Literally and figuratively, fitness saves lives. That was the unifying theme in the speeches from this year’s IDEA award winners at the IDEA World Convention on July 14, 2016. The Personal Trainer of the Year, Fitness Instructor of the Year, and Fitness Inspiration Award Recipient all echoed that, for them, it is more than just a way of life but a way to save lives, including their own.
Personal trainer of the year Carol Michaels, MBA, CEO of Carol Michaels Fitness and the owner and founder of Recovery Fitness started focusing part of her business on cancer survivors over 20 years ago. These patients were told to go home and rest after surgery and chemo, but that led to greater fatigue. So she developed the Recovery program to help cancer survivors get back to the lives they had pre-diagnosis, improving the quality of their lives.
From Michaels’ description, Recovery Fitness provides a safe space for cancer survivors to build strength. One client’s testimonial, which Michaels read to the audience, summed it up beautifully: being active allowed her to regain her confidence and feel good about herself, and work on the challenges that came with depleted energy and limited mobility after surgery. Additionally, Michaels provided a place where her compromised immune system was safe, something that isn’t typical of traditional gyms.
Fitness Instructor of the Year Sgt. Kenneth Weichert, co-owner and tactical director of START Fitness and master resilience trainer for the Tennessee Army National Guard was struggling with PTSD when he returned from Iraq over a decade ago. His wife took him to a fitness conference, and it helped him turn his stress into strength. “You showed me how to focus on post-traumatic growth,” he said. He was able to build a boot camp business with over 3,000 certified instructors, all from the inspiration he got from the conference and from a mentor.
Fitness: A Life Saving Tool
The most inspirational story came from Fitness Inspiration Award Recipient Amy Van Dyken-Rouen. A former Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Van Dyken-Rouen’s life was turned upside down on June 6, 2014, when she was in a horrific ATV accident that nearly severed her spine. “I believe I survived because I had so much muscle mass, my spine couldn’t cut through to my aorta,” she said.
Her doctor, before her seven hour spinal repair surgery, told her to say goodbye to her husband. But Van Dyken-Rouen pulled through, and her physical fitness helped her heal faster. With the same determination she applied to swimming, a triathlon, and figure competitions, she went to rehab and gained her independence faster than people who didn’t stay fit and work out. Now, she sees it as an escape. She gets to the gym and gives it her best with every workout, and her goal is to do another figure competition.
“Fitness is everything,” she said. “Once you have it in your life, you can’t live without it.”