EPIC NYC’s Mandee Barreto, has been a member since 2014. Over the last two years, she’s made strides in both her physical and nutritional well-being. Read about what Mandee has to say about her EPIC transformation.

In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t really know where I fit in. I was surrounded by the idea that skinny was the thing to be and I just wasn’t. I blamed genetics and, as ashamed as I am to say, I blamed my parents. I had the typical teenage mentality; everyone was out to get me, and because of my insecurities I felt like no one found me attractive, so I buried myself in my books.

I spent so much time and energy not liking the person staring back at me in the mirror during high school, once college rolled around my eating habits began to change and I utilized the campus gym. I always wanted to join a gym, but up until then I didn’t have the money and most places required you to be at least 18. I lost a handful of pounds without too much effort and found a love for working out. I eventually joined a gym and started reading articles on different exercises and nutrition. I didn’t want to be skinny. I wanted muscles. Muscles were sexy.
The gym and I had a very on and off relationship. I got bored easily and I didn’t always like the facilities I belonged to. I even worked as a personal trainer for a month while working toward my certification, but I disliked the place so much that I gave up on it. I endured catcalls as I walked through the weight area. Too many times men felt the need to instill their knowledge upon me. It felt like a man’s world, and I was just visiting.
From that point on I tried group fitness classes. I loved the atmosphere. I walk in for an hour long workout and everything is already planned out for me. I dabbled in just about everything from Zumba to kickboxing, to hot yoga, Pilates and krav maga. It was nice at first, but in many cases, the challenge was lost and became too repetitive to hold my interest. I went back to the big box gym one more time and quickly realized that I was paying for a space that was too overcrowded and I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of the experience. So while browsing through Groupon one day, I saw a deal for EPIC. It was described as a “monkey bar” gym. I was intrigued.
I remember walking in on a Friday afternoon to try my first class, and was quickly greeted by Coach Brendan. Since I was new, he wanted to introduce himself and find out if I had any injuries. All of that individual attention shocked me. Usually the classes I attended were so impersonal, but Brendan knew each participant by name. So refreshing!
EPIC was unlike anything I had ever done before. Each station was based upon functional movement. Awesome! sThe class had a good amount of women in it and they were doing extraordinary things. This definitely wasn’t a boys club (another plus). Men and women had a mutual respect for each other and were able to do amazing things like handstands, skin the cats, rope climbs and more! While I didn’t see myself ever completing any of those feats, I still wanted to stick around and play with the cool kids and I’m glad I did. The class kicked my butt! I was aching all over for an entire week. Muscles that I didn’t even know existed were crying. I couldn’t wait to go back! That was just over 2 years ago J

At EPIC, everyone is friendly and supportive. I found myself celebrating their accomplishments and they celebrated mine. It felt good. This was the most consistent I had ever remained with working out, especially at one place. As my confidence grew so did my strength. I started getting daring and one day as I sat by my computer I signed myself up for a whole trifecta with the first race being a Beast! What a wakeup call! That race was probably physically and mentally the toughest thing I had ever done in my life. When I crossed that finish line, emotions washed over me and tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so happy and so proud. This had happened to me only once before, a month prior when I crossed the finish line of the NYC Half Marathon. Checking the Half off of my bucket list, I found myself hooked on Obstacle Course Racing. Before joining EPIC, I had maybe 2 5Ks under my belt. Since joining, I’ve run countless 5Ks, the NYC Half, The Viking Obstacle Race, and next month I will be running my 6th Spartan (and I’m sure that number will quickly climb).

Now that EPIC was building muscles in just about every inch of my body, I knew it was just a matter of tweaking my nutrition. Working out and proper nutrition clearly went hand-in-hand. The better I fueled my body, the better it performed. The fat slowly melted off and those muscles crept out of their hiding places. Abs! I could see my abs…..Genetics? Ha! I learned that sticking with EPIC a few times a week paired with good nutrition was my secret weapon. Today, I am doing handstands, skin the cats, rope climbs, traversing monkey bars and so much more! I am truly grateful to the coaches and members that have, and continue to inspire me each and every day. I have come into my own and I no longer feel awkward, uncomfortable, or out of place. Skinny is a dirty word to me. I like the person staring back at me in the mirror. I could walk into a gym at any given moment and claim my territory at the squat rack because I am strong, I am fierce, I am confident. I am EPIC.