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Overcoming Disease through Exercise and Diet (Part 2 of a 3 Part Series)

In the 1st part of this 3 part series, I introduced Functional Training and the Bootcamp Class that I teach in Boston. In Part II of this series, I will introduce you to an incredible client and her journey to improved health.

Gina (aka Disco) – a Unique Client

In November 2007, I met an incredible woman named Gina who quickly became known as “Disco” as a result of her love of Disco Music. On the surface, Gina looked a lot like other clients: She was a 50 year old woman who was a wife, a mom to 2 girls (a high school teenager and a 10 year old), and held a high level management position in a large insurance company, often requiring her to travel extensively. But after reviewing her consent forms in detail, it was clear she was very unique: Gina had Systemic Lupus, which caused her to suffer from Crohn’s Disease and flare-ups every 6-8 weeks. Her joints often became inflamed, causing her to take prescription strength Ibuprofen 4-6 times per day and Asacol 4 times per day. Although her doctor had encouraged her to begin an exercise regime for her overall health and to relieve localized joint pain, Gina explained that because of the pain, it was sometimes difficult to get out of bed. Further, Lupus caused her to have flu like symptoms, making her too tired and achy to exercise. When I asked her what her main goal was, she explained that she wanted to lose 25 pounds.

Gina Attempts Bootcamp

At every class, I tell participants to let me know if any of the exercises do not feel comfortable so I can give them appropriate modifications. On Gina’s first day, she could hardly jog a lap around the gym. It was evident that the class might be too difficult for her. After the warm up I brought her to the side and explained that the class was tough and wasn’t for everyone. I told her to take it easy and to take as many rests as needed. Gina persisted and said she would do the best she could.

Over the next month, Gina stuck with the program and performed drills at her own pace. Before long she could run 10 laps around the gym and was making serious progress. Gina also began doing one-on-one resistance training with me. Initially, we covered fundamental strength training with free weights and nautilus exercises and then we began incorporating functional resistance training, which involves a combination of fundamental resistance exercises and a mix of elements involving balance, coordination and core strength. Instead of targeting one muscle per exercise, this kind of training targeted multiple muscle groups at a time.

Gina’s Success

Gina’s hard work paid off. Gina spent 6 months following a combination of Bootcamp classes, functional weight training, recreational running and eating a balanced diet. Gina’s doctor performs tests on a regular basis, including a DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan, which accurately measures lean body mass and bone density. In her most recent test, Gina’s results included:

Health Benefits:

  • A loss of 22 pounds, changing her BMI (body mass index) from an original classification of obese to normal
  • A dramatic improvement in her fitness level
  • Body fat reduction from 33% to 27%
  • Boosted bone density levels

Disease Control:

  • Lupus flare-ups have subsided and symptoms haven’t been present for the last 10 months
  • Reduced joint pain (as long as she continues moving daily)
  • No showing of Chron’s Disease symptoms
  • Ceased taking both prescription drugs since November 2007

Physical Strength:

  • Finished 1st in her age group in a 5K road race
  • Went from not being able to complete one regular push up to performing 15 regular pushups on toes with great form
  • Improved aerobic capacity from a fair classification to an excellent classification
  • Dramatic improvement in energy levels throughout the day
  • Dramatic improvement sleep patterns
  • Clear visual evidence of muscle tone and strength

What’s more, friends and family who have not seen her for a long time, don’t even recognize her and claim she looks 20 years younger (You can see her change in the above before and after pictures)!

In the 8 years I have been training individuals and groups, I’ve not seen a client progress to this level in such a short amount of time. This is also the first situation where a client was able to document the elimination of prescription medications, taken to treat the systems of a disease, through proper nutrition and exercise.

A large part of attaining sustainable results is that the client must enjoy the type of exercise they are performing. If Gina was not enjoying what she was doing, she wouldn’t stick to it. The lack of consistency would eventually lead to a lack of results, which would ultimately demotivate her. Because Gina has a blast during training, always has a positive attitude, is never afraid of anything and always tries her best, Gina has stuck to it for almost a year.

Today, Gina is training with me to run her first 1/2 marathon and has recently completed an 11 mile run averaging 9.5 minute miles. The half marathon is coming up and I can’t wait to cross the finish line with a woman, who a year ago, could barely run a lap around a small gymnasium. I know Gina will finish her first 1/2 marathon and I have no doubt that soon thereafter, she will begin training for a full marathon.

Gina’s story shows that achieving fitness success comes down to being ready to make a lifestyle change. Whether it’s lining up your workout clothes for the week or planning what you are going to eat on the road, lifestyle change requires a strong commitment within all aspects of life. Further, it is important to have the support of friends, family and professionals while going through the transformation. Without a support system in place, it becomes difficult to achieve sustainable results.

The point of this article is twofold: 1) functional training gets sustainable results quickly if approached with proper professional supervision and a solid nutrition plan; and 2) if you are not satisfied with your health, you too can overcome any obstacles in your way. With all the challenges Gina faced: debilitating Lupus, working a 50+ hour work week in a high level management position, traveling frequently, taking care of her husband and children; she still found a way to manage her time and prioritize to reach her goals.

In Part 3 of this series, Gina will share in her own words how this transformation impacted her and how she felt throughout the process.

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