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Our Stories

Meet some of the members of the SydFIT Health Centre family, from young champions to boxing fitness members to competitors. They are sharing their stories and, although they might not realize, they are incredibly inspiring!

Photo Credit: Alicia Wynter Photography


JoeJoe really never participated in any high school sports. Now, at age 45, he was interested in learning a new form of martial arts.

For the past two years Joe has been doing boxing training as well as Muay Thai training with our own Zain Ansari.

What Joe loves most about training at SydFIT is, “…the complete connection between mind and body. So much technique (to learn), but it feels so good when you get it right!”

Learn more about Joe’s adventures in training in Thailand, as part of a SydFIT “Dynamic Duo”, further down this page.



jynelleJynelle Bourne came to SydFIT after being a competitive bodybuilder for years. She just wanted to improve her fitness level and learn something new. Never did she have any intention of stepping inside the ring to compete.

Two years later she is the 2018 Brampton Cup Champion and the 2018 Bronze Glove Champion. She had another solid victory at the Rock’n Rumble in downtown Kitchener this past summer. Jynelle is a performer and she embraced the moment to show her supporters what she has been learning and topped it off with a victory dance!

Jynelle took some time off to head to Jamaica and marry the only person who has ever knocked her off her feet in the ring! That would be her fiance Derek who surprised Jynelle by proposing to her in the ring.


aldonYou just never know when a young person walks into the gym just how much they are capable of achieving. As a coach I see many talented young people come through the doors at SydFIT. A veteran coach said to me once, “Never fall in love with talent.” He went on to tell me that it takes so much more than talent to be successful in sport and in life. He was so right. That’s why the discipline of boxing has so much to offer anyone looking to excel in both.

Aldon was just 13 years old the first time he walked through the doors of SydFIT. Over the next 9 years, he has come and gone many times. Then 8 months ago he came back again, out of shape, and did a workout with our competitive boxers. Following the workout he took a nice little nap in my lap (passed out) while I stroked his neck like a baby til he came back to consciousness.

For the last 8 months Aldon has come and stayed and the results in the ring and in his personal life have been admirable. At 22 years old there can be so many distractions and temptations that can lead a young person away from their goals and dreams. Aldon is no stranger to these pitfalls.

As we have real conversations about where he is and where he wants to be, Aldon’s shares his words to live: “Trust the process.” He has been doing just that, working a full-time job, going to school and training. That’s his life right now. It’s not glamourous at the moment but it’s necessary if he wants to achieve the goals he has set for himself in life. Now he is 2 weeks away from getting in the ring for his first amateur competitive boxing match. Well done kid!

— Syd V.


shyanneWow, time sure does fly when you are having fun and surrounded by family. It has been just over a year since my niece, Shyanne, starting training at SydFIT.

When Shyanne wasn’t on the training floor she was at our front desk helping out with the administration. And her boxing technique just kept getting better and better so who knows, you may see another Vanderpool in the ring in the near future!

Shyanne has such an amazing attitude and a great work ethic. I asked her why she started at SydFIT.

“I used to play rugby and I needed to get back into shape so I could graduate from my protection security and investigation course at Conestoga College.”

And she did. And she received an award for having achieved the highest fitness level in her entire class!

There are many reasons why people love boxing training, so I asked Shyanne why she continues to participate in classes at SydFIT.

“My favourite part about boxing is how I get such an amazing full-body workout, sometimes without even realizing it because it’s so much fun. It makes working out easier, being in such an inclusive, energetic environment!”

— Syd “The Proud Uncle” Vanderpool

Erin & Jeff

corporateThis busy & successful corporate power couple make time to prioritize their health and fitness lifestyle even with 2 boys playing rep sports. They find a way to make it work even if it’s training together at 6:30am after dropping their son off for hockey practice and coming in for a workout while he is on the ice. They don’t make excuses to not be healthy for themselves, for each other and for their family.

“We love the community and family feel that you have created. So much so that our oldest son Josh joined and has been going for the last few summers and he has stepped up his fitness and overall athleticism and we’ve seen his confidence grow.” says Jeff, “We have seen him make huge strides, and we believe it takes a village to raise a child so thank you for what you have built and continue to grow.”

Words to Live By

Jeff – “My first boss at RIM said something to me that has always stuck and I use it a lot with my team and people that I mentor but I always credit him He said, “If you don’t have goals for yourself, people will use you to achieve theirs.” Also, as I’ve gotten older and experienced more in this world a Bob Marley quote is something that I have tried to instill with my two boys “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” So believe in yourself.

Erin – Do what you love and love what you do. Passion is what allows people to be authentic and that is what inspires others to follow.

Favourite Foods

Jeff – “Is wine a food? It has to be a steak, shrimp, mushrooms and a salad to start.”

Erin – “Seriously – is wine a food group? I’d have to go with my mother-in-law’s spaghetti and garlic bread.”

In Closing

Jeff – “Boxing to me is like when I get on my bike. I shut out the world and focus on the moment and being present. It is a great stress reliever and kick start to my day.”

Erin – “SydFIT is a very different place from what I have experienced before in my fitness career. It’s not the traditional corporate-type gym plus I have always wanted to master the speed bag. It’s the FITFAM! I’ve made connections with awesome people and this extends to my kids. Special thank you to Alison Bourke (another SydFIT member) for helping my son Jonah.”


melanie melweatherWhat makes someone a specialist? A person who has extensive knowledge about an area or subject. Melanie “Melweather” McConnery started at SydFIT 2 1/2 years ago. This 36 year old mother of 2 started personal training with us to help combat anxiety and depression and increase her fitness level.

Over her time here with us, Melanie has taken part in private training, semi-private training, classes, and competitive boxing where she even had a fight. She is a certified SydFIT group instructor and personal trainer, has taught our youth classes and is our Intake Specialist.

With all this personal experience and knowledge of what we do and who we are at SydFIT, you will be happy when you sit down to meet with our Melanie. Rumour has it she even gives out her personal phone number to new members so that they can connect with her if they need any assistance in their first few weeks at SydFIT.

Contact Melanie at SydFIT today and find out how you can get started learning boxing and improving your health and fitness in a supportive environment.


lauraOne of the things I love so much about what we do at SydFIT is getting to form meaningful relationships with so many great people. We have the opportunity to watch members come in as a single person, get married, have children. We get to walk with them through each stage of their life and provide goals, perspective and guidance. Thirty-six yearold Laura is one of those special SydFIT members. She has been a member with us since the fall of 2009 and is raising 2 adorable kids along with her husband Flav.

I asked Laura if she had any special words of wisdom, and she said, ” I’m not one for motivational quotes, but one that has stuck with me is “I’m not there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” I’m always striving to improve myself whether it’s through nutrition, exercise, parenting, learning about other cultures, etc. Right now I’m striving to find balance in my life and appreciate myself as I am right now. Due to my nagging perfectionist thinking, I spent way too many years being my own worst critic. Now I’m just looking to make small, maintainable improvements and be proud of where I am and where I’m going.”

When asked what has been her biggest health and fitness struggle? Her response was, “My biggest struggle has always been black and white thinking. I would push myself to the limit and then get injured and be forced to take time off. If I wasn’t giving it 100% in something then I would basically give up. But in reality, would I throw away a carton of eggs because one broke? No! So now I’m focusing on making small, sustainable changes rather than tackling too much too soon. And hopefully staying injury free! ”

Why does Laura enjoy boxing at SydFIT? “It’s like riding a bike. You can always jump back into it no matter your fitness level. And there’s always something new to learn no matter how good you are. There are improvements you can make to your form, conditioning, etc. Plus, even though it’s an individual sport, I find there is still a team spirit to it. Everyone who trains together is on the same “team” and in each other’s corner cheering each other on.”


shea_002Shea Kewin is the founder of UHWK which has its headquarters in Kitchener with operations across North America, Russia and Europe. Shea trains pretty much every day at SydFIT even if it’s only a 25 minute quick session. When you are an entrepreneur not only do you need to be, but you must stay hungry! One of Shea’s favorite quotes comes from Conor McGregor:

“At the end of the day, you have got to feel some way. Why not feel unstoppable?”

For the past 2 years Shea has chosen SydFIT not only for the training but for the culture. “If you want to be an eagle, don’t surround yourself with turkeys”.

SydFIT and Shea are soaring to new heights in 2018…stay tuned!



brandyIf you take care of your body, your body will take care of you. I firmly believe that and at 44 years old Brandy is living proof of that statement.

Brandy is a competitive obstacle course racer (like Tough Mudder etc.). She is not just good at it she is one of the best in the world and represented Team Canada in August (finishing an awesome 6th) at the North American Championships in Vermont.

Over the past 4 years at SydFIT most members who have trained alongside Brandy don’t even realize they are training beside such an accomplished athlete because she is so humble and encouraging to those around her. She raises the bar for herself but also wants to see those around her become better at the same time. I find that great athletes have a way of doing that!

Some words of wisdom from Brandy, “It just as important to rest your body as it is to push it. You need to listen to your body though. If I am feeling uncoordinated, sloppy or weak I know to it’s my body’s way of saying push hard & then rest. We can and WILL push harder tomorrow!

Yes, Brandy trains hard and also has a day job.

“Sometimes I get as much sleep in a work week as most get in a night. I sometimes think if I could live a “normal” life schedule.. I could probably be a pretty good athlete! lol ”

Brandy is a vegetarian believe it or not! Her favourite food is quinoa. Naturally gluten-free, a complete protein, high in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, she says, “Quinoa is great for vegetarians like me for the iron and manganese. Well, chocolate really is my first choice. I love to bake… I have found a healthy way to cheat that… I make amazing flourless Quinoa brownies! ”

Why does Brandy come to SydFIT for boxing?

“My fav thing about boxing is it’s a great cardio/strength workout. Boxing improves physical and mental endurance while letting go of tension and stress. It is a great challenge for your mind and muscles but most importantly I think the atmosphere and trainers at SydFIT make the experience unlike any other training facility. Each individual is recognized, challenged and accepted, leaving class with an amazing sense of strength, ability and accomplishment.”

Derrek “DJ Twist”

DJ TwistDerrek “DJ TWIST” is not just your average DJ. He loves the competitiveness and discipline that boxing brings.

DJ Twist has been a member at the SydFIT Health Centre for a year now. I asked him how he got started in boxing.

“I started boxing at a gym in Toronto (Body by Chosen) to try a new form of exercise and joined SydFIT as one more option to gain more experience and better myself as a boxer and get into better shape.”





amberWhen you look up the word inspiration in the dictionary you just may see a picture of Amber Sawyer. She is a high school teacher and a mother of two. At age 30 Amber joined SydFIT to get fit and lose her baby weight.

Along with her husband Dave we encouraged her to step into the ring to compete. Amber did just that and is now a 2-time Golden Glove Champion in 2 different weight classes. In 2017 she was awarded SydFIT’s top female boxer award.

Amber Lynn says that what she loves about boxing is “…it combines art and sport, therefore it can never be won, only practiced and, hopefully, improved upon.”

Amber’s favourite saying: “The devil whispered to the warrior, “You cannot withstand this storm.” and the warrior laughed, “I am the storm!”

bobWhen Jynelle Bourne was on vacation, I had the privilege to work with many of her clients. One of her clients, Bob, is 70 and I pushed him hard in our session. He did not want to take breaks or water, just wanted to keep on punching. He totally amazed me with his technique and conditioning. I can still remember the day I chatted with his wife on the phone when she was looking for a boxing gym. The Rock Steady program at the YMCA was full and she had heard about the amazing results that boxing had with people diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I let her know that we did not have that particular program, but she could have Bob come in and meet with Jynelle. The rest is history as they would say.

I asked Bob about some of his new challenges and how he was dealing with them. He said, “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. My wife and Doctor noticed how fatigued I was and I was “shuffling” my feet. I just felt exhausted but I wanted to keep working. I still play and love ice hockey and was having problems with the skating part. I could skate.. but could NOT stop unless I hit the boards. My brain and my skates wouldn’t work together. I thought the “skate sharpener” wasn’t doing his job right…it was my skate blades… not me!”

Bob didn’t get diagnosed until he met the Neurologist in June 2016.

“He put me on carbidopa-levodopa meds for Parkinson’s. The meds helped the fatigue.” says Bob. “Boxing with Jynelle is helping and I started taking Tai Chi. My hockey game came back and I was skating better and NOT hitting the boards. Hockey will resume in September for me. Boxing has given me more strength than I’ve had and confidence to tackle this disease.”

I asked Bob what his favourite thing about boxing was, besides the fact that he gets to wear Muhammad Ali shirts where people truly appreciate it…lol.

Bob says, ” I love everything that Jynelle puts me through especially putting on the gloves and sparring with her. The most exciting thing about it was getting in the ring to do some of the workouts. ”


RoseI will never forget the day Rose walked into the gym. She was the only female in her group of 3 friends who were starting boxing that day. The 2 gentlemen were super pumped about the opportunity to work towards getting in the ring for an actual fight in year’s time. Rose it seemed was just coming along for the ride. She has been at SydFIT for 5 1/2 years now, and what a ride it has been!

Rose did not play any high school sports. According to her, “Technically, I was on a volleyball team but I was so uncoordinated that I never played a game; I was a bench warmer for the whole season. In my late teens/early 20s, a close family friend started teaching me a Filipino martial art called Arnis, which helped to improve my coordination a bit. I also started playing recreational ball hockey and ultimate frisbee. But I what I really missed was the mental and physical discipline of a martial art, so I came to SydFit! At first, I was in it to get fit, improve my physical capabilities, and meet new people (I was new to town). ”

I asked Rose if there were any words that she lived by? She said, “I’m a bit of a dreamer, so my favourite saying is by Neil Gaiman “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten”. Sometimes these dragons can be internal limits you place on yourself. Boxing helped me realized I can overcome almost anything if I’m willing to fight for it and put in the work. Having not played many sports growing up, I NEVER would have dreamed that I’d ever reach a competitive level in anything. But the team at Syd’s pushed me hard to pass the limits I had subconsciously set for myself, and I found myself in the ring on a competitive stage on 3 occasions.”

I have had the amazing experience of sitting with Rose for breakfast. Rose weighs less than 120lbs and boy can she eat! I was awestruck at how this petite young lady could pack so much food in her little stomach. I asked her what her biggest health and fitness struggle is?

“My biggest health and fitness struggle is maintaining a healthy diet! I love food. A red tender steak, a couple scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone, a plate of pad thai, a greasy cheesy pizza, a delicate lemon cake… I couldn’t pick a favourite food if my life depended on it. I cook most of my meals and generally try to keep them healthy and balanced, but if I go out to eat I go all out!” — Syd V.


firecrackerThere’s no stopping this little firecracker!

Heidi is 47 years old standing 5’1″ and weighing in at 110 lbs

She has struggled with Fibromyalgia for 15 years and couldn’t do anything without loads of pain. Heidi says, “I don’t take my capacity to walk for granted. I carefully manage my sleep, nutrition, and emotional environment to optimize my energy and allow myself to engage in activities that are life-giving.”

“It has taken me a long time to reach what might be significantly easier for someone younger, but I know it is possible. Over the last 2 years with the creative ideas and encouragement from Jynelle, I have managed an entirely new level of empowerment.” she remarks. “I used to think lifting an 80lb block was questionable and unwise, it probably was, then. Now with the new ability to double that, I am just a different person.”

It’s no surprise that her favourite thing about strength training is the personal empowerment it gives her.

The Dynamic Duo

dynamic duoWhen you are high school teachers, you definitely need to make the most of your summers. These two are not wasting their summer break. They decide to spend a week in Thailand in a real hardcore Muay Thai training camp.

Here is a little bit about their experience so far:

We have hit the half way point in our training. Each day (with the exception of the morning run) seems to be getting a little easier. The trainers seem to be having a little more fun with us and joking around. I feel like I am making progress in my Muay Thai. By the way, thanks Zain Ansari for giving me great skills to begin this journey – I felt well prepared and thanks to Syd Vanderpool for the mean boxing skills – they have come in handy during sparring practice and I have had very little correction on my arm work. I am definitely making progress in my fitness – I have never worked this hard in my entire life but it feels good.

Here’s the run down for those who are interested:

Morning session is 3 to 5km run, 3 rounds of shadow boxing, 4 to5 – 3 minute rounds of pad work with 1 minute breaks, 4 to 5 – 3 minute rounds of bag work and a whole bunch of pushups and sit ups between each round (1.5 hours of work total in the morning).

Afternoon session is 10 to 15 minutes of skipping with the heavy Muay Thai ropes instead of running, the same shadow boxing, pad and bag work plus 3 to 5 – 3 minute rounds of light sparring. Another 1.5 hours of training but they sometimes go overtime. Also ended afternoon session with 50 more pushups and 200 sit-ups.

Keep in mind this is all in 35 degree weather with a ton of humidity which means I am completely drenched in sweat within the first 10 minutes. All in all I am working very hard, pretty sore but having a blast. Hopefully will take some videos to post tomorrow.


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