James Laurie is a lawyer from Raleigh, NC. For most of his adult life, he struggled with weight-related health issues, but a gastric bypass, which helped him jumpstart his weight loss, left him weak and unable to do many tasks. Going up and down stairs had to be strategically planned, and even holding a milk jug was a struggle.

James knew it was time for a change, and he saw an ad for Iron Tribe Fitness North Raleigh in the local newspaper. Through his three year fitness journey at Iron Tribe, he has not only regained his strength, but also increased it. Also, for the past year, James has had a partner in his workouts every day — his daughter. Iron Tribe has not only radically transformed James’ life from a physical standpoint, but it has also given him and his daughter a new outlet for bonding.

Read what James has to say about his experience.

In June 2012, I was 50 years old and I weighed 438 pounds. I had gastric bypass surgery at Duke, and although I lost significant weight, I never exercised and needed structure and encouragement and came to Iron Tribe North Raleigh when it first opened and I was in the first 101. As I lost weight, I also lost as much or more in muscle, so when I came to Iron Tribe in May two and a half years ago, I had not run 100 meters in more than a year and could not do it, I had to use two hands to pick up a gallon of milk, and had to drag myself up stairs with my arms because because my legs had gotten so weak.

Kanon and Brandon were encouraging, patient, and I was the guy that always finished last -way last- in every work out. When I started Iron Tribe, I had lost eighty pounds from the surgery, but my monthly weight loss had slowed dramatically, which scared me into the gym. Since starting Iron Tribe, my ‘halo’ from the surgery faded, but I still lost an additional 90 pounds, and was a steady three day a week guy.

After I got to my lowest weight, and total weight loss of 170 pounds, I put on fifteen pounds, but during that same period, I lost four more inches in my waist, which meant that I was adding muscle and still losing weight.

I remained stable in weight for about a year but have added muscle, and been able to complete movements I could not do the year before. This past summer, I got my 15 year old daughter, Virginia, to try 101 this past summer, which she viewed as a ‘boot camp’ for a summer language immersion program with a physical training requirement. She completed 101, and, as a result, then got placed in the top tier of the physical work out at camp (with the Jr ROTC boys). She altered her diet dramatically and followed the paleo program for the rest of summer pretty religiously. We did not think she could continue Iron Tribe, because she gets picked up by van service for school at 7 a.m., got home at 7 p.m. each day, and no one in our family had ever been morning people, and never even considered 5:45 a.m. I would occasionally go to 5:45 a.m. when I would otherwise have to miss 7:30 a.m. for work, but that group was pretty intense and intimidating, and I would get partnered with Charles or Wendy!

When school began in August, Virginia wanted to try 5:45 a.m. and make it work, so we tried for two weeks together for three days a week, and we did it, and have been doing it ever since. We have to walk out of the gym at 6:30 and sometimes miss cool downs, and she has to sprint into shower and be ready for van service by 7 a.m., but she does it, so I do it too… Even with all the muscle I have added, I have gotten down to my lowest weight again as we have stepped up our frequency. In December, we decided to move to five days a a week, and this is our second week doing five days a week. Virginia turned 16 last week, and she is rapidly progressing physically, as only a teenager can, and ran her first 5K on New Years Day. She has dropped a really significant amount of weight as well and has dropped five dress sizes since starting at Iron Tribe, and is extremely disciplined about her diet. She is really climbing on her weights and deadlifted 185 for three reps last week.

This has given us a father daughter connection I would not have foreseen in High School. I have severe arthritis and bad knees, so I will always be slow or last, but she has moved into ‘the pack’ on all runs. I am the drag on the runs in partner workouts, but we both love having each other as a partner.’