Today is a very significant day in my fitness history – it’s the one-year anniversary of my partnership with Renee Byrd and Camp Gladiator. It has been an amazing journey.

Since the partnership began, there has never been a dull moment. For instance, upon learning I would have to run long distances, I purchased a pair of new running shoes without Byrd's consent. That proved to be ill advised. When I arrived for training sporting my new kicks, Byrd was indignant I had shopped without her and assured me the shoes were an ill fit. Shortly thereafter, I nearly tore my Achilles tendon, proving her point and ensuring co-shopping in the future.

In another memorable incident, my knee swelled for no apparent reason. Byrd and I made a trip to the orthopedist. She squeezed my hand and encouraged me, but her grip was not enough to shield me from the pain of a 4-inch needle stabbing into my knee.

Perhaps the crowning jewel in the litany of ridiculous moments was the time, very recently, when I fell on my wrist at the end of training, producing a loud crack. Byrd graciously drove me to the ER, which was packed, per usual. Instead of waiting for a free room, I returned home, driven 24 miles by Byrd and a friend. They gave strict instructions on how to care for my wrist and followed up with encouraging texts and phone calls.

This instance exemplifies the community I have found at CG. It has become far more than a place to workout and burn calories. It is a refuge for people to spur one another on toward personal goals, to make lasting friendships and to find self-confidence and strength.

The environment is a special one that affects both the trainer and the trainees, creating a committed group of people under the leadership of Byrd.

“I think the type of environment that we put in attracts fun, encouraging people from all walks of life, whether religion or profession; whatever it is, we bring them all together,” Byrd said. “People forget their backgrounds, and they really just enjoy each others company without knowing who they are.”

Camp Gladiator yields inner transformation as well as physical transformation. In the year I have worked with Byrd, I have lost 30 pounds and dropped four pant sizes. To my delight, I have seen my body become toned and strong and an increase in endurance and flexibility.

Everyone at CG undergoes some sort of transformation. For instance, Gina and Dylan Glass have lost a combined 150 pounds in the last year. The weight loss and muscle gain has revealed their joyful and energetic personalities. I've seen others grow out of their timidity and insecurity and into confidence in themselves.

As I prepare for the fitness year ahead, I am looking forward to gaining a more holistic approach to my body, knowing how to work out and how to eat to best take care of myself. I look forward to making new friends and encouraging people to join the CG community. I look forward to seeing the growth of CG as an organization.

Byrd is already increasing the number and types of classes offered. She reintroduced kickboxing to the routine; she added strength and conditioning; and she hopes to offer zumba and other group fitness classes as well.

When I asked Byrd what she looked forward to in the new fitness year, she enthusiastically replied, “I am just excited because I get to kick your butt for another year,” a sentiment I am sure applies to all her beloved CG contenders.

To reach Renee Byrd or if you have fitness questions, contact her at 972-741-1271 or renee@campgladiator.com.

Melissa Cade is a journalist for Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Follow her on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.