Y Member Grace Gordon makes physical, mental transformation thanks to personal training sessions, group fitness classes

Grace Gordon has been a member of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA for about 20 years, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2021 that it started changing her life.

“I used to have aches and pains in my body — everything hurt,” she said. “I told my doctor, ‘I’m 65. What’s going to happen when I’m 70?’ Arthritis is degenerative, and I could just see myself curling up even more.”

Since starting training sessions with Dominique Pompey, a certified personal trainer, she’s happier, pain-free and her hands have uncurled.

An investment
Grace has been a nurse for 45 years, currently working at Spectrum Health Lakeland Niles Hospital. She worked in the operating room for 30 years, and in endoscopy for the last 15.

“I switched to a different nursing floor because the physical energy required to work in the operating room was too much for my body to handle,” she said.

Grace had been exercising, but she was still so weak from the arthritis in her hands and knees.

“I even had a personal trainer before Dom,” she said. “I purchased a 10-punch card before COVID. I did five... but I still had five punches left.”

A friend who worked at the Y suggested she train with Dom.

“He did an assessment with me, and I didn’t realize I was so weak,” Grace said. “I learned that even though I was exercising a lot, I wasn’t doing it right. I wasn’t pushing myself.”

Grace had one knee replaced and wants to avoid surgery on the other, so Dom scheduled leg days to be all about building strength in the muscles near her knee.

Arm day is all about building strength so she can do everyday tasks without assistance. Core days develop good form, posture, strength and flexibility.

“He gave realistic exercises and explained the reason for them,” Grace said. “In the months we’ve been working together, we’ve far exceeded my expectations.”

She works with Dom at least once a week, and now has even convinced some friends to come with her.

Between traditional weight lifting and conditioning, she also enjoys going to Zumba classes.

Grace says she’s lost some weight, but not as much as it looks like she has.

“I’ve toned everything. I have never been this slim,” she said.

But it’s not just the physical transformation that’s important to Grace - she’s also a lot happier.

“I feel good, and then I exercise and I feel better,” she said. “With exercise, there’s a lot of endorphins coming out. My friends say, ‘Grace, you’re always so happy.’”

One of her favorite exercises to do is the assisted pull-up.

“I really don’t dislike any. I just push myself,” she said. “Like my husband says, it’s an investment.”

And to her husband’s surprise, she’s even helping him stack logs out in the yard, which she has never done before.

Exercise can and should be fun
When asked what she would say to someone considering a YMCA membership, or a member considering personal training sessions, Grace said she’s the example.

“For 65, people tell me I look good, and I don’t feel that bad,” she said. “I’m pain-free and my hands are open.”

Grace said Dom completely changed her perspective on exercise.

“He showed me that exercise can and should be fun, that I am physically capable and stronger than I know, and that I should never be ashamed of my starting point or my age, especially when I’m walking into the gym,” she said.

Grace said the YMCA is a refuge, and a safe place she goes to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world.

“The people at the front always say, “Hi, Grace!” But it’s funny, I don’t know their names. I must be coming here so often,” she said. “It’s a small community. My grandchildren come here for swimming. It’s very close to the hospital. It’s a happy place.”

Outside of the Y, she spends time with her family. She and her husband live in Buchanan and they have three grown children.

“I’m proud to say they’re all professionals, two lawyers and one doctor,” Grace said. “I watch my grandchildren every now and then. I do a lot of cooking. I love to cook and people love my cooking. My hobby is really exercising, it gets me out of the house.”

And for Grace, she said she’s going to keep that hobby for as long as she can.

“My work with Dom has empowered me physically and mentally, and that inspires me to keep coming back,” she said. “I’m a happier, healthier me and I could not be more thankful for the YMCA, its staff, and especially to my personal trainer, Dom.”

*Story published in 2021 Annual Report.

February 9th, 2022