By Doug Kish, MA
You finished physical therapy after knee surgery but you know you want to move even better. Your doctor advised you to exercise, reduce your stress and eat healthier to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure but you don’t really know where to start. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, or a myriad of other problems and know that quality exercise can help your condition. This is where medical fitness comes into the picture. Medical fitness training can be defined as “a comprehensive and complementary healthcare approach to help individuals with chronic/medical conditions reach their maximum state of good health and well-being through exercise.” It means much more than that, however, to clients and trainers of Intelligent Fitness in North Canton, Ohio, where educated fitness trainers work with a client’s doctor, therapist or other healthcare professionals to develop an individualized fitness and wellness program to help them through an injury or illness or to cope with everyday health problems.
In 1998 owner Danielle Wirick, who has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Athletic Training for Sports Medicine and a Master’s of Science degree in Exercise Physiology, opened her first personal training facility. In 2004 she sold that business to devote more time to raising a family, continuing in an advisory capacity for her original company. With other goals and ideas in mind, Wirick opened Intelligent Fitness in 2006. Currently Intelligent Fitness is a small, private personal training facility specializing in medical fitness training. “Although we have clients who do not have any specific medical concerns and utilize our training to be as healthy and strong as possible, about 75% of our clients have some type of medical issue. Some have had serious illnesses, injuries or health conditions which require very specific training needs,” said Wirick.
Besides Wirick, there are three additional trainers at Intelligent Fitness. Trainers at Intelligent Fitness are required to have a minimum of a 4 year health-related degree and one of the top 5 accredited certifications. Hannah Alderfer began as an intern while pursuing a degree in Exercise Science. Impressed with Wirick’s training methods, she became a full-time trainer after graduation hoping to influence clients to change their lives by sharing her knowledge of health and fitness. Alderfer specializes in corrective exercise and is certified to perform the Functional Movement Screen. An elite, competitive runner, Alderfer will participate in her second Boston Marathon this April. With her background in running and corrective exercise, she is the Race Training Specialist at Intelligent Fitness helping runners prevent injuries and improve their running form and race time. Joe Cartwright was also an intern during college. Although Cartwright never had a goal of becoming a personal trainer, he drew upon life experience to make that choice. As an overweight youth who got into shape by participating in high school sports and working on his family’s farm, he knew about being insecure with your body image. Having suffered from ulcerative colitis since the age of 18, he has had several surgeries to alleviate the symptoms. Cartwright, who is a Youth Exercise Specialist, now uses those experiences to help youth grow stronger mentally and physically. The newest trainer at Intelligent Fitness, Cassy Daniels, recently earned a Master’s in Public Health. She is a Certified Personal Trainer as well as a Delay The Disease – Parkinson’s, Certified Instructor. Although her passion is to work in public health research, she found helping clients to achieve their fitness goals rewarding and often works with clients who need extra attention due to auto-immune issues. Daniels plans to continue working with clients supporting a holistic view of health.
Privacy is an important issue to the clients of Intelligent Fitness, not only for medical concerns but also for clients with a desire for a private atmosphere to work out quickly and efficiently. Wirick stated, “One of our goals is to alleviate problems that stop people from exercising on a consistent basis, an important one being the crowded gym atmosphere, especially for someone with medical concerns.”
One such client is Melissa Loomis. An avid animal-lover, Loomis was bitten on the arm by a raccoon when she stepped in to protect her dog from an attack in July 2015. The wound became infected and Loomis eventually lost a portion of her arm to amputation. Wirick was asked if Intelligent Fitness could help Loomis to regain her lost strength and prepare her physically for a prosthetic. In conjunction with occupational therapy, Loomis trains at Intelligent Fitness twice a week. “Melissa has a small frame and is already lean, so our goal is to give her some upper back strength and definition so she can support the prosthetic arm she will be receiving soon. We then need to balance out her body muscularly to help her avoid compensations throughout the rest of her body that could cause other injuries,” said Daniels, one of the trainers working with Loomis.
Another client, Nick Define, began training at Intelligent Fitness for osteoarthritis in his knees and has continued for over 4 years. During that period he has had other health concerns and surgeries that Wirick and her team have helped him through. At 76 years of age, Define’s routine often includes brisk walking on the treadmill, balance and core strength with a trainer once a week and self circuits twice a week. Define says, “Training keeps me moving and mobile. Danielle is very knowledgeable, communicates well and is honest with her explanations.” He describes Intelligent Fitness as, “A very compassionate and caring facility.” Define’s wife, Nancy, has been a client for 5 years and works with a trainer and self circuits 4 times a week to counter the effects of aging. Nancy says, “I consider my trainer, Danielle, a friend. She is knowledgeable, compassionate and caring.”
Often, training at Intelligent Fitness is done to avoid the inevitable. Brad Cook began training when his doctor advised a knee replacement was in his future. An avid golfer, Cook wanted to be as strong as possible and avoid surgery until after his golf season. Cook’s ambition and energy along with the trainer’s programming and motivation was able to get him through his season and successful surgery stronger than he could have imagined. Training at Intelligent Fitness for 3 years, he currently trains and self circuits throughout the week emphasizing flexibility and golf fitness. “My improved physical progress is due to my trainer’s knowledge and consideration of my goals,” says Cook.
Kelly Woodward and Kim Whiteman have each trained at Intelligent Fitness for about 7 years. Woodward, a videographer, does strength training for her back and knees and believes that training has prevented injuries because she is stronger and can handle her equipment easier. Whiteman started training to “get into shape.” He states that he and his wife, also a client, have changed the way they live, eat and exercise due to training at Intelligent Fitness. Another client who battled tennis elbow recently returned to training and says she enjoys the fact that the training is never boring and always within her capabilities.
Several clients have worked with trainers at Intelligent Fitness for the long-term. One who was advised by her doctor to strength train weekly to prevent bone loss following a hysterectomy has been with Wirick since she began training in 1998. Another client, injured in an automobile accident, began training to deal with pain and become stronger. She does cardio, weight training and flexibility twice a week and indicates that the individualized program has helped make her body fit and stronger. A 62-year-old female client trains and self circuits to relieve the pain of arthritis in her knees and spine. She indicates that after about nine months of training, she no longer needs prescription pain medication and is able to do activities that have been impossible for years.
There is no “typical” training session at Intelligent Fitness. Each trainer uses a laptop computer or tablet which contains the client’s individualized training program. While clients do have an assigned trainer or team of two trainers, their technology allows another trainer to work with a client in the event of a scheduling conflict or problem. Programs can be altered at any time to accommodate unexpected issues which may require immediate attention. While individualized programs emphasize the specific area of illness or injury, they always include a whole body approach to wellness. The equipment at Intelligent Fitness was specifically chosen to accommodate clients with physical problems and/or limitations. The treadmill deck is wider and longer, the bike has a step-through design alleviating the need for clients to raise their leg over a support bar to get on, and the elliptical machine has an adjustable stride length to accommodate a client’s height and any lower body issues. Although all sessions at Intelligent Fitness are personal training, after a client becomes proficient in their program, they are encouraged to do self circuits, which are workouts designed by the trainers that clients can perform on their own at Intelligent Fitness.
Intelligent Fitness primarily provides one-on-one personal training. Small group classes and Corporate Wellness programs are also available. Currently housed in a 1,200-square-foot building, Intelligent Fitness plans to begin construction of a new 4,000-square-foot facility this summer, at the same location. The new building will have a demo kitchen, separate areas for more regular small group classes and a private stretching area. For more information about Intelligent Fitness, their trainers and services, consult their website at www.intelligentfitnesspt.com or follow them on Facebook
Medical Fitness Training