Personal Trainer: Damien A. Joyner, Owner of Incremental Fitness
Location: San Diego
For many, watching a baseball game at home is a simple pleasure, but for retired teacher and baseball fan Leta, sitting on her couch for an extended period often meant debilitating backaches. In 2018, she found corrective exercise and functional-aging specialist Damien Joyner, JD. His patience and skillful training turned out to be a brand-new ballgame for her.
The Change-Up in Corrective Exercise
Leta’s mobility issues hit after she retired, and they interfered with more than her sports spectatorship—even small tasks like sitting in a restaurant or reaching for items in her refrigerator had painful consequences. She needed a program that would help her live a more functional, pain-free life.
“Leta’s goals included increasing her strength, improving her bone density, being able to continue the activities that she enjoyed doing and reducing her chances of falls,” says Joyner. His specialized work with active agers helped him create a program that was mindful of Leta’s backaches and daily movement habits.
Joyner started by improving her balance through static balance training. He then created a core stability and strengthening workout for her once a week. “The program consisted of dead bugs, planks, half-kneeling stability movements with an external weight, and a few other exercises,” explains Joyner. When Leta wasn’t at their weekly sessions, she had simple exercises from Joyner to try at home.
“I had her practice better breathing into her back and stomach and expanding her rib cage,” he says.
Joyner gradually progressed her static training to more dynamic exercises. As Leta mastered the basic movements, she added weight or focused on better control. “Over time, she was more comfortable and confident, and she did it all in one go,” Joyner shares.
Going to Bat for Leta
Although Leta made progress, her frustration occasionally surfaced during their sessions.
“The frustration would usually be either because she was not able to nail a dynamic balance exercise or because she was still feeling some pain in her back,” Joyner explains. “I always encouraged her to take a breath, reset and continue when she was ready.”
Joyner knew these difficulties were all part of the process. His time with Leta was also a reminder of the trusting relationship that blossoms between trainer and client and the profound, supportive role trainers play.
“Stories like this only happen when there is buy-in and trust from the client,” he says. “It was a battle of wills for her sometimes, and I was happy to lighten the mood or let her know how great she was doing, to help her stay focused. It was a team effort.”
Bringing It Home
The teamwork paid off: Leta now has more strength, better balance and the ability to carry out her daily activities with little pain.
“She has graduated to deadlifting 60 pounds (not counting the bar), and she is crushing her banded Pallof presses,” shares Joyner. “The really good news is that she is not in fear of hurting her back in her everyday life!”
Joyner’s excitement over her progress is matched by Leta’s own enthusiasm and appreciation. “Training with Damien is a highlight of my retirement,” she says. “At 70 years old, I don’t take any of this for granted. Every day I am thankful that my life is so doable.”
As for her favorite pastime, it is now back in full swing. Leta celebrated by watching the World Series from her couch with no devastating back pain—an ability she attributes to Joyner. “At the end of the World Series, I pronounced him my MVP,” she says.
These days, Leta still trains with Joyner and remains one of his power hitters.
“She knows me well enough now that I will always throw some curveballs her way when I feel she’s ready. The balance exercises are not getting any easier!” he jokes. Thanks to their vigorous training, this is nothing Leta can’t handle.
What’s Your Story?
Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected], and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of Fitness Journal.
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