Success Story: Jackie Fendler, discovering strength and health at 65 years old
Writing my story as a success story seems odd to me as I don’t feel like I am anywhere near the end of my fitness journey. But, I’m learning that when you make fitness part of life, it never ends. And, in all actuality, making fitness part of my life is the success. Over the past couple of years, prior to training with Bodies by Burgoon, I felt myself getting weaker and weaker, with less stamina and resilience. In fact, I felt very slug-like, partaking in no physical activity and slowly gaining weight. I really felt it last summer when I spent a few weeks in Maine, and had a chance to go sailing with my cousin. To get to the boat, we had to row out in a rather unstable dingy, and then somehow put our butts onto the sailboat, and then swing the rest of our bodies into it. I felt awkward, fat, and very weak. I was embarrassed at how I must’ve looked. The last straw came when I was boarding the airplane to go home, and I couldn’t even lift my carry-on over my head to shove it into the bin. I felt very awful at that point, though I was lucky enough to have some help and a kind word from a man who said, “It’s OK, it’s hard lifting something over your head,” Of course; he had no trouble at all…yet another deeply embarrassing moment.
Even though I promised myself I would do something about everything I was feeling, I didn’t do anything.
But, one day in January 2013, a woman I work with said she was working out with a personal trainer. I had always fantasized about a trainer for myself. I sure wasn’t pushing myself to get healthier, and I knew I could use the help. When she told me the first session was free, I decided to give it a try, never thinking that I would be interested enough to continue.
When I first met with Jason, he shared his story with me, and I immediately felt comfortable with this man who was willing to make himself vulnerable to someone he didn’t even know. I was also impressed by the fact that he understood food issues and eating. That was important for me because I’d been heavy all of my life, food often being my crutch. He even understood that getting skinny was not my goal, but that getting healthy was. Those moments helped me decide to commit to the process to see what could happen.
At my first full session, Jason worked me so hard that I wondered whether I would come back…but I did. I kept saying, “I can do this,” even though I was really struggling. I took me about three months to get to the point where I didn’t have to force myself to go. There was even one day I cancelled because I didn’t think I could take even one more session. But something about this place and the people compelled me to continue. I went to that next session, and I’ve never looked back. I just keep coming back.
During my third session, Jason said something interesting. He said he had a goal for me. I was sure he’d say something like I should lose 20 pounds, but he surprised me. He told me I was going to enter a weightlifting contest in the summer. After I finished laughing, I asked him if he was serious. He assured me he was very serious. Here I was, turning 65 in May (two months before the contest) considering entering a contest for weightlifting, when just six months prior, I wasn’t even active. I was committed. I entered, and I told myself I’d do the best I could. Now, I look at my FIRST PLACE TROPHY, a Samuri sword, reminding myself that I can do anything…including deadlifting 187.2 pounds…at age 65.
This experience at Bodies by Burgoon has made me feel VERY GOOD about myself. I have lost 15 pounds since January, and people at work constantly compliment me on how my body has changed. It feels so good to get those compliments...for people to notice the hard work I’ve put in. I’ve worked out in the past, but I never would push myself like Jason pushes me. The best part of this experience is there is no shame allowed in the gym. It is a place where you can be who you really are and you are valued. I feel like the other members at the gym are my comrades in arms, and we give each other lots of support. This place is special.
Beyond all of these things, coming to this gym has become a real spiritual journey for me. I came out of losing a business, having to declare bankruptcy, losing a home, and struggling to get back on my feet. The gym has become one place where I can set goals and achieve them…a place where I feel fully supported, and where I am valued for who I am. It doesn’t get any better than that.