We all have obstacles to overcome and we all have fears to face. Below is an amazing example and role model for anyone who faces obstacles in their lives or has doubts of what they might be capable of accomplishing!

Meet Barb, a 57-year old member of our Hales Corners, Wisconsin location. When Barb was in her late 30’s, she was in the best shape of her life. She was playing softball and volleyball 4-5 nights a week, plus rollerblading, logging miles on her bike, and lifting weights. She was amazed at the changes her body was making doing things she enjoyed, which only motivated her more. “For the first time in my life, I actually liked my body. I rarely missed a day without some form of physical activity. I felt healthy, strong, and invincible…and then suddenly, I wasn’t,” she said.

At 39-years old, Barb was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. This left her in complete shock asking herself the same question repeatedly, “How could this happen when I was so healthy?

After her first round of chemotherapy, Barb was fortunate to go into remission, but because of a few anomalies it was determined that she needed a bone marrow transplant – which she received from her sister. “After the transplant, although I was one of the fortunate ones and made it through, my health was rather fragile as my new immune system was working to establish itself,” she said. It was a long, grueling, painful 1½ years for the initial recovery, but Barb was determined to stay in shape. “I had them bring my Nordic-Track to my hospital room,” she recalls, however during that time, she contracted a common graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), in which the transplanted bone marrow views the recipient as foreign and attacks the body.

“My case of GVHD took the form of tissue degradation and skin tightening, to the point where some of my muscles atrophied. I felt like I was living in an alien body that didn’t really belong to me. I was frustrated, dejected, and eventually lost hope of maintaining an exercise regimen. I lost my strength, my flexibility, and ultimately, my confidence,” says Barb. “It felt like such a long road to get back to any semblance of being in shape – I felt like I had so far to go that I was unsure of how to go about starting again.” Discouraged, Barb

“The extra strength and confidence I am gradually gaining feels really good and gives me hope that it will just keep getting better!”
“The extra strength and confidence I am gradually gaining feels really good and gives me hope that it will just keep getting better!”

shied away from trying to maintain any sort of exercise regimen. “I felt older than I should and I was weak…I started to feel like an 80-year old woman, yet I was still in my 50’s,” she said.

For almost the next 10 years, Barb lived in fear of failure, fear of disappointment, and fear of not seeing enough improvement –  which kept her from joining a gym or working out to get back to the healthy, strong, and invincible woman she once felt like. But then she started driving past Xperience Fitness on her way to and from work, and even though she knew the road ahead was going to be a long one, one day turned into the parking lot, took a deep breath, and said “This is it!” That morning, with those fears still lingering in the back of her mind, she signed up for a membership and started her journey working with Riley.

Riley and Barb meet 4 days a week. “I enjoy coming to Xperience Fitness and Riley is the best” says Barb. “He has believed in me from the very beginning, even when I was still fairly skeptical. I was not skeptical of HIS abilities, but of my own. It had been over 10 years since I had done anything for my physical fitness, yet he seemed so confident – which helped me to believe in myself again.”

The first time I actually stood from a sitting position on my own, I was surprised and amazed. I could hardly speak for a moment. Riley wasn’t surprised, though – he knew all along I could do it. He just had a big grin on his face like ‘SEE?!’”

In the 6 weeks they have been working together, Barb has not slowed down one bit and is doing things she hasn’t been able to do in almost a decade. Just the other day, she was able to stand from a seated position without holding or pressing off anything for 3 sets of 10! “This may sound small, but I haven’t been able to do this in 10 years!” she said. On top of that, Barb has lost 10 pounds and her confidence level has resurfaced. “Every little improvement I see, whether being able to do a few more reps, dip a little lower when doing squats, or not having Riley catch me so often when I’m doing a balancing exercise keeps me motivated and accountable to accomplishing my goals!” Barb would like to continue to build strength and work on her limited balance and flexibility. Riley says, “Barb inspires me every day with her determination and positive attitude – she’s making phenomenal progress and is truly inspirational!”

Barb credits Riley for his knowledge and innovative ways to address her specific problems and limitations she working to overcome. “I’m so motivated to see what new victories are around the corner. I had almost given up hope of feeling better, but that’s not the case anymore. I believe even at the lowest point, there is still always hope – it just takes that first step!” she says.

When we asked Barb to tell us why Xperience Fitness is “her” gym, this is her response: “I feel a sense of belonging. It’s great to come in and be greeted by name by the staff. My favorite part of coming to ‘my’ gym is feeling better when I leave than when I went in!”