Snapshots of Success

IDEA members’ clients and participants share how they were inspired to change their lives.

ince IDEA introduced its Inspire the World to Fitness® mission at the 2003 IDEA World Fitness & Personal Trainer Convention® in Anaheim, California, IDEA members have gone above and beyond the call of duty. IDEA has received many note cards, newspaper clippings and e-mails sharing incredible success stories. These touching narratives are transformative. They alter traditional notions about fitness and wellness. More than once we have gotten chill bumps reading about a personal trainer who has helped a client restore daily function or a group fitness instructor who reaches out to the person in the back row.

These personal triumphs happen daily in all corners of the globe. IDEA members are making a measurable difference on an intimate level with all types of people. This is the way a revolution starts—small ripples fan out to the world. The wellness revolution is now, and IDEA members are at the front of the line, looking back only to offer encouragement and support. The following scrapbook captures the essence of Inspire the World to Fitness through the voices of those who have directly benefited from the services of IDEA members.

Not a Quick Fix

Linda Nenninger of Bozrah, Connecticut, is a 20-year fitness enthusiast who became a certified personal trainer 18 months ago. One of Nenninger’s clients, Kathy Krewsky, is a shining example of perseverance and personal courage. Krewsky, who lives in Waterford, Connecticut, couldn’t keep the weight off after her second child was born. She hit a crisis point when her physician told her that if she didn’t lose weight, her health would suffer dire consequences. With her doctor’s support and approval, she decided to have gastric-bypass surgery. Exercise was part of her new lifestyle change, and Nenninger helped her achieve her goals.

Nenninger likes working with all types of people but has taken on many gastric-bypass patients as clients. Prior to training the first of these, she spent a lot of time researching the surgery, becoming familiar with all aspects of the procedure. Nenninger continues to educate herself and stay current on developing news. She prefers to work with people whose doctors encourage a well-rounded program that includes the services of a nutritionist, a counselor and a personal trainer. “There are no shortcuts in this life,” Nenninger says. “The change has to come from many levels.”

Krewsky is also deaf, which presented a special challenge for Nenninger. She spent a lot of time detailing exercises and equipment in e-mails. She also explained how muscles work and why certain protocols were better than others for her client. “I am lucky Kathy reads lips extremely well,” Nenninger says. “She has also taught me some sign language.”

Facing Fears

“Hello, my name is Kathy Krewsky, and I had weight loss surgery on October 18, 2004. At that time, I weighed 303 pounds. I had tried everything to lose weight: Overeaters Anonymous®, every fad diet conceivable, exercise, etc. My biggest fear was that I would become blind from diabetes like my grandmother. I also did not want to have a heart attack and drop dead like my grandfather and my uncle. I had many medical conditions that factored into my decision to have gastric-bypass surgery; these included high blood pressure, borderline diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea, to name just a few. My whole body was struggling to keep up with my weight. My poor knees could barely support me without excruciating pain. Before surgery, I always worried if I would be able to fit into booths, theater and airplane seats, plastic chairs and turnstiles. The worry caused me intense anxiety. Most people do not understand the extreme psychological stigma and distress that obesity places on a person.

“I found Linda Nenninger, a certified personal fitness trainer, through a referral from a person in my weight loss support group. The first time we met, I hadn’t had the surgery yet. I told her I would join the gym afterward. We kept in touch through e-mail. During that time, she explained exactly what we would be doing in the gym. After my surgeon cleared me to exercise, I began working with Linda one-on-one, gradually increasing my sessions to three times a week. She explained that this was a lifestyle change, not a quick fix; and that I would get out of the program only what I put in.

“Linda follows up after every session to ask me how I am. She wants me to hit my goals, and she cares not only about what I am doing inside the gym but, more important, about what I am doing outside the gym to maintain this lifestyle change.

“To date I have lost 130 pounds and have more energy. My self-esteem has gotten a huge boost. I no longer have sleep apnea. My high blood pressure and borderline diabetes are gone. My physical pain, especially in my left knee, has disappeared. I don’t have to worry about little things, like where I will sit, and I can enjoy my life.

“I feel the surgery gave me a second chance, but I want to remind everyone that gastric bypass is not a quick fix. It’s hard work to succeed and change for life. I exercise every day, and I completely changed my habits and my relationship to food, so that it is no longer my best friend. Water is my best friend now! I have also involved my kids in exercise so that they too can have a healthier life.”

—Kathy Krewsky

Angel Wings

Donna Duckworth, MEd, and Caryl Putchat, MEd, have more than 20 years of fitness experience between them. Together they make up FIT Pro-DUCK-tions, a personal training business in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, dedicated to “wellness and performance enhancement through education and participation in safe, effective fitness and healthy-lifestyle programs.”

Duckworth and Putchat have developed a creative approach to exercise that puts fitness within the reach of all age groups and ability levels. They travel to senior centers, nursing homes and hospitals and conduct special programs for the sight and hearing impaired. One of their clients, Beth Landis, was born with Down syndrome and is legally blind. When she first came to FIT Pro-DUCK-tions several years ago, she needed strength, endurance and balance training. Her blindness limited her movements, especially during endurance training; she also had arthritis and low self-esteem.

Duckworth and Putchat began working with Landis in her home, using very light weights, tubing and a stability ball. As she began to gain strength and balance, the trainers encouraged her to move into the gym, where she would have more options. “At first, Beth needed strictly one-on-one training for everything,” Duckworth says. “She had to hold onto the treadmill handrails, too.” Now she works out three to four times per week; once with a personal trainer, and the other times, on her own. (Her mom brings her to the gym.)

“It’s very difficult for Beth to train her endurance strength, due to her sight disability,” adds Duckworth. “However, she does quite well on the cardio machines. I remember when she first tried the elliptical machine. She had a hard time coordinating her feet. Now she just pedals away.”

Landis is particularly fond of the new equipment Duckworth and Putchat bring back from conferences they attend. She especially likes the Windjector, two oversized arm attachments that help train muscle endurance and range of motion. “We call them her angel wings,” Duckworth says. “She pretends she’s Tinkerbell flying around the room saying, ‘Fly, flutter, ding, ding, ding,’ while wearing her big, friendly smile. Then she fans everyone in the room, giving them ‘automatic air conditioning.’ Finally, she balances on the ball, fluttering her wings (lateral and front shoulder raises). Beth has always had difficulty moving her arms away from her core. The ‘angel wings’ help her feel successful and improve her self-image.”

Even though Landis already enjoys going to the gym, Duckworth created a behavior modification program just for her. A special sticker book helps her achieve goals. When she earns a certain number of stickers, she gets to choose a fun activity (such as bowling) to do with Duckworth and Putchat. “This works well because it helps Beth understand expectations,” Duckworth says.

A Strong Will

Motivation and Socialization

Monica Haun loves to see the way exercise can transform lives. Haun, a health and physical fitness education instructor at the Sweetwater Union High School District’s Montgomery Adult School in San Diego, teaches a variety of exercise classes to older adults in the community. About 4 or 5 years ago, she started a scrapbook of stories from her participants. The massive book, which includes approximately 300 accounts of fitness success, features pictures of her students when they were young, along with photographs of them now. The stories describe how exercise has improved their lives. The project grew as word spread about the classes. “It really built a sense of community,” Haun says. “Some of these people have never exercised a day in their lives, and they are lonely. The classes give them the chance to move and meet other people.”

Alex Vejar and Katrina Fields, who both live in San Diego, are just two of many students who have benefited from Haun’s classes. Vejar is proud of the improvements he has made in his general health, while Fields exercises so that she can be ready for the stardom she knows is right around the corner! Both delight in the social aspect of working out in a group.

Increased Endurance

No More Excuses

Jodi Stolove, MS, began teaching dance and aerobics classes at the dawn of the fitness craze. An enthusiastic instructor, she became disenchanted after breaking her foot while teaching a class—until, that is, she created a fitness program that could be performed while sitting in a chair. Just like that, Chair Dancing® was born.

Stolove, who lives in Del Mar, California, quickly realized that her program would benefit people in her weight management class. Many of them had numerous excuses for not exercising. Stolove videotaped herself doing Chair Dancing and played the tape during their next meeting. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Stolove says. “Everyone wanted a copy of that poorly produced tape so they could do the workout at home. Kaiser Permanente bought 100 copies on the spot, then 100 more. At that point, Kaiser sponsored a high-quality production, and the rest is history.”

Stolove attributes the success of the program to its accessibility and to the fact that it simply makes people feel good. She loves getting positive feedback from participants and is proud that many medical practitioners recommend her videos and DVDs to their obese patients. “When people realize that, yes, they too can exercise, they become gleeful,” Stolove says. “They say, ‘You mean I can exercise without standing up? I don’t have to pound my knees or hurt myself?’ It’s so rewarding to return movement to people who thought they’d never be able to exercise again.”

JoAnn Smoker of Tavares, Florida, is one of Stolove’s many success stories. Smoker, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, needed to have both knees replaced. She wanted to exercise and even tried doing tapes at home, but her knees couldn’t hold up. She started Chair Dancing after her daughter Debi, a registered dietitian, suggested she try it. More than 60 pounds and several lost inches later, Smoker considers herself lucky to be alive and tells everyone she can about the program. “If someone says they can’t exercise, I tell them, ‘Yes, you can!’”

The Exercise Prayer

“I had reached a point in my life where I was tired of quick fixes and ‘miracle’ diets. I knew I needed to eat right and exercise in order to change—and save—my life. But I just couldn’t do the same things as other people who had ‘normal’ knees. You just feel so helpless about not being able to move. That’s why Chair Dancing means so much to me. When I first talked to Jodi on the phone and told her about my knees and my diabetes, she assured me I could exercise again. Sure enough, when I got my first tape and started watching it, I knew my life would never be the same. I cried as I did my first routine. It answered my prayers.

“Doing this program has helped me in so many different ways. I now no longer need medication for my diabetes and high blood pressure. I used the exercises to strengthen my leg for knee surgery. As a result, I was a ‘star’ patient and recovered very quickly. I feel so much better about myself on a personal level. This has empowered me to change my habits for the better, and I will never go back. I feel so happy about my progress that I share Chair Dancing with as many people as I can. I want everyone to know that not being able to exercise is simply not an excuse. I hope this reaches people who are praying for an answer to the exercise prayer, as I was.”

—JoAnn Smoker


Run for Your Life

Cindy Nalepa-Nelson of Sacramento, California, loves to run. In addition to her activities as a fitness instructor, she runs to stay fit and healthy and to unwind. One day while running with her friend Suzanne Auchterlonie, Cindy wondered how they could encourage their children to get more exercise. With the obesity epidemic knocking at the school door, what could they do to help? All the school offered was a 40-minute physical education class twice a week. The answer: Start a running club!

A few weeks later, with the school principal’s support, Crocker Riverside Elementary School Running Club was literally up and running. Nalepa-Nelson worked with other parent volunteers to organize a safe, motivating program. The kids responded enthusiastically to the idea, and it caught on immediately.

The club meets on campus right after school, and it is free. Most important, it is fun and inclusive. The emphasis is taken off competition completely. Nearly a quarter of the school’s students participate, and 20 parent volunteers make sure everything runs smoothly. “It makes me think that kids do love games with physical activity,” Nalepa-Nelson says. “We just need to make it available to them. They don’t want to be playing Game Boy and other electronic games.”

More Time to Play

“Dear IDEA,

I love my two trainers, Caryl and Donna. They help me. I can’t see very well, but I can walk on the treadmill. The machines make me strong. I can walk down stairs now without leaning on the railing. My arthritis made my legs weak. Now I am stronger. I’m not dumb; I go on the machines myself like everybody else—I’m the same as them. I fix my own weights, too. I do 50 pounds. I like my sticker book, too. I bring it to the gym every time I come.”

—Beth Landis

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Joy Keller

IDEA Author/Presenter
Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and is also a certified personal t... more less
July 2005

© 2005 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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