Fitness Through the Decades

Erin Massingill, Beth Houston, Susan Westmoreland McConkey, Kristy Lancaster and Brandi Monteverde.

Erin Massingill, Beth Houston, Susan Westmoreland McConkey,Kristy Lancaster and Brandi Monteverde.

COVER STORY | By Lara Bell
Photos by Michael Martinez Photography
Styling by Full Blown Dry Bar –

Over the last three years, I gained 45 pounds while going through my mom’s illness and eventual death last January. I ate fast food on the run and didn’t exercise. In September, a friend of mine and I took a grief class together. In the middle of this weekly class, I felt myself circling back to the Lara I once was. I gained courage to confront my unhealthy eating and reel in poor choices. In turn, I have taken a proactive role in developing healthy patterns of eating and exercise for my family and myself. In my newfound love for health, I wanted to find out what other Memorial ladies are doing to stay fit and motivated.

Brandi Monteverde, 33

Brandi Monteverde

“My fitness journey started with a promise I made 10 years ago, just months before my mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. She made me promise that I would always make health a priority and be the strongest and healthiest I could be for my future family. Ten years later, I am living out the promise, married to my high school sweetheart with three young kids.

“Fitness has become my passion, and I get to share my passion with others! I started a faith and fitness program called KTF Fitness. KTF stands for Keeping the Faith, which was my mom’s saying throughout her sickness. My classes build spiritual and physical strength. I am also a trainer at the American Ninja Warrior gym. I do personal training and lead a women’s ninja class. I’m an obstacle course tester for the show American Ninja Warrior. This experience has changed my life in countless ways.

“God had a plan the day I accepted my mom’s promise. I am so privileged to continue the journey of making myself and others strong from the inside out!”


Susan Westmoreland McConkey

Susan Westmoreland McConkey, 50

“Physical fitness has always been important to me, and now that I am 50, I feel it is even more important to stay active. I make time every day to do some form of exercise. When my kids were young, that could be challenging, but I was able to find gyms with fantastic child centers and encouraged friends to join. Our gym time became a play date for our children!

“Now, my kids are grown and gone, but physical fitness is still a priority for me. I wake up early each morning and either go running or go to Lifetime, where I combine cardio work with weight training. I also love to cycle. Every year, I train and ride in the MS150. By remaining fit, I am strong and more energetic. We love to ski, scuba dive, hike, fish and more.  And the fun that I have with my kids and their friends is worth every early morning sweat session! I feel that exercise is a blessing – not a chore. I am grateful that I am physically able to work out. Once the commitment becomes a habit, it’s really not difficult to maintain, and it is definitely worth the effort.”

Erin Massingill, 32

Erin Massingill

“As a teenager, I read fashion magazines and saw the same type of body everywhere. In response, I followed the poor dieting advice from those same magazines and developed an eating disorder. It wasn’t until I started training for a 100 mile Team In Training charity bike ride for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that I realized I needed to be healthy to do the things I wanted to do, and that didn’t involve an unhealthy relationship with food.

“When my daughter was born a few years later, she motivated me to push further outside of my comfort zone, and I trained for my first marathon pushing her in a stroller.  I’ve completed about 10 since and bring her to every one to show her what so many people of all shapes and sizes and walks of life are capable of if they put their mind to it. It might not feel great along the way, but we are all smiling at the finish line!”

Beth Houston

Beth Houston

Beth Houston, 39

“As a teen, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and I have found that keeping a strong back and staying active is the best way to stay pain-free. I walk my dog two to three miles a day in our neighborhood and on the bayou trails.  Also, I enjoy taking weightlifting classes at the gym about three days each week. Strength training is so important, because it helps achieve muscle tone, keeps bones strong and increases metabolism. My advice to those trying to get fit is to be as active as possible. Find an activity that you enjoy, and make it part of your daily lifestyle. With a consistent healthy lifestyle, you will really see results! Just be patient.”

Melissa Ferrand, 43

Melissa Ferrand

“Growing up, I hated PE class. I was always the girl last chosen when teams were picked, and I hated to sweat and mess up my makeup. When I was about 18, I got extremely depressed, and my stepdad, an avid runner, started taking me to the track with him and getting me to walk and jog. At first, I could only run half a lap around the track, but I kept pushing myself to go a little farther and noticed that I started feeling better. In 2006, I ran the Houston Marathon and hurt my knee. My sister suggested I started cross training to prevent an injury, and she dragged me to some weight classes. I was hooked! I loved how my body was changing.  Now that I am in my 40s, I have realized that I have to do a little bit of everything to keep myself healthy, sane and injury-free.”

Casey Brand, 44

“I began running over 22 years ago, so literally half of my life. It is such a part of my life that there is little separation from it and me. My story is nothing like my training partners’ and best friends’ stories; however, when we are out running or biking side by side, our shadows and lives blend into one. Our common goal is something that I find so much support and security in.


L: Casey Brand & R: Kristy Lancaster

“When my son, who is now in eighth grade, was in first grade, I started a running group at his school, Meadow Wood Elementary, twice a week before school. There were no real rules but to show up and run. Teachers told me that kids behaved better and were more alert in class on our running days and that they had less disciplinary issues in class. Kids who otherwise weren’t involved in sports because of either monetary or interest showed up all on their own, and they belonged.”

Kristy Lancaster, 44

“I was heavier in high school and ate fast food all of the time. I worried about my weight and always felt like a failure. In boarding school, we would go to the 7-Eleven, get a big gulp of diet coke and make that lunch thinking it would make us skinny and look great. It wasn’t until I was in charge of my own kitchen after college that I really found a love for food and healthy eating.

“Nutrition is most important. If you have poor nutrition, you will not have energy for more important things in life, like family, kids or giving back to others.  I eat lean protein at every meal, including snacks. I try not to eat white carbs and stick to whole grains. Besides the recovery drink and one to two cups of coffee, I only drink water or sparkling water. I love swimming, biking, yoga, running and boot camp workouts. Once exercise is a habit, it will stick. I think it is important to continually be setting personal goals to stay motivated.”