“I want to lose some weight and get fit like you” is what he said during our first scheduled meeting. Having watched me instruct spinning classes at a local gym back in 1997, this highly motivated client approached me in hopes of improving his fitness and losing 50 pounds. This was no ordinary circumstance, not only did he have lots of weight to lose; he also has cerebral palsy with some spasticity. What this physical challenge means is that when walking, your foot that may slap the ground because of the inability to control movements and the firing sequence of the muscle in the lower leg. So determined was this client to get in shape and feel better that he not only became my first ‘client’ from the gym of about 2400 members, he also changed my life and motivated me to enter into the realm of ‘personal training’. Within a few weeks I had attended workshops and courses, written the necessary exams and studied to get my certifications to assist him in his wellness journey. Since I was still studying Kinesiology in school it was great to apply all the textbook knowledge about movement disorders to a real person with CP.
First off, we explored his nutrition. There were lots of areas for improvement and improve he did. We looked at ways to implement healthy food into every meal and get him eating and snacking more frequently. Part of the challenge that I faced was educating him that eating more (and more often) was actually a good thing. So often I have to debunk the myth that eating more is bad… Another challenge that we faced was cramping from the cerebral palsy. We easily overcame this with the addition of electrolytes into his diet and a few additional supplements.
Within a few short months he was flirting with the loss of 30 pounds and then ultimately reached his long-term goal of 50 pounds. It wasn’t easy; using the treadmill and the elliptical were a challenge for him because of the spastic nature of his movement disorder so we got him boxing and doing a ton of weight training. It was also important to do a lot of unilateral exercises because one side of his lower body was completely atrophied. There was also an issue with his balance, gait and posture; he had a ton of short, tight muscles and weakness everywhere. For those naysayers that think personal training is simply standing beside someone with a clipboard counting the number of repetitions they complete, they are sadly mistaken.
With 50 pounds lost and his general health at an all time best, we found a new challenge thwarting our best laid plan: medication. This particular medication carried ‘weight gain’ as a side effect/contraindication. What this meant was all the hard work that we had done and all the progress in the weight loss department was coming undone because of the introduction of an anti-depressant. After taking a 6 month break from training together I was saddened to learn that he had put on 25 of the 50 pounds he had originally lost; back to the drawing board…
Introducing some key supplements and returning to exercise meant that we were able to significantly improve his mood, bolster his confidence, self esteem and reduce his depression. We found that by exercising regularly and taking supplements in the form of fish oils, he was able to reduce and ultimately stop taking his anti-depressants within a very short time.
Lots of good lessons were learned with this amazing client. Most importantly, I learned that when someone overhauls their lifestyle, they don’t only feel better and look better; their whole life can change. They can go from being shy to confident, single to dating, tired to energetic, etc, etc, etc… Fortunately, I was able to be apart of his ‘lifestyle’ change and had a front row seat to watch this wonderful story unfold.