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Sports and athletics were part of DAC member Courtney Surrett’s life growing up, but it was just something she did. It wasn’t until she was forced to make a life changing decision that she discovered a true passion for fitness and exercise.

Born in Los Angeles, Courtney Surrett’s family relocated to Arizona after their house and her father’s business suffered severe damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. At 19, her parents divorced – a trauma felt by the whole family.

“I put on 100 pounds in one year and was diagnosed as pre-type 2 diabetic. I was eating my feelings.” She hadn’t realized how much weight she had put on, but her diagnosis was a reality she couldn’t ignore. When the doctor told her she needed to start medication, she asked if there was any other way. Her doctor simply said, lose the weight.

Courtney was determined not to rely on a pill to fix her. “I had to find a way to bring myself back to a healthy, whole person.”

She found limited success with some of the fad diets of the moment – losing 20 pounds on Atkins, 20 pounds on South Beach – but the world of fitness is what changed her life.

Courtney joined a gym with a large contingent of body building competitors. She would watch them from afar, only daring to dream what it might be like to walk amongst them. She was content living in the background with her unrealized dream until, one day, someone told her that she could never do it, she could never be in a fitness show. That was all she needed to hear.

Courtney called up her coach and said, I want to compete. Knowing she probably wouldn’t place in the competition, she just wanted to “have the guts to walk on that stage.” She did it. She didn’t win but she did end up losing that 100 pounds along the way, she launched her fitness modeling career and found her passion.

After the competition, Courtney was contacted by Fitness Modeling International. She joined fitness models from all over the world for conferences three times a year. She shared her weight loss journey, met people from all over the industry and had world-renown photographers take her photos in fun locations.

While in Arizona, Courtney continued body building and fitness modeling, but she also owned her own flower shop and worked at a medical college where she met her future husband, Steve. They remained friends for five years before things got serious.

When Steve finished his undergrad and medical school in Arizona, he moved to New York for his residency and fellowship. “We did long distance for a little bit, but I ended up closing my business, packed up everything I could, including my dog, into my little VW bug, and drove to New York.”

Courtney and Steve eloped in New York and got pregnant right away with Carter, now a bubbly 11 month old. When Steve’s fellowship ended, he interviewed all over the US – San Diego, Colorado, Texas, Atlanta, Philadelphia – but nothing compared to Eugene. “When we came to Eugene, we were like, wow, this is where we want to raise our family.”

They bought a house. Next step, finding a gym. As a new mom with a two month old child, Courtney was hesitant to get back into the gym: but, at this point, fitness had become a driving force in her life and she couldn’t stay away.

“I wanted to get back into my world, my church, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my baby with just anyone and we don’t have family here to help. When we met Nickie (in Kidstop), it was a sold deal.”

Courtney and Steve have been members now for 8 months. “We’ve made so many friends from the DAC alone. We are a new family so it’s nice that the DAC puts on programs like First Friday Family Night. It’s a great way to get integrated into the community.”

When Courtney moved to New York, she stopped working but got her license as an esthetician. Originally she planned to throw herself into a new business once Carter was born, but “babies are actually more work than people actually let on,” Courtney laughs. Even though she decided to hold off on the business until Carter goes to school, she is still chasing her passion.

Courtney recently started subbing for Cycle classes at the DAC. With some encouragement from other instructors and positive feedback from members, she is adding her name to the Spring Schedule, released this month.

“I was so flattered when they asked. If I can inspire someone else and give them a little piece of what I love about this industry, maybe that spark will take them to the next level. That’s what I absolutely love about fitness.”

Thanks to Courtney Surrett for sharing her story.

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