How does a grandmother who has never set foot in a fitness center become a regular fixture at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Center for Healthy Living? If you ask Carmia Baker, the answer is simple: family.
When degenerative spine disease and a subsequent surgery rendered her almost completely inactive in November of 2015, Baker knew she had to do something. “I was huffing and puffing just walking up stairs or into a building, but with four grandchildren and one on the way, I knew I had a reason to try.”
At the time, Baker was overweight with significant high blood pressure in addition to her back issues. “In the beginning, she [Baker] would show up straight from work wearing her uncomfortable work shoes,” Lindsay Williamson, Director of the Center for Healthy Living said, “She told us that it was just too hard for her to change into tennis shoes, even though they would have been more comfortable.”
Starting her fitness journey was not easy for Baker. “I knew there was a lot ahead of me since I didn’t even know how to use the machinery, but I also knew I had to take the first step if I wanted to be around for my family.”
Baker began working out with CFHL trainers, Adam Shook and Nicole Gardner. They designed a custom exercise program for Baker that included learning how to lift weights with proper form, as well as calorie-burning workouts on the treadmill.
“Adam and Nicole were always there to help me,” Baker said, “They would listen to me and encourage me, but they were also honest with me.”
After three months of faithfully exercising three times each week, Baker noticed that she could walk to her car without being out of breath, and her back pain had significantly decreased. After eight months, she had lost 21 pounds and 16 inches from her waist and hips. Her leg strength increased from the 45th percentile to above the 95th percentile, and her flexibility increased from the 55th percentile to the 75th percentile. In addition to the visible physical changes, Baker’s doctors were thrilled that her blood pressure decreased and her back pain was nearly eliminated.
Baker credits the treadmill and body weight exercises like step-ups with her increased leg strength, which has made her feel stronger and more comfortable in her daily activities. “It’s worth it to get into physical activity at any stage in your life,” Baker shared, “Don’t let your age or disability keep you back.”
Williamson and the CFHL staff say they have enjoyed watching Baker’s journey to health. “Our staff and other members have noticed her [Baker] commitment and hard work in the program,” Williamson said, “She was truly a joy to watch progress throughout the program. She may not know it, but she has inspired others around her just by coming in and working hard with a positive attitude.”
Baker hopes she can encourage others to start a fitness routine. She advises her friends and co-workers that they should not expect immediate results, but to be consistent and give exercise a chance. “The Center for Healthy Living is a great place,” Baker said, “If you tell them what bothers you, the trainers will help you and they’ll watch out for your health.”
Recently, Baker began taking advantage of the CFHL’s new agreement with the Mattoon Area Family YMCA. “Since we lived in Charleston and my exercise prescription was going to run out, I was worried about where I was going to workout,” Baker said, “As soon as I found out about the agreement, I joined the YMCA and chose the Center as my exercise location. Now my husband can come with me and we’ve seen an improvement in his Parkinson’s symptoms.”
Community members who are interested in using the facility and trainers at the CFHL can contact Williamson at (217) 238-4586 or visit www.sblhs.org/centerforhealthyliving.