Member Spotlight – Mel Casambre


3 years and 700 sessions later…what a fitness journey it has been!

I always considered myself an active person. I joined different gyms and, at one point, I was a Zumba instructor before joining JCF. Life happened and I fell off the wagon. I tried to stay as active as I could: snowboarding in the winter season and hiking during spring/fall. Something was always missing. Those were fun to do, but it just wasn’t enough. I was looking for something with substance that was going to stick for the rest of my life.

Life hit home hard early 2014 for me. My dad passed away from his disease, and it was then that I knew I needed to make it my mission to look for something that was going to keep me away from doctors’ offices for the wrong reasons. I saw a Facebook ad where Coach Daris spoke about his program. I came for the one free session at Exchange Place Pier: I crawled home afterwards–nothing prepared me for that workout! I signed up for the 30-day trial and the rest is history.

Every session I attended was a competition with myself. Everyday I was pushed beyond my limits and taken out of my comfort zone, and I began to see myself in a different light: I started to feel better about myself, my clothes fit better, I had more energy and, most of all, my confidence level was rising.

An important lesson I learned about myself during this journey is that I am, after all, a competitive person. I will not go down without giving it my all.

There is nothing like waking up at 4:30 in the morning, dressing up and showing up for 5:30 AM sessions Monday thru Friday. I must admit I was very surprised to meet women working out at that hour every morning.

Deciding to become a JCF member was a no-brainer for me. Staying committed and pushing myself to work outside the box was the most challenging part. After one year of being a member, I knew I needed to mix things up. The fitness aspect of my journey was becoming a routine and I needed a new goal: I signed up for my first half-marathon. I believed all my hard work in the gym was going to pay off as I trained for the race. Not gonna lie, though, I had nightmares leading up to race day: this was nothing like I had done before so part of me only thought of failure. As I crossed the finish line at 2:17, I knew then that a new personal record must be set.

I was on a roll with my fitness journey, and the only thing missing was my commitment to truly embracing the healthy lifestyle. This meant I wold have to face my weaknesses and vulnerabilities around eating healthy. To help me do this I finally joined a JCF Transformation Challenge and it opened up a whole new world of nutrition. My mom’s creative ways to get me to eat veggies my whole life came back full circle: she no longer have to hide the veggies in my shakes!

At the end of the 6-week challenge I lost 10 pounds and 10 inches! I was not only transformed physically but also mentally. I never want to go back to what my life was like before joining JCF.

Today I still look forward to sessions in and outside of the gym. Since that first half-marathon, I’ve developed a fondness for running, became a member of the JCF Running Crew and have surpassed personal records in many races from 5K to 13.1 miles. I am currently training for the 2019 Chicago Marathon this fall and now have a list of favorite veggies to snack on! 🙂

My most favorite part of JCF are the strong and motivated women and men I have met. They are no longer people I workout with: they have become friends, mentors, and comrades on this so-called life journey.

And most of all, I would not be where I am today if it not for the dedication and commitment of our three coaches: Coach Cait, Coach Daris, and Coach Mel. They are better than the Three Musketeers. They each bring a different flare to the gym and it’s never a dull moment when they are in charge. Every session they push us to be better versions of ourselves. Together with the members, it is their hard work and commitment that makes JCF a special place.

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