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From Physical Therapy to Weight Loss

Client: Ethel
Fitness Instructor: Lenela Glass-Godwin
Location: Tallasee, Alabama

Taking control. Ethel, a physical therapy client at Tallasee Health and Rehabilitation, was referred to Lenela Glass-Godwin, an aqua fitness instructor at the facility.

Ethel had received physical therapy for severe back, knee and foot problems. Her physical therapists thought that in-pool, aqua aerobics training would be an appropriate posttherapy exercise option. Ethel knew that she needed continued guidance; she was overweight and had been diagnosed with diabetes. “Diabetes is a serious problem for African Americans; almost all of my African American clients have diabetes,” explains Glass-Godwin. “Ethel’s doctor gave her specific dietary recommendations because that is beyond my scope of practice.”

Gaining ground. Ethel originally began training in the pool twice per week in a group setting. Committed to improving her health, she had no problem driving 60 miles round trip to attend classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The travel was necessary—Tallasee Rehab is the closest facility to Ethel’s home that offers year-round indoor-pool access and classes.

Glass-Godwin was thrilled to have a new class participant, but she knew that Ethel needed more frequent structured physical activity. “I told her from the outset that 2 nights a week of aqua training was insufficient for the kind of weight loss she wanted, and I recommended that she begin a walking program,” says the instructor.

Ethel agreed to take Glass-Godwin’s calling all trainers advice, despite a hectic schedule. “She is a very busy businesswoman who owns two large daycare centers, but she still made time to walk during the middle of the day,” recalls Glass-Godwin.

Being the inspiration. “Usually Ethel works with me in a group situation, but sometimes I work with her alone,” says Glass-Godwin. During the training sessions, the focus is on cardiovascular-based workouts, complemented by resistance training using water noodles and water weights. Glass-Godwin avoids using traditional weights with Ethel because of her joint issues.

“Ethel says that when I work with her alone, I’m like a drill sergeant, working her harder than when we are in the group setting. But she likes that and works very strenuously during the cardio portion of our program,” says Glass-Godwin.

Ethel has become an inspiration to the other class participants. “I often use her as a ‘model’ (‘Y’all, look at Ethel go!’) to encourage everyone to run harder and faster in the pool and to increase their output within their tolerance ranges,” says Glass-Godwin. “Every time Ethel loses a few more pounds or buys new clothes, she lets the other ladies know about it! There is nothing shy about Ethel.”

Achieving success. The combination of Ethel’s pool training, her walking program and her doctor’s nutrition recommendations have proved successful. Glass-Godwin says that Ethel began to drop weight and dress sizes within 3–4 months.

She has also lost 60 pounds. “Ethel often tells me that people come up to her in her hometown and say, ‘What have you been doing? How have you lost so much weight?’ This gives her a chance to talk with them about the aqua training and her walking program,” says the trainer.

Ethel was recently given the green light by her doctor to discontinue using blood sugar medication.

“She also says that her husband and grown children have been very supportive of her exercise program and that she often catches her husband ‘looking at how attractive I am!’”

Finding friendship. Glass-Godwin, who faces her own health challenges due to a recent epilepsy diagnosis, says that her relationship with Ethel has evolved beyond a professional one.

“One night I had a seizure at the pool; Ethel had never seen anyone have a seizure before, and she was quite upset,” recalls Glass-Godwin. “But early the next morning she called me at home to check on me and make sure that I was getting the care I needed. She continues to check with me weekly about my own health concerns, and her friendship means a great deal to me.”

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