and reiterating how much weight has been lost or, in many cases, how much muscle was gained.

Big Iron Gym

Shawn Frankl trains Shelly Wurtz, Hinton, as she works out at Big Iron Gym in Sioux City Friday, December 29, 2017.(Jim Lee, Sioux City, Journal)

Frankl served as Newell’s personal trainer, coaching her during visits to the gym and helping her construct a meal plan. And when Newell felt like she couldn’t do it anymore, she said having a trainer came in handy.

“They help you mentally,” said Newell. “There were times where I wanted to quit and give up because I wasn’t noticing anything in myself.”

But then she began to see results. In the beginning, she found herself going to the gym more frequently to meet her weight loss goals. When those goals were met, the frequency in which she went to the gym lessened, but that doesn’t mean she has ignored or forgotten what she’s learned so far.

“I am here less,” she said. “I’m here for an hour and then I leave. I really do still watch what I eat. Will I go out and have pizza every once in a while? Absolutely. But you still eat in moderation and try to eat good throughout the week. I build myself up and have a really good meal this day. It’s like rewarding yourself.”

Getting to where she is at now was difficult. There were so many opportunities where Newell said she could have “fell off the wagon” and given up entirely, almost convincing herself that results weren’t coming or that she was too busy. Newell brushed those thoughts aside and kept moving forward with her goals. And it’s paid off.

“This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever achieved in my life. Ever. You have to be mentally and physically prepared for it. […] I never want to go back to what I used to look like. If there are days where I’m like, ‘Eh, I don’t feel like going today,’ then I’ll just remember where I came from and just go. It’s only an hour.”

Big Iron Gym

Monica Johnson, Sioux City, works out at Big Iron Gym in Sioux City Friday, December 29, 2017.(Jim Lee, Sioux City, Journal)


At the start of the year, it’s not uncommon for gyms to see an increase in attendance. Big Iron Gym owner and personal trainer Shawn Frankl has spent a great deal of his life inside gyms preparing for power lifting and body building competitions, so he’s used to seeing new faces come New Year.

“With their New Year’s resolutions, they want to get in shape and they want to get healthy or whatever,” said Frankl. “It’s a good time to start the year off right. A lot of it deals with health and fitness. I see some of it here, but a lot of them here are people that have been around it and want to take it to the next level.”

Those are the people that are serious about health fitness, much like Frankl. Big Iron Gym still gets a fair number of new signups, too; people like Newell who have been out of shape for too long and just haven’t made that commitment to living a healthy lifestyle.

But sure enough, those new signups tend to taper off a couple months down the road. And what was once a busy gym full of regulars and new recruits has now been leveled out. This is what’s typical, Frankl said:

I want to sign up to a gym and I want to do this! I really don’t have all the knowledge, but, man, I’m going to join a gym and I’m gonna get in shape!

“So what do they do?” Frankl asked. “They get out there and they join.”

Well, I don’t know what all these machines do and I don’t really know what to do on what days. I’ll go over here on the treadmill and get a good sweat going and I’m gonna get in shape.

“Then they do that for a month and don’t see the results,” Frankl continued. “So they quit. That’s what they do. I appreciate the effort because it takes some courage to get in there and do it, and it’s not their fault necessarily, but this is how it typically works for so many people.”

Most people need a bit of guidance, said Frankl. There’s a level of apprehension and people can sometimes be afraid to ask for help, eventually leading to them becoming discouraged and abandoning their New Year’s resolution altogether. That’s where Frankl comes in. As a personal trainer, it’s his job to direct and motivate.

“I guide them in the right way,” he said. “Otherwise, they’re not going to reach their goal and they’re going to quit.”

Big Iron Gym

Shawn Frankl trains Marisa Begnoche, Sioux City, as she works out at Big Iron Gym in Sioux City Friday, December 29, 2017.(Jim Lee, Sioux City, Journal)


Why do some people give up so early on their fitness goals? Frankl said some people have unknowledgeable perceptions of what they have to do to lose weight or get in shape.

“They don’t understand how,” he said. “What they think they have to do is do all this working out and all this sweating in the gym for two hours, lighting weights for 45 minutes, doing cardio for 45 minutes, work out for an hour-and-a-half or go to the gym six days a week. And guess what? You got how many kids, you have to run all over and you’re trying to make this work, but it’s not going to work.”

Frankl has his own philosophy when it comes to making time for the gym.

“You don’t want to set somebody up for failure,” he said. “You have to set them up for success.”

Two-hour gym sessions five or six days a week for an already busy schedule might not work for most people. Most people, Frankl said, will get burnt out and be too tired to go to the gym. That’s why he wants to paint a realistic picture for his gym members.

“I can set you up on a meal plan to where we’re eating a balanced diet and maybe you can come in three times a week and maybe only for one hour,” said Frankl. “Could you maybe do that?”

Cutting off bad habits like eating too much junk food is a good start. Finding a way to be fit while still maintaining an unhealthy diet isn’t going to net any adequate results.

“That’s like saying… ‘I want to be really good at the guitar but I don’t really want to play it. When I pick it up, I want to be a pro,’” said Frankl. “That just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

It’s a completely different lifestyle, which some people might find difficult to adapt to. Giving up culinary vices like pizza and burritos is difficult, but Frankl said there’s a way to still have those every once in a while.

“Guess what we’ll do? We’ll have a couple cheat meals a week,” Frankl said. “Let’s pick a goal. And when you get to where you want to be and where you feel good and healthy, let’s plan two days where you have two different cheat meals – not two days of cheat. But then get right back on the meal plan right after that.

“You can maintain the weight you lost like [Newell] did. She lost that weight and got how she wanted to look and feeling good, but now she can’t just do what she did before because she’ll look the way she did before. We gotta keep her eating healthy and eating good. She goes out and has a cheat meal here or there. But she gets right back on the meal plan.”

Big Iron Gym

Alicia Michalsky, Sioux City, works out at Big Iron Gym in Sioux City Friday, December 29, 2017.(Jim Lee, Sioux City, Journal)

Frankl admits that doesn’t sound real fun to organize a meal plan or stick to an entire new schedule of gym sessions full of hard work and sweat a couple times a week. But for those who are serious about losing weight and getting in shape, it’s necessary.

“Everything is a give-take relationship,” he said. “If you hate being fat and overweight and hate how you feel and look, then you have to do something different. We have to give and take a little bit.”

A meal plan and an awareness of what one consumes paired with an hour at the gym every few days? Isn’t there an easier solution? Frankl insists there isn’t. Newell agreed and pointed out that there are no shortcuts. Don’t have the time? Every busy schedule has a few holes.

“If it’s something you want bad enough, said Newell, “then you’ll find time to do it.” 

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