Exercise helps widow work through grief and get fit
ANTHEM, AZ (CBS5) -
It was 2009 when Michelle Steinke remembers feeling most depressed.
"Sad, really sad for reasons I couldn't even explain," she said.
She was angry and tired of carrying around nearly 100 pounds of extra weight.
"I hit rock bottom. That's the only way I can explain it. I literally hit this personal rock bottom where I realized I can't live like this anymore. I deserved better than this. My life is better than this," she recalled.
Steinke started exercising and in six weeks had dropped 50 pounds. She said she felt alive again ... until death shook her world.
"My husband left on a beautiful October morning. He was a commercial pilot. He went to fly his dad's World War 1 Biplaner and it crashed shortly after takeoff at the Deer Valley airport."
The young mother of two children under the age of 2 was now a widow. She worked through her grief the only way she knew how - by working out.
"I woke up the next morning and everything in my being told me not to quit working out. It was like literally I could hear someone yelling in my ear, this is really important," she remembers.
Steinke focused on fitness and time in the gym.
"(It) was my safe place. That was the place I could go and have an hour of refuge from being the widow," she said.
She lost a total of 70 pounds.
"I took me less than three months because I was grieving."
Steinke's renewed sense of self gave her a renewed sense of purpose. She quit her vice president position in the real estate industry.
"I became a trainer and my family wanted to have me committed," she laughingly remembers. "What are you doing? But I knew it was my gut instinct and it was telling me, you've got to. You've got to do this."
She went on to create One Fit Widow, a virtual fitness and nutrition training company with a nonprofit division specifically for people struggling through loss.
"It's that act of putting one foot in front of the other when you're running or exercising ... I want to empower more widows and widowers to feel that way - to feel like they can move forward," she added.
Steinke and her family continue to move forward.
She's engaged, planning a wedding and is healthier than ever, both inside and out.
"I want to spend the rest of my life making young widows and widowers realize that if they can just take some time for them and just remember themselves and take care of themselves during this horrible time that it can propel them forward in life," she said.
Every year Steinke honors her husband by doing something off of his bucket list. She's now working to launch a foundation called Live the List which would grant bucket list items to others wanting to do something in honor of their spouse.