Member Spotlight: Brian O’Connell
By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor/member
Brian O’Connell has seen some incredible results during his time as a VIDA member. An attorney by day, Brian joined VIDA in January 2016 after years of struggling to find a workout routine that really stuck. Nowadays, he’s a total gym pro. With the help of one of our registered dietitians and tons of hours logged lifting weights and hitting the indoor cycle studio, Brian has lost more than 45 pounds this year alone! We had to learn more about his incredible journey, what he loves most about VIDA, and the advice he’d give to those just getting started with their own wellness goals.
What’s your fitness journey been like?
My fitness journey did not really start in earnest until about 2012. For most of my life, I had been seriously overweight. Even as far back as third grade, I had an embarrassing awareness of being bigger than most — if not all — of my peers. As I progressed into high school and college, I was generally just the largest person in the room. During these years I had tried a few times to get into a workout routine but did not stick to anything.
In 2012, after I had graduated college and started a new job, I compared my new work ID to my driver’s license picture from high school, and was generally just…ashamed. I decided to make more of an active effort to begin losing weight. I started just by making minor changes to what I was eating and saw some success. Shortly after, I started law school. During my first summer of law school, I started running. During my second summer, I had a personal trainer who introduced me to weightlifting. I saw more success, but after graduating from law school and while studying for the bar, I stopped working out and put back on some of the weight I had lost. After moving to D.C. to start my job, I knew I wanted to continue weightlifting and losing weight, which prompted me to join VIDA.
What were your initial goals when you joined?
My initial goals were to gain strength and lose the weight I’d gained studying for the bar. VIDA has really enabled me to do that — and much more — by how much it offers: From the trainers, dietitians, all of the classes, great hours, and just the variety of equipment. I have now lost about 20 pounds or so more than my initial goal, and I am the strongest I’ve ever been. A really exciting milestone I hit a few months ago was doing two pull-ups — the first ever in my life. I legitimately believed I would never be able to do one.
Describe your typical workout routine.
I aim to work out a minimum of three times per week under any circumstances, and strive to hit six times a week: four weightlifting days and two spin classes. I love weightlifting because I can easily track my progress from week to week. Indoor cycle is also wonderful cardio — it’s energetic, social, and has less impact on my knees than running.
What do you most enjoy about being a VIDA member?
It’s the atmosphere created by both the staff and other members. Coming into a new gym can be intimidating for anyone, and that feeling is intensified when you definitely do not look like most other people who are there. I have felt out of place at other gyms to the point of being discouraged and not wanting to go. At VIDA, I have never felt that way. I primarily work out at Gallery Place, but I get the same sense at other locations.
How do you spend your time when you’re not at the gym?
My favorite hobby is baking! Which can be counterproductive to my goals, so I have not been actively baking as much as I’d like. My specialty is cheesecake, though I recently found a red velvet recipe I really like. I’ve done a couple of weddings for close friends — it’s really exciting to be a part of such a special day for people I love. Other than that, as work allows, I split time between reading and my Nintendo Switch — I finally beat Zelda after having had the game for about nine months.
If you could go back in time and meet one person, who would it be?
This is super sappy, but my paternal grandfather. He passed before I was born, and I would like to have at least some personal memory of him.
Where would you like to travel to next?
I’d love to venture to Slovakia — my grandmother’s family is from there. My sister-in-law just visited Bratislava, and it looked incredible!
Describe your idea of the perfect day.
Saturday, preferably. Wake up, grab a cold brew coffee, and walk to the gym for leg day. Head to brunch after, or host brunch, and come up with grand ideas of things to do in the city before I sucker my friends into marathoning the extended versions of Lord of the Rings because we’re a bunch of dorks. Start making cookies about halfway through The Two Towers (during the Entmoot, obvs.), and then eventually head to the rooftop to enjoy the evening.
Any final words of wisdom?
Particularly for those just starting on their fitness journey or who feel they have a long way to go, I think it’s critical to remember two things. First, different things work for different people. If one thing doesn’t work for you, try something else. It took me six years — almost seven at this point — of off-and-on attempts to find the success I have had this year. Second, consistency is generally more important than doing the “right” thing. There’s so much information out there — do this, don’t do this, maybe do this but only on every third Wednesday. Don’t get caught up on being perfect. Just do something, be safe while you’re doing it, and make adjustments as you go.