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Exercising the Pain Away

May 13, 2019 2:42 p.m.

Healthy Living exercise program helps Joyce Baker live pain-free.

After struggling for years with weight and chronic pain, Joyce Baker knew it was time to make a change.

“In my job, I am running constantly, so at the end of my day I was having pain so bad in my legs and feet that I was on pain killers. I took them pretty much every night,” she said. Her eating habits also suffered due to her hectic schedule. “I would get so busy that I would forget to eat and then I would grab a sandwich from a drive-through.” Though she wasn’t eating large quantities, she was still gaining weight.

Following a doctor visit, Joyce was referred to the Healthy Living Medical Exercise Program at Sarah Bush Lincoln. After a complete medical evaluation, she started working out with Exercise Specialist Adam Shook, who designed a plan to help keep her motivated while also providing realistic, achievable goals. 

Fully committed from the start, Joyce faithfully attended training sessions at the Center for Health Living— three days a week for the duration of the 120-day program. She is amazed with the results. “I was literally off the pain killers after the first month,” she said. “I couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt. The pain was going away.” 

Joyce was especially surprised because she had been working out at a gym on her own for more than a year without seeing results. “I was going about it all wrong,” she said. “I was spending too much time on the treadmill and not using the equipment properly.” Joyce was impressed by her trainer who stressed strength training and found exercises that would strengthen her legs, hips, hamstrings and glutes. “Adam knows his stuff. Anytime I felt pain, he would tell me to stop and he would show me a different way to do something. He definitely knows how to go about everything to get the results that you need,” she said. 

While results like Joyce’s are never guaranteed, “learning the technique and providing a little guidance can go a long way,” Shook said. “Support, education and accountability are the three biggest things that our program provides. Joyce was open to listening and learning, and that’s the bottom line. She stayed consistent and she worked really hard.”

Registered Dietitian Michelle Schultz, RD, provided nutrition counseling to Joyce, who made some small changes, like increasing her protein intake and eating more consistently. She kept a food journal and started packing healthy snacks for eating on the run. Joyce has lost 18 pounds while gaining muscle mass, though she is most excited about being pain-free. “There are a lot of benefits from weight lifting that I never knew existed. There was no other explanation for the pain relief [than gaining muscle mass], and I was in pain every day for months. That was a big deal for me,” she said.

As a resident services coordinator at an assisted living facility, “I run, run, run all the time, and I feel great,” Joyce said. “Working out with Adam has been the best thing I’ve done for myself.” Her newfound strength has also given her more confidence to help care for her disabled son, Brandon. “I don’t feel the pain in my wrist and joints when I walk with Brandon. I feel more secure holding him now,” she said.

Since completing the program in December, Joyce joined the Mattoon Area Family YMCA. She recently returned to the Center for Healthy Living through its partnership with the YMCA, and she is happy to be back. “I felt like I was coming home when I walked back into the gym,” she said. “The trainers are right here to answers our questions or to spot us if we need it.”

Shook applauds Joyce’s decision to continue working out. “People can lose weight in four months, but it’s keeping it off that’s the biggest factor – it’s the consistency. We want people to continue to use our support system,” he said.

For more information about the Healthy Living Medical Exercise Program, call the Center for Health Living at 217 238-3488.