Many individuals seek a personal trainer’s guidance hoping to lose weight, improve their energy level or build self-esteem. Steffani wanted all of those things, but she also had another person in mind when she decided to work with Mark Krug, owner of ProXercise in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her 19-year-old son, Josh, has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. He weighs about 100 pounds; moving him in and out of his wheelchair posed quite a challenge for Steffani.
“I counted on either my husband or my younger son to lift Josh and transfer him from his wheelchair,” explains Steffani. “[Wanting to lift Josh] on my own became the main reason I decided to make a change in my life and begin training.”
During the initial assessment and conversation, Krug learned that his new client was a relative newcomer to training. She had been thin for most of her life and hadn’t felt a tremendous need for structured exercise and nutrition programs.
“My first steps for true beginners are to make sure they understand basic exercises that all other exercises are based on,” says Krug. For example, one of the first tasks was to teach Steffani how to execute a basic squat. “I took time to explain what we were doing and why, so that she could understand the whole process. Steffani learned how to slow down, feel the exercise, and understand the proper mechanics, and [she learned] why that was important.
“I made sure Steffani knew how to feel the exercise, because one of our goals was for her to work out on her own at her local gym most of the time. She is a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so we used lots of football references and analogies.”
Feeling the Change
One of the greatest struggles Krug faced was that Steffani was eager to see and feel results quickly. He explained to her that there is no such thing as an overnight success story—change takes time and effort. However, Krug knew that in order to keep her engaged, he would need to give her some evidence that she was making progress.
“I never wanted her to be discouraged—think extremely sore—but I knew she needed and wanted to feel something,” Krug explains. “I allowed some slight overloads in the safest environment possible.”
Krug also discovered that Steffani lacked confidence when it came to exercise. Since she worked out on her own most of the time, Krug focused on helping her know what she was capable of doing.
Breaking Down Barriers
“The biggest road block with Steffani—as with many beginners—[was convincing her there was] an athlete lurking inside of her somewhere,” says Krug. “Maybe not an athlete in the traditional sense but nevertheless an athlete—a person who is designed to move.”
Eventually Krug saw a shift that amplified the training experience. When Steffani felt comfortable with basic body-weight, barbell and dumbbell movements, Krug upped the challenge with battle ropes, sledgehammer swings, sled pushes and more.
“Once Steffani realized she could do things she didn’t think she could do, away she went,” he recalls. “I think the trust that was building, along with her increased self-esteem, provided the fuel for her. She sometimes looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘I can’t do that,’ but she never refused!”
Finding Her Strength
“I’m proud to say I can now lift and transfer Josh safely from his wheelchair without the help of others,” exclaims Steffani. “What an awesome feeling for both Josh and me!”
“I never realized all the positives that would come along with [exercise]. The increase in my self-esteem! The increase in the confidence and self-esteem that my younger son, who trains along with me, has gained is unbelievable!”