skip navigation nih record
Vol. LX, No. 11
May 30, 2008

previous story

next story

NHGRI’s Hargro Determined to Trim Himself by One-Third

On the front page...

It takes a big man to want to become a smaller man. And it takes a lot of guts to decide you are going to get rid of your gut.

NHGRI contractor Darris Hargro, a property inventory assistant in Bldg. 12A, is learning that lesson daily, with the help of a personal fitness trainer at the R&W NIH Fitness Center in Bldg. 31.

In March, Hargro, 24, tipped the scales at 338; he didn’t like that number and he didn’t like the way he felt.

It’s not that he wasn’t working at being fit—he was lifting weights daily on top of 45-minute cardiovascular workouts.


  Darris Hargro in his “before” photo  
  Darris Hargro in his “before” photo  

“He was overtraining when he came to see me,” said Terry Bowers, a certified personal trainer with 25 years of experience who joined the Fitness Center staff last fall. “His muscles never had a chance to recuperate.”

Bowers put him on an exercise regimen and diet that have left Hargro, after only a few weeks under her tutelage, feeling lighter and more fit. “I feel 110 percent better after 10 days [four sessions] with her,” he said. His goal is to shed 113 pounds in 9 months.

“All of my life I’ve been a big guy,” said Hargro, a Buffalo native. “I’ve been at 300 pounds or more since ninth grade.”

That was an advantage when he was playing offensive and defensive tackle on both high school and college football teams. But now that he is a husband and father of two daughters, “I want to stay healthy for them,” he said. “I also want to feel healthier, more alive.”

When Hargro first came to NIH 2½ years ago, he weighed 412 pounds. He managed to whittle himself down to 289 by a self-imposed routine of walking during his lunch hours and dieting. But his weight soon crept back up over 300. He joined the R&W NIH Fitness Center in March 2008 because he realized he needed help.

“I had been working out for awhile on my own, but I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted to see,” he said. “I needed to be pushed, to stay accountable with my workouts.”

Hargro is under the tutelage of Terry Bowers, a certified personal trainer who has been in the business for 25 years. Hargro is under the tutelage of Terry Bowers, a certified personal trainer who has been in the business for 25 years.
Hargro is under the tutelage of Terry Bowers, a certified personal trainer who has been in the business for 25 years.

Bowers turned out to be well-suited to do the pushing. Having worked with a number of clients over the years in the same situation, she had a prescription in mind for Hargro, but it would take time.

“If you lose weight too rapidly, it can stress your system the same as adding weight rapidly,” she counseled. “You can harm your heart, your kidneys— it puts the system in shock. There’s a healthy way to lose weight. But a change in lifestyle is required.”

Bowers devised a 9-month program with both diet and exercise components.

Hargro describes his “before” diet: “Two or three very large meals per day, with lots of starches, carbohydrates, sugar and hydrogenated oils. Cheese pizzas, fried foods, French fries and bread—lots of bread.”

Bowers eliminated bread, substituting lettuce and servings of tuna fish, chicken, raw vegetables and baked or broiled meats.

“It’s mainly lots of green veggies,” said Hargro. “Lettuce, spinach, broccoli. My whole family has adopted the diet. My wife has adjusted the way the whole family eats. It’s been a dramatic change.”

Bowers said all her clients get customized programs, “based on body type, lifestyle, goals and what they are willing to change. It’s not a pre-packaged formula.”

Because Bowers knew Hargro played a lot of sports, “I knew he had a lot of muscle in there.” She prescribed what she calls “periodic weight training,” which includes 50-minute weightlifting sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (alternating upper body and lower body/abs each time), with aerobic exercise on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “On Sundays, he can do what he wants,” laughs Bowers.

The weight work is progressive—12 repetitions with medium weight, 10 with a little more, 8 with still more, and a final 6 with even heavier weights. But more than weight, Bowers concentrates on how her clients move. “I’m more focused on form—it’s everything. It’s going to affect your frame.”

Hargro says he’s relieved to finally be working out properly and feels markedly better than when he exercised on his own.

“The irony is that you can work less time and get more results if you’re working in the right manner,” Bowers said. Adds Hargro, “I’m working smarter, not harder.”

Bowers is a big believer in that muscle called the mind. “The mind plays a key role,” she said. “Whatever the mind focuses on, it will work to achieve.” She brooks no interference from books, magazines or iPod headphones during workouts. “Not when you’re working with me!” she declares. Laughter, on the other hand, is not only okay, but essential—she leavens much of her instruction with humor.

One of a half dozen personal trainers at the center, Bowers said she especially likes working at NIH (and forswore better pay elsewhere) because of the emphasis NIH puts on health and research. She has been known to tap the medical expertise of her clients.

“What I love about the fitness center is how comfortable it is here and how important health is to the people here. It’s not a meat market or a poser place,” she said. “Everyone on the staff cares about the fitness center members and is devoted to their health. We’re not constantly selling [exercise] packages. We can focus on the individual, not on profits.”

The communal sentiment extends to most fitness center members; not only does Hargro hope to be an inspiration to others sweating beside him in the gym, he too has become the focus of a cheering section that openly endorses his fitness goals.

“He’s losing a person,” says Bowers of Hargro’s major weight-loss goal. “He lost it once before, so overall we’re losing two!” she chuckles before putting him through his paces.

So evangelical about fitness is she that Bowers— whose office chair is actually a stability ball—urges all NIH’ers to convert their desks into mini-fitness centers.

“My dream is that, 7 minutes before every hour, everyone at NIH who is able to would get up from their desks simultaneously and do a series of squats and arm lifts—something that moves the muscles differently. I’d like to see more of NIH exercising. After all, the healthier we are, the more we can do for the public. It’s a symbiotic effect.”

For more information on the R&W NIH Fitness Centers or to join, call (301) 496-8746 (main campus), (301) 435-0038 (Rockledge Fitness Center) or visit NIHRecord Icon

back to top of page