Fort Scott Tribune
Each New Year, countless people resolve to take a more active part in their physical well-being by beginning a workout regimen. Some succeed, some never start and some give up shortly after their first attempt.
Fort Scott Mercy Health for Life Personal Trainer Rich Wallace said typically the key to keeping such resolutions is making physical activity part of one's lifestyle. Michelle Guthrie, of Nevada, has done just that.
But Michelle, or "Shelly," as her friends and family call her, is far from typical.
Michelle has suffered from a litany of health-related ailments, including epilepsy and a frozen shoulder. Michelle also is developmentally disabled.
Wallace, who has trained mentally challenged clients before, said the biggest challenge in training Michelle isn't getting her to work out -- it's getting her to stop.
Michelle, who has worked for 22 years at a sheltered workshop in Nevada, seldom gives clues as to whether or not her workout may be too intense. In fact, Michelle's infectious smile rarely leaves her face during her hour-long workouts three times a week with Wallace.
"She starts smiling, then she gets me to smiling ... Sometimes we laugh through the whole workout," Wallace said. "Before we know it, the workout's over." Wallace said he relies on Michelle's mother, Charlie Guthrie, to monitor her at home for any signs of irregular soreness to gauge whether he should tone down her workouts a notch or continue to increase the intensity.
"I have to slow her down, because she will hurt herself," Wallace said. "I have to keep in contact with her mom because she will go through the hurt and have a certain amount of pain and she won't tell me because she's afraid I will quit training her. So I have to have her mom tell me and then I tell Shelly, 'OK, we've got to slow it down a little bit more.'" Wallace said there are also several indicators, such as breathing and color, he looks for to monitor the client when training anyone.
"When the time comes that we have to separate, I think that she will have been working out long enough that she'll pick up the weights, keep walking and be conscious of nutrition," Wallace said. "It's going to happen for her." Wallace said Shelly is a good example of his philosophy of physical fitness.
"It's never too late," Wallace said. "As long as you are alive -- walking and breathing, you should be able to do some kind of training." Wallace said the treadmill suits Michelle well because she has problems being outside due to health issues associated with extreme heat or cold. Her workouts also incorporate strength training.
Michelle, who is extremely shy, said she likes the treadmill best, because it helps her lose weight.
"Coming here has made her (Michelle) a stronger person," Charlie said. "She really enjoys this." Charlie said Michelle began working out when it was determined she needed to lose weight.
"She had a frozen shoulder and surgery wasn't an option," Charlie said. "She's very shy, but she met Rich and everything was good from there." Since she began working out, Michelle has lost more than 30 pounds and her breathing, balance and stamina have improved, adding to the overall quality of her day-to-day life.
Michelle also has completed a six-mile marathon in Arkansas, where her sister, Christy Strauss, is a personal trainer.
"For all the things that were going against her, what she did there was absolutely amazing," Wallace said.
Charlie said the family discussed with Christy the idea of letting Michelle train and she thought it was a good notion.
Wallace said one of the initial challenges was deciding the best way to communicate with Michelle about what they were trying to do. He said body language and examples provided the best way to get his points across to her.
The pairing also seems to be mutually beneficial, to say the least.
"I think we feed off each other," Wallace said. "When someone really wants to do it, like Shelly, instead of just doing it because someone else said they have to do it, well, that makes me push even more for her to succeed." And while some say there may be examples of model trainers, perhaps there are model clients as well.
"If he (Wallace) says drink five bottles of water a day, she drinks five bottles of water a day," Charlie said.
Wallace also attributes much of Michelle's success to the support she receives from her family, which he said is important to anyone's success.
"They've been here, they talk to me; it just makes me want to try even harder for her," Wallace said. "When I get here, I'm excited. It's hard for me to sit still." Wallace, who has been a personal trainer for 25 years, said working with Michelle also has forced him to stay up-to-date on certain training methods.
"Some people just want to train specific populations," Wallace said. "I do everybody from 8 years old to 95." Wallace said there are special considerations for every client, and with Michelle, he not only had to consider her frozen shoulder, but also her tendency toward seizures and her medications, which include 400 mgs of phenobarbital per day.
Wallace said phenobarbital can be detrimental to weight-loss programs, but that only added to his desire to succeed.
"It made it even more fun to try," Wallace said.
Charlie said one of the biggest challenges for her daughter was just getting her used to being out in public.
"This has really been good for her," Charlie said. "It's all due to Rich, I think." But Wallace will be the first to admit that the trainer-client relationship has paid off for him as well.
"Because of Michelle's attitude and her gains and her special needs, it makes me want to be in better condition for myself," Wallace said.