These are always tear jerker’s for me!

How far people come BOTH inside and out! Christina Sweet is no exception to the rule (by far). You will read below how she ended up taking a step into Get a Grip, which is funny, but also a little embarrassing. Persistence runs in my family and maybe being proud of the people in our lives, too.

We don’t call Christina by her first name, although it is beautiful, her last name is a PERFECT fit to who she is, so SWEET! Even my hubby call’s her by that name, in his own way, and I know “Sweet” loves it. She is just the sweetest person. Her heart is a true gem! We have a lot of funny/fun memories and I wouldn’t exchange anyone of them for the world. They are priceless.

If you want to know the definition of never give up, she screams it! She has powered through so much, doesn’t complain, and has NO limits! No matter what comes her way she is determined to make it through and lift everyone else around with her in the process. I could go on for pages on the amazing individual she is, but instead I’ll let you read here story.

Here is Christina’s journey…

I come from a very close loving family. In 2010, I lost my older brother to pancreatic cancer at the age of 48. Four months later, I lost my mother to pneumonia caused by a broken heart.

At that time, I weighed 235 lbs and wore a size 22. I was a depression eater and surrounded by people who were not a good influence on me. My life was a dark place. I had started going to a gym, so I could lose weight. I worked hard, was paying a lot of money with very little results, but I was doing something.

There was a man who would see me and say “You need to go see my daughter. She’s a great coach, a nutrition specialist and I know she can help you.” I saw this man every day and every day he asked me to go see his daughter.

Finally, in 2011, a year later I went to see his daughter, Carrie Kukuda. The day I met with Carrie, was the last day I went to the other gym. After that meeting, I decided I would surround myself with better people and change my life.

I started her fitness boot camp the next day. I came into the session and was the largest, overweight, out-of-shape person in the room. Yep, I wanted to leave really bad, but there were 2 ladies who moved aside, so I could have a spot to work out. They didn’t talk to me as they were chatting away with each other while kicking butt at the workouts. I decided, I was going to work out next to them and challenge myself from that moment on. Soon the two, Kim Fish and Robin Weilant, were giving me words of encouragement and the sun was starting to shine a little. They had no idea how heartbroken I felt inside and how saddened I was with my life. They had no idea their little pats on my back made my day and kept me coming back for more.

I remember the day I finally made it around the building running without stopping. I came around the last turn and Carrie had everyone from that class outside cheering me on. It was a priceless moment in my life and I knew my mother was shining down on me. I found the people I needed to be surrounded by. It was a turning moment for me.

I decided to come out of my comfort zone and mingle some. I asked Michele Musto to teach me to run and soon did my first 5K at the annual GAG Turkey Trot. I came home with my first 5K medal that Michele Musto gave me. It was a day to be thankful and my family was very proud. Three months later, I did my first half marathon, with the help of Jen Biles, at a place that was nothing but a terrible memory for me, Gasparilla. Now, its one of my favorite events and time of the year.

I then did my fist triathlon, thanks to Carrie’s triathlon training program, which led me to do a half Ironman and a full Ironman. While I got pulled from the 2 Ironman races; I kept running forward and completed my first marathon. I will go back in 2018 and get my Ironman 70.3 medal along with a few others.

Not to leave out that I participated in 2 Ragnar Road Races with our Get a Grip family.

Last week, I weighed in at 155 and I have 10 more pounds to reach my goal weight of 145.

I want to thank all of you for the support you give to me and to each other, so we can all feel like wonderful people inside and out. I want to thank Carrie’s dad for his persistence to have me meet with her. I want to thank Carrie for not making me feel less than the person I was when I walked into her gym and for all the help leaving 80lbs and a whole lot of darkness in the past. Like I told Amy Parker last week on our run, “Everyday I wake up, I feel so blessed and so loved. I am surround by the best people in my life than ever before.”

I love my journey and it just keeps getting better. Gods work is great.

#faith #faithagain #determination #ican #ripkf

Me again (Carrie)…

Lastly, she never stopped going after her goals and through the process (triathlons, ironman, ragnars, marathon, and etc) she found her physical abilities she didn’t know she had.

She reminds us to never view the process to your big goal (weight loss originally) as the worst part, but as the best part of the journey (looked at all she achieved).

Christina sweet - Get a Grip

We love our “Sweet” and we’re excited to see what she accomplishes next!


We have another amazing transformation spotlight today, Gazelle Stevens! She is one beautiful lady both inside and out. I knew the day she walked in she would fit right in into the Get a Grip family. She was very social and asked a lot of questions. Some don’t prefer all the questions a prospects asks when they begin, but that to me screams..she is hungry and ready to do what it takes and I was right. She applied the principles we teach and immediately moved mountains (runs, ragnar, new triathlete., and strong). She has been on fire! We love her. She is now a part of our Power Team and is the Get a Grip Caretaker (great title for her). She is committed to all she does and has a great story to share.

Here is her story…

Growing up I was always very active, doing gymnastics in elementary school and cheerleading, softball and track in high school.  Despite being active, I was carrying 135lbs on my petite 5’2” frame and had always been self-conscious about my weight, specifically my mid-section.  After high school, I consulted with a nutritionist and started watching what I was eating and dropped 10lbs!  However, shortly after that I became pregnant with my first daughter and obviously put the weight back on. After giving birth I was delighted to learn that I weighed 110lbs, but it wasn’t a “healthy” weight since I was a busy mom and always taking care of everyone else instead of myself.  A few years later I had my 2nd daughter and although my weight stayed around 120, I wasn’t as active as I used to be and things were starting to jiggle.

I decided to join the local gym and went religiously 4-5 times per week, but I never saw any great improvement in my body and found it to be more of a “social hour” rather than a true workout environment.  I could still hear my dad’s words echoing in my ear that I’d “probably always have to worry about my weight and watch what I eat.”  I love my dad tremendously and I know he didn’t say those words to be mean, but they have stayed with me ever since my high school days.  Since I didn’t feel that the typical gym was benefitting me, I started working out at home-running on my treadmill and doing Pilates DVD’s.  But that was very isolating and I’m a social butterfly!

Finally, at the end of 2012 I decided to make the commitment to getting fit again and luckily, I came upon the 21 Day Belly Blast Program on Groupon.  I had no idea what I was in for, but I signed up immediately and started in January 2013.  I’ve never been one to struggle socially in new settings and Get a Grip was no different!  Although I had no clue what a burpee, spiderman or dead lift was, I was eager to learn and willing to ask questions.  There were several other newbies like myself, which made it easier to adjust and we quickly became gym buddies.  Before joining GAG, I hated running and had no desire to do a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon.  But with lots of encouragement (peer pressure), I signed up to do Ragnar in the Keys in February 2014 and it was one of the best experiences of my life, besides the running part!  It was a true bonding experience and one I’m glad I did.  It pushed me beyond my limits and made me realize that even if I don’t like doing something, that doesn’t mean I can’t.

From the start, I knew that GAG would change my life and it would be the gym at which I would become a “lifer.”  The environment is so positive, the coaches and staff are very friendly and knowledgeable and I have made lots of new friends here.  Not only do you get the exercise benefit, but there’s nutrition counseling, races, social events and the annual holiday potluck!  It truly is more like a family than a gym.  I’m so glad I happened upon that Groupon over 4 years ago and I intend to stick with program as long as I can.  I turn 50 this year and I’ve never felt better, both mentally and physically, and I owe it all to Carrie and Get a Grip!

gazelle - get a grip1655860_10203227862846782_373641531_n11253690_10100360415920581_6858467797753675453_n


We are excited to see what is next for her!

Another motivating and inspiring success story to share. Our Get a Grip Family Member, Kelly Pontliana!

Kelly has an amazing positive attitude which is contagious and she works well over 100% in all she does. I love to watch her, as you can see the determination and heart she brings to everything she sets out to do. We are so happy she found us as we are lucky to have her kind soul a part of the Get a Grip Family (she was a perfect match from day 1). I’m looking forward to all she continues to accomplish, as nothing holds her back, not even MS!

I don’t want to steal her story, so here it is…

Hello Gripper Nation!!

In 2001, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  I don’t usually speak about my condition and you definitely wouldn’t know by looking at me the ways in which it has affected my life.   I have made it my personal mission to not let MS define who I am and as of today, it hasn’t stolen my active lifestyle away from me.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the protective sheath around nerve cells that helps send messages to the brain and other parts of the body. My initial symptoms included trouble walking and maintaining balance, fatigue, and sensations of numbness and tingling.  MS is quite unpredictable, and luckily I’ve had very few attacks over the years and have not had to make many adjustments to my lifestyle.   My Neurologist has seen disease progression on my MRI scans, but surprisingly, I continue to live my life symptom free.

Our family has always been very active and we love spending time outdoors.  In 2008, I called up my sister, Kerrie, and told her I wanted to start running.  We followed the Couch to 5-K training program and signed up for our first official 5-K.  I’m a rule follower, so I loved following the plan.  Those first few runs were extremely tough and I’ll never forget how out of breath I felt.   Throughout my training I kept a journal and love looking back at all the funny comments I would make after having to “run for 2 or 3 minutes straight”.   I have since gone on to run many 5K’s, 10K’s, ½ marathons, Mud Runs, the Tough Mudder and a couple of Triathlons.  The only marathon I would consider training for is the Maui Marathon….who’s in with me?

When our family relocated to Florida from Minnesota in 2015, I was at the Rec Center pool and saw a banner with Carrie’s smiling face.  I think it was meant to be because when I looked on her website, Get A Grip offered everything (plus a lot more) of what I was missing from back home.   I love the variety of “SUPER” fun workouts that Carrie creates for us.  I know when it gets tough (and sweaty), my body always works with me even though my head is telling me it doesn’t want to.  My favorites always include “adding a jack” (I am unable to do a burpee without one).  Getting enough sleep (including a 10-15 minute power nap each day), eating clean (80% of the time), staying hydrated (including an occasional happy hour), and attending my 3-bootcamps per week all play a huge part in my good health and well-being.

I love all the kind souls I have met during our workouts and training programs.   You have all helped make Land O’ Lakes home!  I remind myself daily to live in the present and cherish each moment.  Life is so good!!!  Moving to the sunshine state and crossing paths with Get A Grip is the best prescription for my good health.

Thank you!!


What an amazing journey. Thank you for sharing your story, Kelly!

I’m looking forward to your next adventure!

Another amazing spotlight, Katie Freedland. She is a true inspiration for her fight back to health (inside & out). Sometimes life throws us lemons and sometimes we can make lemonade out of them. Katie did just that. She has some amazing strength and heart. Her smile lights up the room and when she came to Get a Grip it was over. She had to stay with us, she fit in the very first day. Even, Charlie (our gym dog) feel in love with her. It was an approval like no other.

I don’t want to steal her amazing story from her, so here it is…

All throughout my teens I was athletic, and able to eat whatever I wanted, and never gain a pound. In college, the mixture of junk food, alcohol and no physical activity seemed to bring on the pounds. I tried joining gyms, getting a personal trainer, Zumba class, and working out on my own, but nothing really clicked with me.

In 2013, I was in a very dark place emotionally. I had low self-esteem, and I wasn’t doing anything to better myself. It wasn’t until a close brush with death that almost left me paralyzed, that I finally realized we only get one shot at life, and only one body at that. I obtained several injuries in which I had to wear a back brace for 3 months, as well as having surgery to put a metal rod in my leg. I transitioned from a wheel chair to a walker to finally walking on my own, as well as several months of physical therapy. When I finally was physically able and ready to make a change in getting fit and healthy, I discovered a Groupon for the 21-day belly blast at Get a Grip. I figured I had nothing to lose as it was close to my home, and I was excited to try something new.

May 2014, I started GAG, and of course after completing the 21 day belly blast I was hooked, and simply had to become a member! When I first joined, I was still in the early stages of my physical recovery and my abilities were limited. With some exercises I needed to do alternate moves, but with each class I grew stronger. As time went on, and I continued with my 3 boot camp classes a week, my flexibility advanced, my endurance rose, and most importantly my confidence had sky-rocketed! Yes, I was losing weight and inches, but the enjoyment I got from the classes, the fun and laughter with the other Grippers, the sweat that was pouring out, and the self-esteem was that was building- this was all results I had not initially bargained for, but boy was I grateful!! I went from a lazy couch potato to enthusiastically signing up for 5k’s and Mud Runs, running track on Thursday nights, wanting to run a lap AFTER boot camp, and actually looking forward to going to the gym!

I have learned so much from Carrie’s food plans and recipes. I have completely cut out alcohol. I now drink more water than I thought humanly possible. I am definitely not the same person who started on this journey almost 2 years ago. Overcoming my injuries, pushing myself, and then becoming able to do things I couldn’t initially do has truly given me self-pride. I don’t complain at Get A Grip, because I’m just thankful I can walk, let alone do what I can today. I have taken the word “can’t” out of my vocabulary. No pain no gain! Box Jumps, Burpees, and Coffins, all the exercises I previously had the most trouble with are now what I anticipate doing the most now that I can execute them. There is now nothing at GAG I am unable to do! I am still on my way to meeting my goals, but I will benefit from the tools I learned here for a very long time!

I am so glad I was brave enough to take that first step, and actually go to GAG that first day. Sure I was nervous, and didn’t know anyone, but that did not last long! This gym is unlike any other. The people here are welcoming, encouraging, supportive, helpful, and friendly! I have never been to a gym before where I truly felt this comfortable. At GAG, I feel like I am working out with friends because I AM!  You can go here not knowing a soul, and end up meeting some of the sweetest people in your life. I know I have. I found a gym where the people are truly genuine, not to mention all different ages, races, shapes, and sizes. It is a gym of diversity, but also where no one judges one another. Get A Grip is a blessing. It is also a lot of fun!

This place has changed my life. I will forever be grateful for the confidence and friendships I gained from GAG. This place just clicked for me. It helped me want to better myself, and gave me the tools and advice to do so. Coach Carrie Kukuda as well as all the other boot camp instructors here really do care about the Grippers, and our success is their success. Get A Grip got me out of my comfort zone, helped me believe in myself, and never doubted my ability to be successful here.

I am motivated to continuing to work hard and have fun while doing so!













She is one amazing lady. I am SO proud of her and I’m looking forward to seeing what is next.

Here is another amazing transformation story our Fran Julien. She is way ahead of her time. The lessons she has learned, most people don’t learn until later in life or still haven’t learned them yet. This is one wise lady. We love her spirit, commitment, determination, and great smile! After reading her story, I was shocked about the one comment on her fitness as she jumps on the 2 foot box jump with ease. I learn so much about our amazing Get a Grip family members when they write their story. This one will inspire you with no doubt. I love the path she chose at such a young age.

Here is her story…

I could dig way back into my childhood and explain all of the reasons and choices that lead me to become 250 pounds as a seventeen years old, but my journey is so much more than that. And really, my real journey to health began about 3 years ago, at the age of 22.

Yes! You read it correctly; my highest weight was 250 pounds. As I graduated high school and moved on to college, my choices became slightly healthier and I began to lose weight slowly. I would have on and off again memberships with the gym as well, but I was still stuck in a body that I did not like. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago, that I realized that if I wanted to break out of a physically overweight body, I also had to break out mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It helped that I was living with a friend who had her own weight loss transformation. Watching her lifestyle choices encouraged me to become wiser at the choices that I was making. I lost a little weight, but again, still felt stuck in a body that I hated holistically.

That’s when I made my very first New Year’s resolution, and it’s one that I continue to make every year. I made the resolution to love myself.

Yes, a big proponent behind that was to lose weight, but I knew I needed to lose more than physical weight. I needed to lose the baggage that had built up with it, the hate towards myself, and turn that into love, fulfillment, and purpose. I was never one for quick fixes…in anything in that matter. I think that’s my creative side. I knew if I was going to lose weight and become healthy, I was going to make changes that would continue for life. I didn’t want to take a pill, jump on an exercise machine for “just 30 minutes a day,” or eat strictly for 6 weeks. I knew if I did any of these, the weight and baggage would come right back once I was done. If I were going to transform, the changes that I was going to make would have to just become my lifestyle.

So, I started small. I began to eat like my roommate, who is gluten free. I started to listen to my body and how it reacted to what I put in it. This helped me cut certain foods out (like breads, grains, and even dairy) and introduce certain foods into my daily diet like a variety of vegetables. I even became more active with friends as well as becoming more consistent in gym visits. But I also knew one of my struggles was portion control (it still is today), so I began to track my calories. It was a way that worked for me. I began to feel so much healthier. My clothes fit better and people were noticing the effects of the changes I was beginning to make.

But like I said, changing the way I ate was just a portion of why I am a much healthier version of myself today. I took a step into faith and haven’t turned back since. The friend group that I entered into once beginning this journey was full of people who had a joy and fulfillment that I loved surrounding myself with. For the first time, I felt like I was experiencing friendship on a family level. Surrounding myself with them meant attending church regularly, in which I began to transform spiritually, understanding that there is a God who has an everlasting love and plan for me no matter how I looked or felt about myself. This was the same love that came from this group of friends. My church family truly pushed me to reveal my full potential as a human being on this planet, thus my physical and mental transformation began to coincide with my spiritual transformation.

At the age of 23, I was down about 50 pounds since high school and felt good about myself. I was beginning to love myself. I was doing things that I never thought I would let myself do because I had let the weight hold me back. I found my voice, or rather began using it. Once a month, you can find me in a local coffee shop open mic and on stage the following Sunday at church leading worship. You may even scroll across a short clip of a song that I just HAD to sing in the great acoustics of my bathroom.  I’ll even share with you my story about one of the most dangerous but fulfilling hikes I took to a waterfall in Haiti.

I would’ve never put myself out there like this before! But with transformation on how I thought and felt about myself came a new confidence.

In the summer of 2015, my mom told me about Get a Grip and a special rate that was offered for teachers over the summer. As a first year teacher entering my first summer vacation, my body began to go through a negative transformation. I instantly gained 10 pounds as I took full advantage of lying in bed just a little longer, going out with friends, and lounging on the couch to catch up on all of the shows I had missed in the midst of the crazy teacher life that consumed me throughout the school year. On a teacher’s salary in the middle of summer, it was scary to think about the cost of the gym membership, but it was even scarier to think that I could easily end up where I started if I wasn’t proactive in taking even more charge of my health.

So, I signed up and began to regularly attend boot camps. I danced for 20 years, but never would I deem myself athletic. It was so fulfilling though, being able to complete workout after workout. Boot camps revealed such a sense of endurance, athleticism, and potential I never knew I had. Even though I told myself it was just for the summer, I couldn’t turn back.

This time, as a person who had reached the point of loving herself in each area that I said I wanted transformation, I truly loved the physical transformation that my body went through in just that one summer at Get a Grip, and it left me wanting more. Get a Grip is THE ONLY gym that has kept me consistent in my physical health. The environment is welcoming and supportive. Carrie and her team really do push you to reveal your full potential and I love it! Her vision that health is a holistic lifestyle aligned with mine, and attending Get a Grip has pushed me to make even healthier lifestyle choices, as well as push myself physically in new ways to this day.

I have now been an official member of Get a Grip for about a year and a half. I am down about 70 pounds from my initial 250-pound weigh in and I feel great! Of course, I am continuously working to become even healthier in all areas of my life, but I have liked the pace of this journey. It has assured me that this IS a lifetime transformation.

Within the past year of attending Get a Grip, I have made new friends who are wonderful support systems, I have lost around 20 pounds, gained muscle in places that I never knew muscle existed, dropped 2 dress sizes, and bought my first ever bikini!

I know my body has so much more, and I am still working to become conscious of the everyday choices I am making to contribute to my new lifestyle of health and fitness. But it has been a journey that I know will continue to be life changing. I am SO proud of this young lady and I’m super excited to see what is next for her. She has a whole life ahead of her and she will do amazing things with no doubt.

We are super excited to see what is in store for Fran next!

Fran's Success Story spotlgihtPicFranJulien1

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