BANGOR, Maine — One year ago on Saturday, I walked into Wilcox Wellness and Fitness on Union Street for my first class as part of their “Kickstart” program.

I could not have imagined how that seemingly simple step would change my life so profoundly.

Not counting some vacation weeks last summer, I have participated in three classes per week, almost religiously, ever since. In all, 146 sessions.

Working out is now part of who I am.

For years, I had joked that the last time I was “in shape,” was when I ran cross country at Bangor High School in 1978. It was a slight exaggeration, since great friend and BDN colleague John Holyoke and I frequented Union Street Athletics for a year or so back in the ’90s.

But at this point, I hope to be able to look back someday in the distant future and say, the last time I wasn’t in shape was before I started going to Wilcox Wellness and Fitness in 2016.

As I explained in a previous column about my long-overdue journey back to better health and fitness, the motivation for doing this was simple. My dad died of a heart attack at 58 and his father died of a heart attack at 55.

Last year, as I approached 55 myself, the fear of following in their unfortunate footsteps spurred me to make a change.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those photographically enhanced deals where we’re going to show the frowning “before” photo with the protruding belly and the smiling “after” shot with the “six-pack” abs.

My transformation has been subtle, yet significant.

Despite not having adhered to the letter of the law as far as Wilcox’s nutritional guidelines are concerned, I have nonetheless kept my weight about 14 pounds below my former numbers. And considering that I now have a much better muscle-to-fat ratio, the gains are even better.

Could I drop another 10 pounds? No question. But I feel and look good enough that I haven’t felt it necessary to cut back further on my caloric intake. Plus, exercising also has increased my appetite.

Now, I must admit that I dislike running. But I have begun to appreciate the “runner’s high” kind of feeling experienced by those who like to pound the pavement on a regular basis.

The difference is, I have experienced that same need to work out — “boot camp” is my favorite session — and have derived a similar satisfaction of both mind and body by doing so regularly.

When I’m not able to attend classes, as has been the case as I fight off a nasty late-spring cold this week, I feel as though something is missing.

A year into this new regimen, I’m stronger and more agile. My balance has improved tremendously and I have more stamina. I actually have some core strength, something that was woefully lacking in the past.

Doing yard work and other projects that may have once induced fatigue is now easier. Trudging through the woods on deer hunting expeditions also is more enjoyable.

It would be disingenuous to say that there isn’t some discomfort involved in the process. In spite of what the 55-year-old brain might think, the 55-year-old body sometimes doesn’t recover as quickly as one might hope.

But it’s a good kind of soreness and stiffness. It is derived from hard work and intensity of effort that the capable Wilcox staff helps elicit every time I walk through the doors.

I sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement of owners Mike and Paige Wilcox, along with dedicated trainers Katie Norwood, Schaeffer Grierson and Nick Sprague, the latest addition to the staff. Their skill in teaching and motivating is pivotal in my personal success and that of their other clients.

I also have benefitted from the many new friends with whom I share the journey toward better fitness and health. We push each other to work a little harder in pursuit of our personal goals, but without judgment.

It’s a feeling I wish more people could enjoy, especially those who maybe aren’t in the best shape at the moment. Remember, it’s never too late to take positive steps toward better health.

The first step can be a small one, but it’s the most important one. With determination, patience and support, a more fit and happier you is within your grasp.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...