Success Story: Wendy Szymczak

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How it all started

AFS first came on my radar in April 2015, when my friend said the classes really helped her get her body back after childbirth. I had that need too, but my child was 24!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m athletic and fitness is important to me. I have a passionate faith in God who formed me, and fitness is a way to celebrate my gratitude for a sound body. My sport is swimming and I still compete on a masters level, but I knew I could be better-sized and conditioned.

After investigating AFS, meeting with Mike Stack, and talking it over with my husband, I decided to join AFS for four months of cross-training to help me prepare for a big competition. We were already paying for a YMCA membership (my pool access) and my swim team memberships, plus AFS was 17 miles from my home–all reasons to make this a short-term commitment. I started out in Weight Loss Solution classes and then picked up Strength Solutions for a while. I have orthopedic issues that include artificial knees and some chronic shoulder problems, so I appreciated the fact that Devin and Chris gave me prehab exercises along with my classes to help alleviate these weaknesses.

As a result of training with AFS, I came into the US Masters Swimming Nationals in August 25 lbs leaner and was able to fit into the tech suit of my dreams. As a result, I placed 7th and swam some good times overall. From there, I went to Michigan Senior Olympics–a much smaller meet falling right after Nationals. Much to my surprise, I swam out of my mind (amazingly well) at that meet, setting four state records and obliterating all of my times that I swam in the previous 8 years, even before my knee surgeries. It’s an understatement to say that I was thrilled! I was certain that my performance could be attested to the cross-training that I had been doing with AFS, plus my husband was happy with how much I had toned up. My four months were up, but there was no way I was leaving AFS–the WLS classes are so fun and the accountability with my practitioner was a great help… definitely still worth the drive and expense.

The roadblock

In October, I went on a dream 25th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii. We were having a fabulous time—snorkeling, learning to surf, biking, and simply frolicking in that magical place. That idyllic time ended abruptly in the second week when I was in a moped accident that put me in the Maui hospital for three days and on a long road to incomplete recovery. I fractured seven bones in my chest cage and developed positional vertigo from the head injury. I was told to do nothing for months, so I submitted to the rest, knowing I needed to let myself heal. But pain persisted.

At my follow-up, I found out that three of the fractures were not healed and would not heal, two of which greatly weakened my shoulder function and gave me a lot of pain. My doc was so negative; he told me to find a new sport because swimming was not going to be good for me any more.  I cannot properly express how much this absolutely devastated me, as I wept for my loss of ability.  Although I had been good to maintain my improved weight through my recovery to that point, I then went into a tailspin of remorse and gained back half of the weight I lost in the first place. My sense of physical wellness is closely tied to my fitness. As a physician, I view exercise as the number one medicine every person should self-prescribe. I was experiencing the depressive effect of months without any, and I knew I needed to get some help fast or I would continue to spiral. I realized no more advice or rest was going to change my condition.  It was time to get moving.

Getting Back on Track

I tentatively returned to AFS after a four month pause, got reassigned to Brooke 🙂 and began my recovery in earnest. At first, if I turned my head the wrong way, I would stagger across the room with vertigo–even when I tried to hide it. I was only able to hold a 1 or 3 lb weight in my right hand and went from doing A-level exercises in class to not even being able to do C exercises. In a sense, this was humbling, but also frustrating. I changed doctors, got some help with my shoulder, and took baby steps forward. In June, the vertigo cleared(!)–which was a huge relief that allowed me to reenter the water.

I continued to train in Weight Loss Solutions (WLS), helping me to shed most of my regained weight, tone back up, and improve my strength. This past August, I went back to the Michigan Senior Olympics for my first meet since my accident. No record breaking times this year–I was shaky on the starting blocks–but faster than I expected. I feel like I can now call myself an overcomer!

As I write this, the one-year anniversary of my accident just passed. I am now (almost) pain-free, able to fully engage in exercise, and I have a new reality of my competition ability. I’m incredibly grateful that AFS played such a crucial role in my recovery. It’s amazing to me how practitioners just seem to know how to adjust WLS exercises to keep urging me forward.  No matter what level I’m on, they make it work. They push me, but keep it fun. All in all, AFS rocks and everyone needs to check it out. So to anyone looking to get in better shape and take their overall fitness to the next level: Self-prescribe it!

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