Getting Out of His Wheelchair After 35 Years

Some of you have heard this story before, but I think it is worth repeating. Here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a man who entered our club via his dirty old well used scratched up wheelchair, wearing his tattered clothing, torn old gloves to protect his hands, long dirty white beard, old baseball cap, smelled like cigarette smoke and had alcohol on his breath. You can imagine the thoughts that went through my head as I saw him enter.

Not to judge, I greeted him just as I would any new visitor and asked him why he came to us. As I listened, he told me his story.

Once a prominent dance instructor, Kevin’s vocation came to a grinding halt as he was tragically maimed in a terrible motor vehicle accident at the young age of 23. He was now 58.

While lying in the hospital in a coma for six days on life support, with a shattered ankle and pelvis, broken ribs, broken neck and a badly broken arm, broken back, punctured lungs and brain damage, the doctors where asking permission from his mother to amputate his arm. She would not allow it.

After waking from the coma and two brain surgeries, Mr. Clarke spent the next six months in hospital, and was able to move only his eyes as he listened to the doctor tell him that he would never walk or talk again. Now, after 35 years, his doctors had pretty much lost interest in him and had given up.

So there he was, sitting in his wheelchair, looking up at me, and these words came out of his mouth: I could barely understand him as he struggled to ask “Can you help me?”

I had only one question to ask him: “Can you stand up out of your wheelchair?” He said “Yes, but I can’t walk around.” That’s all I needed to hear. “Yes”, I said, “I can help you.”

We started very slowly with a few select exercises. Mr. Clarke’s first challenge was to try to keep his muscles from going into spasm. We slowly and gradually worked more exercises into his routine and then as part of his routine, Mr. Clarke was to walk behind and push his wheelchair out the door. He was not allowed to be in his wheelchair on his way out.

He was spent at the end of his workout, but I still made him walk down the hall and out the door. There were times when I didn’t think he would make it to the front door but he did.

Not being on a regular schedule because of his inability to get to the club in inclement weather, we would miss each other sometimes for weeks at a time, but Kevin was determined to get better and would come in on his own without me.

My biggest surprise came when I got back from vacation and ran into Mr. Clarke at the gym. I shook his hand and asked him where he parked his wheelchair. He just shook his head with a grin on his face and said, “There’s no more wheelchair. I got rid of it.”

I must say that this was likely my biggest achievement as a personal trainer and although Mr. Clarke is no longer a member, I hope and pray that he is still well and happy.

This is personal training at its best. This is what we do. This is what you need if you have specific goals in mind that you wish to achieve. Showing up consistently is one thing, but doing what you really need to do when you show up is quite another. Let us help you.


The Secret to Success in Your Health and Fitness Journey

Lately I have been having a lot of discussions with members about what it really takes to see success in achieving better health and fitness. Most think it has to do with the program they are on. Although a good program is highly beneficial to getting the most out of your workouts, it’s still not at the top of the list. You could have the best program in the world but if you don’t actually do it, it’s just a useless list of exercises.

What is really going to get you results, especially over the long term is CONSISTENCY.

First, you need to figure out what a realistic amount of time each week you can dedicate to your exercise program. The important part of this is what is “realistic”. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure here. You don’t have to be at the gym 5 days a week to see results. We recommend 3 days a week for most people but you can see results with 2 days a week or even 1 if you are consistent every week with it. Here’s proof.

I have trained a gentleman for over 5 years now who dedicates 1 hour a week to the gym. Outside of that 1 hour a week here he does no other planned exercise, although he does stay active with other activities, his only day of resistance training at the gym is this one hour. Over 5 years he has tripled the number of pushups he could do, lost body fat, decreased his resting heart rate and got rid of his shoulder pain that had been limiting his movements for years. And his secret is one hour a week, every week, no matter what. In five years, he may have only missed a handful of workouts. It’s his consistency that has gotten him the results. And not to mention, he is in his mid 60’s. This is a time when most people are losing strength and instead he is making slow but steady increases in his strength. Sure, if he had done 2 or 3 workouts a week maybe he could have accomplished more over these 5 years, but he was realistic with his time, put it into his weekly schedule, same time, same day, every week that worked for him and now 5 years later he is stronger, more mobile and pain free.

So, the secret is in the consistency you can build into your weekly routine. Don’t get hung up on how many days that is. Just focus on what is realistic for you. Put that time into your schedule and treat it like any other appointment you would not miss. After all, what could be more important then your long-term health and abilities?

Our health and fitness are a lifelong journey, it never ends. Once you achieve your goal you still have to maintain it so figure out what a realistic cadence is for you and then do it! When you have this part figured out we can then start to focus on what the best program options are for you and your goals.

I’m Not Losing Weight! Exercise Doesn’t Work!

You decide that it’s time. Time to make a change. You want to lose 20 or 30lbs and you know that exercise is going to help burn that fat, so you do what most do and join the gym. You start working out 3 or 4 times a week and bust your butt in the gym. A few weeks go by and you step on the scale… no change. You get discouraged and skip your next workout, then another and before you know it you have lost all momentum and the desire to even try anymore. What’s the point right? You worked hard for a few weeks and the scale showed nothing.

This scenario happens over and over and over again at the gym. Let me assure you that it’s not exercises fault.

The problem usually occurs because most of us think that exercising 3 or 4 times a week will just melt the fat away. Don’t get me wrong, exercise is a very powerful weight loss tool. We talk about that all the time and it is true. But in the grand scheme of things weight loss comes down to burning more energy in a day then you take in. A typical 1 hour exercise session with a mix of strength training and cardio will burn approximately 200 to 400 calories depending on your weight, gender and your exercise intensity. Let’s say you workout 3 times a week and burn 400 calories each session. That’s 1200 calories burned in a week. It takes about 3500 calories to make up one pound of body fat loss. So, exercise alone will not get you there.

What is almost always missing is the attention to your food intake. If weight loss is your goal and you only focus on exercise but don’t address diet you could be setting yourself up for failure. You are using exercise as your only tool, and we just showed how exercise alone leaves you short, and then you are most likely using the scale as your metric to measure success. This is the formula that is to blame for so many people giving up on their weight loss goals. It’s a cycle of hard work met by disappointment once they step on the scale to measure their success.

I won’t get in to the best ways to address your diet here because that is a whole different conversation but you can download our book Eat Smart, Eat Often, Eat Small for free above this article and learn everything you need to know.

Hopefully this gives you something to think about. We have to rethink the way we talk about exercise. The amount of health benefits that come from regular, consistent exercise is a list a mile long. Don’t stop. Just because the scale isn’t showing dramatic weight loss, don’t give up.Weight loss happens over time, not in an instant. Address the missing piece of the puzzle, your diet. Just don’t blame exercise. It does nothing but good things for you!

The Power of Regular Activity

What if we told you that you have the power to add years to your life span, perform daily activities easier or prevent disease and sickness?

The truth is we all have this power and it can all be accomplished through consistent, regular physical activity!

This can be planned exercise or any activity really that requires you to expend energy.

The power of regular movement, be it planned exercise or not, has many proven positive benefits. The more consistent the physical activity is, the greater the potential benefits.

Here is a brief list of what you can expect to achieve by introducing regular physical activity and movement into your lifestyle:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes
  • Lose weight
  • Gain strength
  • Improve bone density
  • Improve range of motion
  • Stronger joints
  • Improve joint conditions (eg. arthritis)
  • Help with depression
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase longevity
  • Perform daily activities better/easier
  • Maintain independence
  • Reduce risk of some types of cancer
  • Improve cognitive abilities

This list could go on and on.

The human body was meant to work. Today we sit more then ever in the history of our existence so building regular physical activity and exercise into your life has become a necessity. The more we move and challenge our bodies, the more fit we become, the more efficient and effective we are and of course the healthier we are. So, get moving!

What has exercise done for you lately?

Since returning to the club on a more regular basis now, I’ve had the opportunity to once again, stop and chat with many of our members. One member in particular stopped and chatted with me one day and the only thing I could think of saying to him after he was finished was “I wish I had a recording of what you just said”. Sometimes, something that is so obvious and makes so much sense isn’t even realized by you until someone points it out. He was kind enough to send us a brief summary of what he said to me that day so I could share it with you. Pay particular attention to the bolded type at the end.

“The day I walked in the doors at G&M Fitness I was unhealthy and unhappy. I had a resting heart rate of about 80bpm. When I spoke with Matt I had one goal in mind and that was heart health. I want to live a long life and have many years with my 2 boys and my wife. Today, a couple years later my resting heart rate is now 57bpm which falls in the category of athlete… I can tell you this: I went from unhealthy and unhappy to being stronger than I have ever been and having amazing heart health and being very happy with myself. This is not just great for me but also great for my family. My boys and my wife can see how truly happy I am…. you can be bigger and still be healthy and the key to that is definitely exercise. As Gino told me “Be the best you” and he is absolutely right.

Cool aye! We seldom think how our health, how we feel physically, emotionally, mentally can affect the other important people in our lives. Here is a prime example of how exercise can most definitely help you, but more importantly sometimes, how it can have a positive effect on others in your life.