November - Member Spotlight

Mike Makarowski doesn’t expect life to be fair. It goes back to an experience he doesn’t even remember – one that happened with he was a toddler. But that experience – as with other setbacks in life – has never held him back.

When he was 18 months old, Mike developed epilepsy. He’s been on medication ever since. “Everything in the world is a challenge, and you have to be better just to get a fair shot,” he says.

When Mike saw his doctor just over a year ago, he was significantly overweight and had smoked for 30 years. His doctor encouraged Mike to see a dietician – not revealing then that Mike was on the verge of being diagnosed as type 2 diabetic.

“I put out my last cigarette on Oct. 8, 2020. That was it,” he said. He modified his eating habits, cutting down to 1500 calories a day, and quickly lost 15 pounds. Then he found the Y and added exercise to his regimen. He hasn’t looked back since.

“I wouldn’t trade you guys for the world. I’ve rediscovered the magic of success,” he said. “Without the Y, I wouldn’t be weighing 185, and I wouldn’t have been able to quit smoking, and I wouldn’t be the success I am today.”

Mike’s success today – having just turned 50 – isn’t his first experience with fitness. As a young adult, he was a competitive athlete in both football and boxing. After finishing third in the Junior Olympic Nationals in boxing, he chose football, playing linebacker, strong safety and running back.

A lifelong LSU fan, he hoped to attend college there, but his path took him in another direction. Nevertheless, his connection to the school remains. “I’ve loved one school my entire life, and I’ve dated a lot of women who went to LSU,” he laughs.

Mike spent much of his adult life living in Louisiana and working offshore. He returned to Pensacola because his parents still live here. He calls himself a “strong family man” and a man who is “strong in my Catholic faith.” He was working to start a landscaping business when Hurricane Sally struck the area in September 2020, ripping the roof off his and his parents’ home and delaying his business plans.

But he rediscovered personal determination in his wellness work at the Y. He also joined the area’s Special Olympics weightlifting team, earning a blue ribbon last month in the deadlifting competition.

He’s quick to praise the Y staff for motivating him, holding him accountable, and keeping him safe. “This Y has the most motivated staff. They won’t let you do anything halfway,” Mike says. He’s especially grateful for personal trainer Nina LaRue, who has taken time to correct his form and adjust his weight when needed. Wellness coach Shayla Burgess has also shared her powerlifting expertise.

Mike’s advice to anyone beginning a wellness journey is simple: “You can lose the weight and the bad habits by changing your diet and believing in yourself first,” he says. “Then find positive things to do and stick with them. Start small and give yourself rewards for doing it. You can do it. If I can find the will to do it, you can do it.”

Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.