No More Excuses
No More Excuses avatar

What We Can All Learn from Mary Ann

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!

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Motivation. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to No More Excuses
No More Excuses avatar

  1. Mary-Rose Conti says:

    Hi, Brian! I have been following you on Facebook for a while, now. I got my brother, Joe’s kidney on December 2, 2010, and before that, was on dialysis since 2003. I tried to walk on the treadmill a few times a week before the transplant, but I also have pulmonary hypertension, with diastolic dysfunction in the left side of my heart, and a heart stent. In addition, I am still a type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump, but I am fairly well-controlled these days.

    Just before my transplant, I got a Wii Fit, which I have not yet set up, but intend to use once I get home (yes, I am back in Rochester, recovering from fluid overload in my heart and lungs. In four days they removed over 23 lbs. of fluid.

    My first transplant, in 1997, the treatments were different, and I packed on 80 lbs. in the first year. I do not want that or anything like it to happen this time. I am on a very low salt and low fat diet, but other than refined sugar, everything else is unrestricted. Can you give me some advice? I am living with my parents in Kentucky, just about an hour south of Evansville, and would really appreciate any help you can give. I will be more than happy to pay. I don’t expect you to work for free!

    Love and Peace,

  2. Brian Koning says:


    I followed your recent transplant journey. I am so happy it it was successful and so incredibly proud of Joe for the donation. I don’t know if you know, but Joe and I share the December 2nd birthday (but he’s much older!… by a year!).

    A kidney transplant, as with any major surgery, requires you to wait awhile (usually because of the sutures) for things to heal. It’s best to check with your doctor to see what that timeframe is and to make sure that he/she clears you for exercise with or without restrictions. A good personal trainer will need a physicians release before they will take you on as a client.

    But, there have been many people, even famous athletes, that have had kidney transplants and gone back to full competition with much more energy and ability. You know your body best and know what you are capable of doing and what bothers you and what doesn’t. The important thing is to recognize the difference between injury and just muscle soreness that comes with exercise, especially when getting back into a workout routine.

    It’s very hard for me to do much from a distance because the trainer client relationship is dependent on so may physical cues. When I’m right there with a client, I am always monitoring their form, face, breathing, sweating, skin color, and even their pulse if I feel they might be having an issue. I have to get to know how they react to exercise and constantly make adjustments throughout a session. But I can do some research and possibly find a personal trainer in your area that could help. I can talk with them and see if I feel they are capable and then connect you. Let me know if you’d like me to do that and I’ll jump right on it.

    In the meantime, …. here are some important tips for transplant patients that I found on the Internet. These are very good:

    After an organ transplant, check with your doctor before starting a physical fitness plan. This applies to anyone who has had a transplant. But it’s especially true for people who like rough and tumble sports like football or high impact activities, like jogging.

    Do something you like. It’s obvious, but it bears repeating: if you don’t choose a sport that you enjoy, you won’t want to do it. So don’t settle on something too quickly. Try out some different possibilities.

    Be cautious when swimming. Public pools and swimming holes may have bacteria that could be dangerous. Check with your health care team before taking a dip.

    Set realistic goals. You don’t have to run that marathon right away. Give yourself time. Start slow and work up gradually. Eventually, aim for some physical activity every day.
    Don’t push yourself. Listen to your body. If you’re in pain or really worn out after exercise, you’ve done too much. Next time, don’t drive yourself so hard.

    Make it social. Jeffrey D. Punch, MD, chief of the Division of Transplantation at the University of Michigan Health System, recommends activities that you can do with other people. Try walking or biking with a friend. Try a fitness class. Doing something with other people can make it more fun. It may also make you more committed to exercise if someone else is relying on you.

    Make small changes. “Subtle things make a difference,” says Punch. He recommends getting yourself to walk a little extra whenever you can. “Cancel your newspaper subscription so you have to walk to the corner store instead,” he suggests. “Get a dog that needs to be walked.”

    Get advice from an expert. Personal trainers are not just for the rich and famous anymore. Although they may still be a little pricey, Punch says that in some cases they’re worth the investment.

    Hope that helps! Tell your parents and Joe I said, “Hello”!

    God Bless!


    • Mary-Rose Conti says:

      Dear Brian,

      Thanks so much! Very good tips! On March 2 I will be three months out, and in mid-March, head back to Mayo for my 4 month check up. I will speak to the doctors then about an exercise regimen. At that time, I will probably contact a physical therapist and trainer that my mother works with here in town who is aware of my physical stuff, and would be willing to work with me. If that doesn’t work out, I may ask you to do some checking into others around here for me.

      Right now, I am fairly well healed, and the scar is dry and sealed. I have lost most of the excess fluid, but not all of it. I walk on the treadmill at 1.5 mph for 5 min, every other day, and I try to walk as much as I can around the house, yard, and mall. I hesitate to do more than that because even though I start out full of energy, it does not seem to last long, just yet. The one thing I really like is that the protocols have changed as far as prednisone dosing is concerned. In 1997, after my first transplant, at three months out, I was still taking 30 mg. of the stuff every day. This week I am taking only 7 mg. and on Thursday it goes down to 6. In another week, I will be on the maintenance dose, which is 5 mg. So I don’t have the moon face, or the Elvis sideburns, or the bandito mustache that I had back then. LOL Plus I am losing and not gaining weight just yet. (fingers and toes crossed). Again, thanks for your good advice, and your kind words.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *