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Back then, Experience Life was just a nice little custom-published membership magazine. The articles were mostly standard fitness-magazine fare — basic nutrition and workout tips sandwiched between membership-activities schedules — and I just couldn’t see myself getting excited about it. Did the world really need more of this? Did the magazine need me? I didn’t think so.

But then I talked to the acting publisher (back then, Experience Life was produced by an outside custom-publishing company) and I found out that their client, Life Time Fitness, was interested in totally reconcepting the magazine. The company’s founder and CEO, they said, was invested in making the magazine something special, and open to doing something very different. So I met with Bahram Akradi and we talked about what the magazine could be.

He told me about the company’s vision and mission, about his personal desire to help whole communities become healthier and more active, and about the organization’s overarching commitment to quality. I told him about the opportunity I saw for this magazine to serve its readers by doing something no other mainstream fitness magazine was doing at the time — namely, putting health and fitness in an authentic, whole-person, whole-life context.

I’d looked into the fitness-magazine category, I told him, and what I’d found was a lot of superficiality, hype, gimmicks and disjointed advice. I’d seen a lot of magazines doing their readers a disservice by appealing to their insecurities, by selling them (and reselling them) on empty promises of “instant results” without educating them about the most essential components of health, or helping them see how intricately those components were connected.

What if we aimed high, I asked, and we endeavored to create the most credible, positive-minded, realistic magazine in the health and fitness category? What if we respected our readers’ intelligence and their deeper motivations? What if we took the emphasis off superficial notions of “lifestyle” and put the focus on “quality of life” instead?

As Bahram and I talked and brainstormed, we got more and more excited about the idea of a magazine that would help both Life Time Fitness members and general-audience readers build not just better bodies, but better lives. And so Experience Life was born — or reborn, technically — as a magazine that would tell the truth about health and fitness: It would explain that a healthy, happy, beautiful and sustainable body comes from living a healthy, happy, beautiful and sustainable life.

When I walked out of that first meeting, I knew I had found something I could say yes to, heart and soul. And during the next four years, as the magazine grew, moved to an in-house publishing model, and increased in frequency, circulation and sophistication, that “yes” kept getting bigger.

The letters from readers told us yes, too. Yes, the magazine was making a difference in their lives. Yes, they appreciated the holistic, mind-body-culture perspective; the in-depth explorations; the practical, no-nonsense advice.

Earlier this year, about the time we were putting our 25th issue to bed, an appreciative reader wrote to tell us he’d gotten a lot out of a piece we’d done on cholesterol (see “Cholesterol Myths”). He suggested that we consider reprinting this article, and perhaps some other Experience Life articles that deserved a second showing.

Hmmm … a “best of” issue? The more we thought about it, the more we thought: “Yes, indeed!” Digging through our voluminous archives proved to be more challenging than we anticipated (we’ve now done more than 30 issues, so we had hundreds of articles to choose from), but it was also a pretty amazing walk down memory lane. We got a chance to take stock of all the work we’ve done and how far we’ve come. Perhaps best of all, we got to read through all of our past reader mail and reflect on what you’ve appreciated most about Experience Life.

What you hold in your hands represents just a sampling of our greatest hits — the articles you responded to the most and liked the best. But it also represents what can happen when a small group of people decide to get together and imagine some new “yeses” into being.

We couldn’t have done it without you, our readers. For that, and for four years of your wonderful feedback and affirmation, our entire team says “thanks.”

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