Today, I received confirmation from God why I chose to become a certified personal trainer at the age of 47. Yes, I’ve seen both the positive physical and mental changes in myself over the past year as I’ve lost 55+ lbs. and regained my health. But sometimes, I forget to look at the people I train and realized how important exercise is to them. I have some wonderful, hard working clients. But this morning, one of them inspired me to the point that I had to hold back the tears several times during what, for me, was a very emotional training session.
As my 10:00 appointment ended, I approached the over-sized green chair to greet my next client. I extended my hand and introduced myself, “Hi Mary Ann, I’m Brian, your trainer for today.” I strained to hear her soft voice and really didn’t understand what she said, but that didn’t really matter. It was her beautiful eyes and warm smile that put me at ease. I had been a little nervous about working with Mary Ann who was given to me by her regular trainer, Denise, who was out of town.
As Mary Ann followed me to the chest press machine, I could feel that a lot of eyes following us. Mary Ann stands out among the other members and tends to draw some attention. I demonstrated how to use the machine and set it at a weight I thought she could handle. Right out of the gate, Mary Ann tells me that this weight was “too light.” So, I increased it 15 lbs. Still too light. Hmmm… okay another 15 lbs, it is. “That’s good,” she said. Denise had told me that Mary Ann won’t hesitate to tell me if something is too heavy or too light. We did four sets of chest presses at “her” weight.
The session progressed. Mary Ann did incline presses, cable presses, seated rows, and low cable rows. Each time, she managed the weight I gave her, even when I increased it. She completed three or four sets of 12 – 15 reps of each of these exercises. In between sets, I made small talk by asking about her family, where she was from, and what she thought about the recent ice and snow that we got here in Indianapolis. She gave short, quiet answers that sometimes I could hear, and sometimes not.
We then moved on to stair steps which Mary Ann easily maneuvered all three tiers. Next up were the dumbbell curls. She did three sets of 15 reps, really focusing on contracting her biceps muscles; that last set was a struggle, but she managed to finish it. Then came the medicine ball slams. As I handed her the medicine ball she said, “Oh, I remember these. These are fun.” She slammed the medicine ball on the floor then reached out and caught it as it bounced back up. If you’ve never slammed a heavy medicine ball on the floor, getting one to bounce back up high enough to catch it takes a lot of force, not to mention balance. “Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and… twenty.” The training session was over. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Mary Ann, just smiled and walked with me back to the trainer’s desk where she took a seat in the big green chair.
I said, “Mary Ann, it was a pleasure working with you. You worked harder than any client I’ve ever had.” She gazed at me with those pretty blue eyes and said, “Oh, I bet you say that to all your clients.” “No,” I said, “I really mean it. You did a great job.”
And she did.
What was it that inspired me about Mary Ann? First of all, she’s very petite – maybe 4’11” and 90 lbs. And remember the small talk and questions I asked her in between sets? When I mentioned to her that I heard she just celebrated a birthday, she said that she wasn’t sure if she had a birthday recently or not. And she’s not really sure of her age. As for where she is from, she’s not really sure – only uttering “somewhere up there by the mountains.” She also doesn’t remember her late husband’s name or when he passed. She struggled to remember her son’s name; he was the one that brought her to the gym and was sitting there waiting on her. I ran through a list of names and happened to remember, “Is it Andrew?” “Yes, Andrew… that’s it. His name is Andrew.” She did tell me that her doctor put her on a new medication starting today that was suppose to help her “remember things better.” As for her age, I know that Mary Ann recently turned eighty-three. She swears, “I’m older than 100 years old.”
To work with an eighty-three year old female client is one thing. But for that client to appear so physically and mentally frail and then bust through three reps of ten exercises in 30 minutes is awe-inspiring. Maybe Mary Ann can’t remember her age, where she’s from, or her son’s name, but she can remember how important it is to get to the gym three days a week to work out with a trainer. If I am lucky enough to make it to 83, I want to be just like Mary Ann. If I can forget all of the senseless crap in my life, still have my family around me, and remember how to exercise with a positive attitude and a smile on my face… WOW! How great would that be?
So, if you are in your in your teens, your seventies or somewhere in between and you keep makeing excuses not to exercise, let Mary Ann be an inspiration to make a positive change in your life starting right now. Get up, get moving, take a walk, join a gym… or whatever. Because, unless you have a severe illness, injury or health condition, Mary Ann is proof that there are NO VALID EXCUSES and no reason not to do it with a smile on your face.
To Your Health!