Alicia's Transformation

From Alicia’s Perspective: 

With Monica’s help, I have lost 11 dress sizes!  When I first started working with Monica, I was at size 34. Now I’m a size 12, and have so much more energy and confidence, and my friends and family have noticed!

When people ask me my secret, all I can say is I have an amazing trainer who puts forth the work to truly help and change the lives of her clients.  I tell everyone how much Monica and I have worked on toning my muscles, and how she’s helped me discover how to ENJOY burning calories. When people see me now, versus me from two years ago, their mouths drop.

I have two disabilities: epilepsy seizures and Rheumatoid arthritis. As my Personal Trainer, Monica did her research about my health challenges to create an exercise plan that would work for me. Monica also had to teach me how to modify certain moves because my left knee has no cartilage at all. What I love about Monica is that she was very determined to build, and make my leg joints and muscles stronger. To do this, Monica started training me on land. In the beginning it was a huge challenge for me, and it was a total body workout. Each week, Monica would challenge me more with something new. Monica then encouraged me to start doing group cross training classes on land at the WARF. As Monica was training me, I also had to write down everything I ate and all my exercise activities day to day.

Soon, I found that my whole body was growing stronger. The weight was coming off, and I was losing inches as well.

All the time now, people are telling me how slim and how great I look. Thanks to Monica for pushing me and working me very hard, and making sure I track all my works out and everything I eat.

By working out hard with Monica I have lost over 155 pounds and 50 inches off my body.

I have been fighting this battle since February 2008, when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I did not know if I was ever going to walk normally again in my life time, because I had suffered permanent damage to my joints and the muscles in my legs. I was walking at about 40% when Monica became my Personal Trainer. Now I am able to walk at a good pace and even jog thanks to Monica’s training. Now, I am walking at 100% and more.

While I end of loving every class I take with her, Monica’s yoga class have helped me develop more mindfulness around previous habits that were holding me back. Monica’s yoga class alone has been a great gift in my life because it has taught me to let things go and work on my inner strength. She has empowered me to channel my energy more efficiently, and helped me with a combination of breathing and relaxation techniques, along with physical exercise, visualization and meditation. I believe that yoga has contributed largely to the fact that I have not had a seizure in about two years.

Monica, I have to say – you are the best trainer!!!

All I can say is thanks again, Monica, for giving me back my life and legs.

As published on 

She can be found five nights a week at the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility, participating in everything from yoga to zumba to jab kick core classes.

“If you can’t, you must,” reads the quote on Alicia Arden’s hot pink headband. It has become one of her mottos.

Mrs. Arden exercises to survive.

Doctors told the Warrenton resident she would not be able to walk normally again if she didn’t lose weight.

“My knees were in such pain. When I just walked, the pain was so hurtful, and my joints were so swollen. I had to do something,” the 49-year-old explains. “Three doctors were telling me you either have to do something, get the weight off, or you’re just killing your body.

“I had no choice. I think it was a do or die situation.”

After getting diagnosed in 2008 with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease, Mrs. Arden joined Weight Watchers, losing 50 pounds by altering her diet. But the weight came back.

In 2010, she joined the WARF after a suggestion from her doctors, Jennifer and Michael Akerman.

With no cartilage in her left knee and damaged leg muscles and joints, a condition aggravated by her RA, starting to exercise proved painful. Mrs. Arden began with water classes and the first aqua boot camp, working on strengthening her muscles.

“I couldn’t even walk in the pool; it hurt. Even at home I could only go up and down the stairs once a day. I was limited,” said Mrs. Arden, who also has epilepsy.

In January 2011, she took the next step and hired Monica Fernandi as her personal trainer at the WARF.

Another of Mrs. Arden’s mottos, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” came from her personal trainer. She credits Mrs. Fernandi for appearing when she needed help the most.

After a few more water exercise sessions, Mrs. Fernandi began training her on solid surfaces, asking her to count the number of steps she took while walking around the track, challenging her more every week.

Admitting she wants to give up some days, Mrs. Arden she keeps a positive attitude.

“She will tell me when her knees hurt, and she will show up anyway,” Mrs. Fernandi says. “She just backs off and listens to her body, but she’s never given into it. There are people who (will not show up and) will blame the weather and not even have the pain that this woman has.”

Since this January, Mrs. Arden has met twice a month with Alice Maher, a holistic health counselor from Looking Glass Natural Health in Warrenton, to balance her nutrition and health.

“I believe that we have to look at the whole picture — nutrition, physical movement, career, relationships, spirituality, just to name a few,” Mrs. Maher explains. “When we look at the whole picture, we are all different, we started to look at all those holistic aspects of her life and healing everything.”

Yoga is Mrs. Arden’s favorite class.

“It really touches my heart,” she says. “It’s a class that really brings a lot of spiritual meaning to me. It’s all about the peacefulness behind it. I can just let go.”

Mrs. Arden’s dedication comes from the support of her husband Tony, who drives her to classes, Mrs. Fernandi, her personal trainer, and many others who have helped her along the way.

Over the past three years, with support, exercise and dietary adjustments, she has lost and kept off 148 pounds.

“I have lost over 30 inches off my body. I was a size 34 and I am size 12-14,” says Mrs. Arden, who works for Fairfax County government.

Her goals include getting down to a size 6 or 8 and a weight of 140 pounds.

“Right now, I feel the best I’ve felt in years. Health-wise, I went to the doctor Tuesday, and she said I’m in perfect health, blood pressure, cholesterol . . . . She told me just to keep doing what I’m doing, exercising, loosing weight,” Mrs. Arden says. “I’ve never felt so good. Even though there are days when I’m still in some pain, I’ve never felt so motivated, wanting to exercise.”

She hopes that her sharing her story will encourage others to exercise. She eventually would like to become a certified fitness instructor in zumba and other classes.

“I want to be into fitness, help teach those who are in the same boat as I am, with arthritis issues. I want to help people in their golden age stay fit and exercise,” she explains.

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