Lissa Bankston is the picture of physical fitness – as you’d expect of a Les Mills Master Trainer. But she wasn’t always that way. In fact, there was a moment when Lissa looked at herself and realized something had to change.
“I had done the typical thing, gone to college, started drinking, eating badly. I had gained weight and got acne, I was low on energy, I had bad sleeping habits, and I started failing at school.”
Seeing a photograph of herself at her brother’s wedding was the turning point. “I was sick of myself,” she admits.
With a background in sports and two very athletic parents, including a mother involved in competitive jazzercize, the solution was fairly clear. “Mom suggested I come to a BODYPUMP class one morning,” she remembers. “I was hooked. It was lively, great energy, and I felt like I was part of a team. I got obsessed and my passion grew from there.”
Bit by bit, Lissa worked her way back to fitness – and to the front row of her group fitness classes. Eventually she was asked to become an instructor. She now teaches BODYCOMBAT™, BODYJAM™ and SH’BAM™, as well as BODYPUMP™, which she laughingly calls the “gateway drug to working out”.
There was a time, however, when Lissa doubted what has become her life’s calling. Having moved back to her hometown of Knoxville after ten years away, she took a sales job with a pharmaceutical company and tried, in her own words, to conform to the expectations of other people.
“My heart wasn’t in it,” she confesses. When the job fell through she fell back on her family, her faith in God and her fitness. She went back to being an instructor, and what happened next confirmed to her she had made the right choice.
No one turned up to her first class, but as she was about to leave, she noticed an overweight young woman who was new to the gym. Asked how many people were needed to make up a class, Lissa made a snap decision. “I said, ‘two – you and me’.”
That chance meeting led to weekly sessions, and over time her first client lost weight and regained her health.
“One day she pulled me aside and started crying, telling me that because of my help that one-day, she had now lost weight, and had been able to go off her diabetes medication – which had been costing her $400 a month. That saving allowed her to send her son to college. And the amazing thing was, the drug I helped her get off was one of the products I had been selling in my previous job.”
Yes, it does sound like the kind of story that has a moral. For Lissa it is simple: “I love seeing people at their most vulnerable and then being able to give them the confidence to succeed in something. It’s a huge honor.”