One night five years ago, Sharon Ward's life changed in a split second. While on the back of her husband's motorcycle, the couple's bike was hit by a driver who made an illegal U-turn, striking her right leg which had to then be amputated at mid-thigh.
Her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury, stripping him of much of his mobility.
Ward had to learn how to get through each day without her leg, eventually receiving a prosthesis. She also had to learn to adapt to her husband's new struggles and became his primary caregiver, a task that was emotionally and physically challenging at times.
To cope, Sharon decided to begin a fitness routine that would help her build the strength she needed and perhaps offset the osteoporosis that was settling into her hip from not being used.
"I knew I had to get stronger," she said. "I had to get strong so I could take care of my husband and take care of myself."
Ward found Jason McElroy of Fitness Trainer Studio in Spring Hill, a personal trainer with 25 years of experience in the industry, who helped her find creative ways to use her muscles to build endurance and strength.
She has been receiving individual training now for about 94 weeks.
Interestingly, Ward had first found Jason for her husband's rehabilitation.
"But he doesn't do well with certain things and he just couldn't wrap his head around the training," Ward remembered. After just two weeks of a month she'd prepaid, her husband decided to quit.
"Sharon asked me if she could take over the last two weeks," McElroy said. That was more than two years ago.
McElroy developed a customized plan to fit Ward's individual situation, tweaking her exercises as she grows stronger and discovering other creative ways to utilize the equipment in his gym to meet her needs.
As she continues to battle osteoporosis, Ward has seen dramatic improvements in her physical strength.
McElroy is an award-winning body builder and professional competitive trainer who has a passion for helping clients like Ward.
Using his experience, he opened his fitness center with a strong desire to help make a difference in extreme cases.
And he is succeeding.
Ward trains three times a week with the help of McElroy who acts as her spotter and her cheering squad.
He developed a custom plan that isolates certain muscles, like her glutes, arms and her strong left leg while helping her compensate her muscles on the prosthetic leg.
Working her prosthesis has made dramatic improvements in her endurance and strength.
"I started her with basic exercises to help find her limitations," explained McElroy. Now Ward is very functional and healthy as the result of using different equipment and isolating specific muscle groups.
Fitness Trainer Studio has a wide range of cardio and strength training equipment that McElroy incorporates into his clients' individual plans.
"I call it the ABCs," he said. "We work the abs, then the back and finally do cardio."
McElroy used to work for national outfits as a personal trainer before opening his own studio in 2006.
"It's a fitness training studio. I'm the fitness trainer and this is my studio," he said with a warm laugh typical of McElroy's engaging style. Clients like Ward feel completely comfortable with him.
His goal is to improve the lives of anyone who walks into his gym. Adopting a fitness program is important to any lifestyle, no matter the age, he said.
At 69, Ward has specific challenges. Building her stamina, strength, and helping her master skills despite her limitations are adding to her longevity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those with health concerns.
Those suffering from heart disease or arthritis might even benefit the most when a fitness routine includes strength training at least twice a week. Adding cardio routines and balance techniques will also help prolong life expectancy by 3.7 years.
McElroy has a list of success stories from clients who tried other less personal options to adapt a healthy fitness routine into their lives.
For instance, Nancy Brown, 77, is another documented case who came to Fitness Trainer Studio for more personal one-on-one training.
Recently diagnosed with osteopenia, which is the stage just before full-blown osteoporosis, Brown wanted to improve her bone and muscle strength.
Brown is scheduled for personal endurance and weight training twice a week, where she receives an hour of focused one-on-one training from McElroy.
In less than a year, she has noticed increased energy and a much better sleep pattern.
"I decided I'd rather have a personal trainer than go to a gym," Brown said. She had done the gym experience, which she said was too impersonal. "You were basically on your own. At my age, I thought I'd rather have someone keep an eye on me to make sure I'm doing things right."
Since working with Fitness Trainer Studio, Brown has noticed she sleeps better, is physically more viable and he even showed her tricks on how to stand to take pressure off her bones and muscles.
"I even walk better," she said. She realized it isn't just maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle that has made the difference. She needed that extra that McElroy offers. "And it's good stimulation for your brain too."
It is about aging gracefully, McElroy said. He demonstrated the correct way to walk on the treadmill, with hips out, skeleton erect.
"They're getting stronger and their posture is better," he said. Better posture leads to better balance and stronger muscles.
"It's all because of baggage," he said. The baggage is bringing you down."
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, even in the senior years, it is important to maintain physical activity, McElroy said.
Many think they can't work out as they age, but the opposite is actually true. The older you get the more important it is to be active and stretch as well as exercise to increase your range of motion. Everyone needs resistance training for bone density.
His information is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states physical strength and balance training can dramatically improve lives and offset typical ailments of aging, including the reduction of certain symptoms relating to arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression.
For those who think personal training is too expensive and instead choose to navigate a program on their own might be surprised at what McElroy can do for them.
His prices were more than double when he was offering personal training through big gyms. He now offers discounted packages, usually encouraging three hours a week.
Some clients exercise one hour, three days a week; and others exercise 90 minutes twice a week.
Fitness Trainer Studio can assist in all physical situations and has documented extreme weight loss success stories as well. Sessions can be scheduled to accommodate the client.
For more information, vidsit Fitness Trainer Studio, 8002 Spring Hill Dr. Contact them at (352) 688-4348. You can also visit the website at www.fitnesstrainerstudio.com.
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org