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Sweating for a good cause: Mike’s EF journey

Mike has lived many lives. He’s been a foreign exchange student in Spain. A successful wine consultant (ask him to recommend a good red). A 20-something who moved to Italy on a whim. A communications technology guru. And most recently, a cancer survivor and fitness evangelist.

For EF Education First’s Communications System Manager and EF Sweat Lab Fitness Instructor, the road to health was a challenging one, with lots of twists and turns along the way. Mike’s journey started four years ago, when his EF colleagues announced a Biggest Loser-style weight loss challenge. Always down for some friendly competition, Mike decided this was the jump-start he needed to make a change.

“I’ve always had an addiction to food, and for the longest time it was a very unhealthy addiction,” recalls Mike, a Bentley University marketing graduate and world traveler who joined EF’s North American headquarters after living for a bit in Europe. “It was January 2014 when I heard about the contest. I was close to 325 pounds, and I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I knew that I couldn’t keep heading in the direction I was going.”

A few small lifestyle changes added up to big results for Mike. Ten-minute walk breaks around EF’s surrounding North Point Park became routine. Pre-cooked healthy dinners squashed the need for takeout. And vegetables gradually replaced some of his favorite junk foods. After losing 70 pounds, he earned the title of EF’s “Biggest Loser.” But his story didn’t end there.

“Over the course of four years, I’ve lost close to 140 pounds and reversed my diabetes,” says Mike. “I even teach my own workout class. It’s something I’m very proud of accomplishing, and I couldn’t have done it without friends at EF who’ve helped along the way.”

Today, the health enthusiast is widely known around EF as the face of “Mike Drop,” a weekly 40-minute high intensity class for staff. “Mike Drop” is part of a new roster of classes offered to EF employees through the recently established EF Sweat Lab—a free fitness studio housed on EF’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

EF Sweat Lab grew out of a grassroots fitness community established by EF’s Boston employees. Mike recalls the days when a group of around 25 EFers would meet in North Point Park to work out together. Attendees even pitched in to purchase shared battle ropes. With support from this internal community, Mike’s interest in fitness blossomed. He joined a gym, began attending classes, and when EF Sweat Lab opened, he began attending every class. Mike eventually became a permanent substitute teacher, and when another fitness instructor left, he was presented with the opportunity to head up his own class.

“I’ve been told I have the best playlist,” laughs Mike, who says you can be sure to hear at least one Kesha song in each circuit-training class. He has a group of about 20 regular attendees, across all fitness levels and abilities who rotate through a combination of strength and cardio exercises. “My class is accepting and judgment free. You can go as hard as you want, or we can make modifications together. I want everyone to feel welcome.”

In addition to his studio workouts, Mike is an avid cyclist, a passion that developed after being diagnosed with cancer. “After my treatment, it was difficult to put weight on my knee. Lots of the activities that I did before were off the table,” says Mike. “I began to struggle with weight gain before I decided to invest in a bike. It’s been love ever since.”

On weekends, you might find Mike cruising from his hometown in Andover, Massachusetts to scenic seaside towns or riding with fellow EFers for a good cause. In 2018, he participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day, 163-mile race to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. And for the 2018 Hub on Wheels citywide bike ride in Boston, he’s co-captaining the EF Hope Riders team to support pediatric cancer research with Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Working at EF has given me the self-confidence and the support to take on any challenges that I may face, whether it’s in my career or my personal life,” says Mike. “I’ve met so many inspiring people who help make those around them better. They drive me to do the same.”

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