NEW ULM - Maddie Augustin loves to exercise, loves being fit, and loves the benefits and feeling of well being it gives her. Winning national recognition from Anytime Fitness as a "National Success Story" is just an added benefit.
"I never, ever went into exercise as a means to win an award," said Augustin Saturday from the University of Minnesota, where she is a sophomore majoring in bio products and bio system engineering. She got into exercise as a means to beat her depression.
Augustin said she spent most of her young life feeling, she now realizes, depressed. "I was always sad, everything I did felt like a task. There was no happiness in anything I did," she said.
Maddie Augustin of New Ulm was honored last month at the Anytime Fitness national conference as a “National Success Story,” for her experience of overcoming depression with physical training.
"My mom (Jill Augustin) said that even when I was a kid, there where times when I'd just shut down. I spent a lot of time alone in my room."
The feelings got worse as Augustin entered junior high and high school.
"In my sophomore year, in health class, we learned about depression, and I realized that's how I felt. In the class they said there were medications that could help people feel better. I went to my Mom and asked her if we could get some of that medication to help me feel better."
Her mother Jill Augustin, is the owner of Anytime Fitness in New Ulm, and she suggested that Maddie try exercise first, and if that didn't help they would get some medication.
"I just thought that she needed to take control, build self-esteem, and experience how strong she really is." Jill said. "Every day, in my job, I witness the healing and transforming effects of exercise. Maddie needed to learn that she's capable of things she'd never even imagined. And it worked! My husband and I watched in awe, as she transformed her life, and moved from a place of despair to a place of WOWBring it on! Exercise is a very powerful medicine."
Despite her mother's profession, Augustin said she had not been into regular exercise. She had tried sports, but said she always felt awkward and unwelcome.
Her parents set her up with a personal trainer two days a week, and she usually got another day or two in on her own.
The difference in her mental attitude came quickly, Augustin said.
"It was amazing," she said. "The workout felt hard, but the endorphins it released made me feel a lot better."
Exercising at the club twice a week with a personal trainer and three to four times a week on her own, Maddie lost weight, got stronger and gained confidence. Although she stands only 5"4" and had never competed in a sport before, Maddie's improved attitude gave her the confidence to participate as a walk-on athlete on the University of Minnesota's NCAA Division 1 crewing development team - a sport typically dominated by much taller and bigger athletes. Within one month, Maddie's strength and power earned her a top 20 ranking, out of 120 athletes, and secured her a seat in the boat for competition.
Best of all, she enjoys life, without the feeling of sadness and depression that held her back four years ago.
"Everybody has bad days, days when you're stressed out, and feel a little down, but I can control it. I'm happier more often than not," said Augustin. "I feel like a completely different person, I've come so far from where I was."
Her transformation led to an invitation to the Anytime Fitness' annual conference in Florida last month to share her experience as a "National Member Success Story."
A videotaped presentation on her story was shown at the conference, and can be seen at: http://youtu.be/SqOVX-2pgVU