by Bridget Stanton, YMCA Marketing Intern
Bonnie Weissman, now 63, an Army veteran, mother and grandmother, had been active her entire life. While stationed in the Netherlands, Bonnie served as a captain and taught other officers classes. One day while teaching, one of her students began to notice that Bonnie was not looking very well. It was then that she realized she felt a little off, and after a blood test, her doctor informed her that she had high blood pressure.
She then recalled that while she was grading papers, her vision seemed blurred and distorted. Doctors had found the root of her problem; Preeclampsia — which can cause your blood pressure to rise, and put you at risk for brain injury and other serious health problems. Bonnie was 31 years old and pregnant at that time, and she decided to take extra precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of her baby. It was then that Bonnie realized she needed to have proper nutrition and exercise to maintain good health.
After being deployed, Bonnie continued to live a life of diet and exercise. She had two lovely daughters and an admirable husband. Bonnie stumbled upon the Y when she first moved to Baton Rouge with her family several years ago. Bonnie joined the Southside YMCA at the age of 60 and was looking to strengthen her problem areas. Bonnie began to train with Gina Stonich on an exercise system called the TRX suspension training system, which was originally developed by the Navy Seals.
This being somewhat familiar to Bonnie due to her military past, she decided to try it. TRX Suspension training targets bodyweight exercise that develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability. Bonnie began to see immediate progress, but said that she could not have done it without the guidance of her trainer.
“Three months ago, I could barely hold one minute of a plank. I was angry, and in self-doubt. Gina constantly pushed me to do more, but kept in mind that I have a bad foot. Over time, you begin to do exercise the correct way. Trainers at the Y notice your mistakes, and help you better yourself in every sense of the way,” Bonnie stated. Bonnie also mentioned that she is an avid cook, painter, traveler and grandmother of two small boys, and without the help of Jesus Christ and Gina, she would not be able to do the things she loves to do.
“At the age of 63, if I can do this, other people can at my age. I hired a personal trainer to help guide and motivate me, but along the process we developed a friendship. Gina and I regularly get lunch together, and we are both active Christians in our community,” Bonnie said.
Gina of the Southside YMCA is an outgoing, bubbly and strong-willed versatile trainer. She is able to create several client-trainer based relationships and assist them with what they are seeking to accomplish, whether it is fitness, nutritional or personal needs. Gina not only had the passion to assist Bonnie in her active life, but helped Perry Ferand find an appropriate way of exercising that accommodated his needs as well.
Perry, 86, joined the Southside YMCA three years ago after deciding that it was time he got out of the comfort of exercising in his home after tragically losing his wife. “After losing my wife, I needed a woman to boss me around, that’s where Gina chimed in,” Perry said. Gina had to program each machine individually with Perry’s appropriate age because the machines only went up to the age of 80. Perry uses a heart monitor while he exercises on the treadmill and elliptical. It keeps track of his heart rate and Gina helps to ensure that he is not overworking himself.
Instead of just walking on the treadmill at home, Perry said one of the main reasons he decided to step out of the comfort of his home was to come to the Y to immerse himself in a social setting. “The other reason why I love to come to work out at the Y, is because I do not want to risk injury if I am working out alone. There are trained people here who could immediately take care of me if something bad were to happen. If I just came here to simply just workout, then I would revert back to walking on my treadmill at home,” Perry stated.
Perry continued, “I come to the Y to see Gina, and to interact with other people. Even if it’s to talk about the most random things, I feel the sense of community and that makes me always want to come back. I don’t know how it is for other people, but for me it is the easiest thing in the world. If it weren’t for my active lifestyle, traveling would not be possible. I love to travel. September of last year, I traveled to France, viewed Neolithic paintings and even went inside historical caves. I was able to walk around just fine. When my wife and I retired we traveled to Europe sometimes up to 5 times a year.”
“At the Y, I have established not only a better sense of community, but a long lasting friendship with my trainer Gina. We have weekly lunches, and celebrate each other’s birthdays. Here at the Y, I have been given happiness and hope after losing my wife, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Gina,” Perry said.
As evidence shows, Gina impacts her clients in other ways than just being a trainer. She deeply cares about the connections she forms with her clients. Gina began training at the Southside YMCA because she loves to help those who are actively seeking guidance and assistance throughout their workouts as well as their personal well-being. She not only monitors heart health, diet, cholesterol, and overall physical health. She truly helps her clients produce desired results, and makes them feel comfortable and cared for throughout the process.
Gina trained Bonnie because she knew how passionate Bonnie was about her desire for an active, healthy lifestyle. She knew exactly what exercises Bonnie preferred because she knows Bonnie, not just on a transactional level, but on a personal level. They have formed a bond so strong, that they are able to spend time together outside of the Y. Gina trained Perry because she was moved by his past and wanted to continue to help him live his life, not only in a healthy manner, but to help him achieve a sense of community.
She wanted to make sure he felt the need to always come back to the community that the Y has to offer. She gave great emphasis as well on the fact that she is not only channeling her fitness expertise, but furthermore, actively pursuing her Christian lifestyle by helping those who need her help. Gina fosters ample friendships with her clients, which makes her feel a sense of achievement in regards to aiding others. Gina did not sign up to just be a trainer at the Y — she became a trainer because she felt it was her calling to help others through diet, exercise and cultivating friendships that will last her a lifetime.
Gina defines perfectly what we try to achieve at the YMCA. At the Y, we desire for others to be happy, healthy and belong to something more than just a gym. The Y is a loving community that is always willing to provide more than just fitness, but fulfilling friendships that will truly last a lifetime.