BALTIMORE, Md. — Running out of time, that was the direction Rick Plona was heading.
“I was 25 years old and 290 pounds," said Rick Plona. “In my head I had a picture of myself who was a kid in high school who was very athletic, a three sport athlete, but on the bar stool, I wasn't. I saw a picture of me on a bar stool, and I just couldn't believe what I saw in the picture.”
But his weight wasn't the only obstacle for this former Archbishop Curley athlete; he was also battling the bottle.
“I was bartending to put myself through school and stress levels were high and alcohol, alcohol was a part of my daily life. I didn't see it happening. I thought it was something I was going to be something I'd grow out of. I didn't realize it was a disease. I didn't get that addiction was a disease.”
Fast forward seven years and 100 pounds lighter with a strong support network, Plona has turned his life and his body around with Mission FIT.
“The endorphins that get released as a pleasure response from alcohol, I get that when I'm out there running, I get that when I'm in here," Plona said. "Exercise was a big part of my life before drinking took over, and I wanted to get back to it because I believe that's me being my true self.”
Now a Certified Personal Trainer, Plona’s helping clients like John O'Brien reach their personal goals.
They're both members of the 100 pound loser club.
“With the physical condition I was in, I could barely bend over to tie my shoes," said O'Brien. "My wife and I had a condo in Bel Air that we really liked. It was on the third floor but it had no elevator, so we sold it and bought a condo with an elevator because I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs anymore."
The retired lab technician had a quadruple bypass in 2008. He quit smoking but gained 75 pounds.
When he tipped the scales at 285 he decided enough was enough. He'd watched what obesity did to his mother in her later years.
“By the end of her life, she was kind of stuck in a room, unable to walk up and down steps, really go outside very much at all, and I was getting ready to retire, and I didn't want to live like that. I wanted to be able to enjoy my life, and I do, now that I'm in a better physical condition," said O'Brien.
In May 2015, he'd lost his weight through a fitness app. It took him 10 months, then last year John turned to Plona to tone up.
“I'm almost unrecognizable from five years ago,” said O'Brien.
It's become a family affair for John. His wife Margaret also lost 60 pounds.
“God willing I'll be able to enjoy my life for a long time, a lot longer than I would have been if I had continued in the direction I was going,” said O'Brien.
Plona's direction is also clearer now. At 32 years old, and eight years into recovery, his day job is more than just exercise. It keeps him fit and focused on helping others and sober.
For someone running or walking a mile in his shoes, he offers this.
“Tomorrow is never guaranteed, just start right now, start right now because there's no other time than right now," said Plona. "It's now or never, I really believe that."
He says you can accomplish that by taking your fitness goals as well as your road to recovery whether it's alcohol or drugs, one day at a time. For Rick Plona there's no looking back, only ahead into the future.