Alone in a Las Vegas hotel room, it happened – a turning point in one’s life that suddenly changes everything forever.
Ray, a 73-year-old retiree, was having a stroke. From his pre-med studies he knew what was happening and what needed to be done. Crawling to the phone, Ray spoke with the front desk staff and requested emergency personnel. When the paramedics arrived, he instructed them on procedure. Later Ray would learn that his stroke was hemorrhagic and had missed the speech portion of his brain by mere centimeters.
After completing physical therapy at St. Jude’s Hospital in Fullerton, CA, Ray wanted to continue exercise therapy. He knew what physical movement had done for him – he felt strong, healthy, and functionally fit. However, at the completion of his program, Ray was turned away. He kept returning, requesting additional exercise therapy, but was told his time there for over because his insurance reached its maximum. Discouraged, Ray found himself in a parking lot where he spotted a business card. The card had the logo for a local community center. Ray called the number and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the center had a personal training staff that worked with clients who survived medical catastrophes, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Ray and I first met in July 2011. He drove a specially designed car and walked with a cane as well as a brace on his leg. One half of his body was rendered completely paralyzed from the stroke. Ray’s gait was extremely slow and he could only walk for a few moments at a time before stopping to rest.
At that initial meeting, I tested Ray’s strength by giving him a light free weight to lift. As he attempted a shoulder press, his left hand shook uncontrollably. For the first several months, Ray and I worked together privately. As the room we were working in was a children’s classroom that contained many toys, we used whatever props were available to improve Ray’s fitness level. Sometimes, I would utilize other objects, such as a small stress ball. We started with basic hand exercises, such as ball squeezes. To improve fine motor skills, Ray picked up small objects with his fingers. As Ray’s motor skills increased, the objects became smaller and smaller, until they were plastic-wrapped caramel candies. Ray reached the point where he was able to unwrap the candies with no assistance.
Our exercises also involved hand-eye coordination, such as tossing and catching an under-inflated ball to each other, as I kept running to different parts of the room so that Ray was challenged to located me and then throw the ball in my direction. We also used the under-inflated ball with Ray in a seated position, as he placed the ball between his ankles and lifted it with his legs. Ray was also able to perform basic strength training exercises with free weights, such as bicep curls, hammer curls and chest flys. He was getting stronger and was now able to remove his leg brace and walk for short periods of time. I was amazed at what I was seeing.
After several months, Ray astounded the members when he graduated to the main gym floor and started working out on the machines with the general population. He was now performing leg presses, chest presses, hamstring curls, abdominal curls, lat pull-downs, back extensions, tricep and inner/outer thigh exercises. Ray’s gait had improved tremendously and he now walked all the way into the gym with substantially reduced rest periods.
We were ecstatic on the day Ray had feeling on his paralyzed side for the first time in years. This was a historic milestone and demonstrated the power of healing. Everyone who had seen Ray in his early days were inspired and uplifted as they witnessed a truly remarkable transformation.
IDEA Fitness Journal featured Ray’s story in its November/December 2012 issue.
Ray discovered us by Divine intervention, since physical therapists and allied health personnel do not currently refer patients to Certified Personal Trainers.
Certified Personal Trainers, like many professions, encompass a wide array of specialties. Most people think of us working with the general population, devising exercise programs with goals of weight loss, toning and body building. They know us through aquatics classes, Zumba, yoga, boot camp and Pilates.
What most people do not know is that a significant portion of our client base are actually medical patients who have survived strokes, cancer, heart attacks, polio, joint replacement, Muscular Dystrophy, electrocution, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and lesser known genetic diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease.
Since 2007, the vast majority of my clients have been in this category. With the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement, these trends will continue well into the future. And as the fitness industry moves toward regulation, requiring mandatory certification or professional license, we look forward to the day when we take our rightful place in the healthcare continuum, providing patients with ongoing exercise therapy long after physical therapy is completed. In this way,
clients like Ray, whether mobile or homebound, will receive desperately needed services.
We do not know yet if our titles will be Licensed Fitness Trainer (LFT), Licensed Personal Trainer (LPT), or Licensed Fitness Professional (LFP). No matter what, we will continue to provide necessary and ongoing services to patients who need us the most. Through the Medical Fitness Network, we hope to reach this greatly under-served population. I believe that Ray’s transformation is a miracle. Body, mind and spirit are healed and every day hope springs eternal.
With a degree in Mass Communications/Broadcast Journalism, Julia has written for national magazines, interviewing actors Tony Danza (Who’s the Boss?), Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”) and Paul Sorvino (“Law & Order”). Julia has written restaurant reviews, cookbook reviews, professional biographies, award show brochures, press releases and promotional pieces. She edited the book “Helping Hilda,” and has written educational columns for a dentist and chiropractor. In the voice industry, Julia narrated books on tape, on-hold voice messaging systems, radio sound bites, and cable television. Her degree in Broadcast Journalism allows her to write scripts as well as narrate them.
Julia started running in 1997 and completed her first marathon in 2000. While spending many hours in several gyms, fellow members approached her with exercise training questions, which convinced Julia to become certified. After much research, Julia chose the American Council on Exercise as her certifying organization, and obtained her ACE Certified Personal Trainer designation in 2006.
Immediately, the Facilities Supervisor for the City of San Dimas called and asked if Julia would develop the city’s first Strength Training Class for seniors. She did, and in 2007 “Strength Training Fundamentals for Seniors,” began, launching her into group fitness right out of the gate. The class, comprised of active, inspired and motivated seniors, was an eye-opener into the generation that survived the Great Depression and would try virtually any exercise until mastering it. The class was so popular that residents were requesting that it be opened to the 30-54 age groups as well.
In 2008, Julia officially earned her ACE- Group Fitness Instructor designation and continued on to provide exercise training services for all ages, in community centers, privately in clients’ homes, and in women’s gyms. Julia has worked with “Medical Fitness” clients more than any other group. They have survived the following medical conditions: Stroke, heart attack, cancer, polio, obesity, Muscular Dystrophy, electrocution, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, Fatty Liver Disease, joint replacement, post-physical therapy patients and more.
“What is incredibly satisfying about working in this field is starting with a client who is severely limited and watching the transformative power of exercise,” she says. Her client, Ray, found amazing success. “Ray had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and could barely walk. The left half of his body was completely paralyzed. In the beginning, he and I worked in a private room with basic exercises. Ray’s stride improved; his strength and endurance increased. Over time, Ray advanced to the main gym with the general population, who were blown away by his astounding transformation. Ray had feeling on his paralyzed side for the first time in years!”