Working Out Together and Getting Stuff Done

Alone, humans often fail.  But teamed up with a friend or a loved one, beautiful things can happen.  This is one of those beautiful stories.

“My sister [Peggy Lawrence] has not only shown me what it means to be brave, but also has allowed me to love more deeply,” said Patti Biancardi Barth.  “What a privilege it is to be her friend, sister and exercise partner.” Doctors diagnosed Peggy with multiple sclerosis 23 years ago, when she was 37 years old. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body – potentially affecting functions ranging from walking to thinking. In an effort to build up her strength and minimize the effects of the disease, Peggy began exercising with Patti on a regular basis.

“When Peggy was first diagnosed we were rollerblading, bike riding and enjoying speed walking,” Patti said. Despite their best efforts, over the past 10 years, Peggy’s symptoms progressed, altering her lifestyle substantially.  She is challenged with balance issues, spasticity, leg pain and stiffness.

“I am heartbroken as I watch her struggle with her daily activities,” Patti said. “We feel we are at a crossroads.”

Pictured from left to right, Coach Nate, Peggy, Patti, Coach Demetrius

Fortunately, in the past few years, two big developments have given Peggy and Patti good reasons to remain hopeful.  The first was their decision, three years ago, to begin working out together at the Anytime Fitness gym in Merrillville, Indiana.

“We love the increased effort and enthusiasm when we partner during workouts,” Peggy said.  My growth in strength and stamina has increased greatly.” The owner of the gym, Feras Musleh, impressed both Peggy and Patti with his “compassion, acceptance and enthusiasm.”  And the sisters give credit to personal trainer Kevin Torok for dramatically changing their approach to exercise.

“He took the time to casually observe Peggy, to get to know us and to show us better techniques while working out, focusing on her challenges and targeting specific muscle exercises for her,” Patti said.  “Kevin’s humor, expertise and his genuine interest in our increased fitness level lit a fire in us.  We then scheduled three personal training sessions with him where he broke down three different workouts and was very detailed as to how – and why – we were doing these exercises.” Under Kevin’s guidance, Peggy and Patti learned how to maximize the efficacy of their workouts by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

“We currently rotate the three different workouts on a weekly basis,” said Peggy.  “Then Kevin convinced us to participate in group training.  It was at these sessions, we met personal trainers Demetrius Jackson and Nate Fowler.  D and Nate bring their game to the group workouts.  It is so much fun to work out in a group.  We love it.  D and Nate review exercise adaptions with me before class to ensure successful group participation.  The group atmosphere brings energy, competitiveness and comradery to our workouts.  Enthusiastic, educated personal trainers, music, and people who love working out together is the perfect recipe for success.”

The second big development that’s given Patti and her sister reason to be hopeful about Peggy’s future is a promising new treatment for multiple sclerosis:  a stem cell transplant procedure which has demonstrated impressive results in halting the progression of MS and, in many cases, reducing many symptoms related to the disease.

“What I know is that the progression of this disease needs to stop,” said Patti.  “We need this treatment to keep Peggy mobile and healthy.  I love my sister dearly.” Peggy is scheduled to begin the treatment in a few months, but it’s not cheap – $60,000 – and not covered by insurance.  More information about Peggy and the procedure that she’ll be undergoing is available on her YouCaring page.

Meanwhile, to prepare herself for the fight of her life, Peggy and Patti will continue to work out – together – three times a week at Anytime Fitness and once a week at a local swimming pool.

“Our weekly schedule fluctuates with family and work responsibilities, but we are committed to our health,” said Peggy.  “I like exercising with medicine balls, kettle balls, TRX ropes – any exercise, really, as long as the music is loud.  Our trainers have taught us a variety of workout strategies, targeting specific muscles repeatedly, to increase cardio and overall fitness.  We are definitely stronger.”

Patti concedes that she and her sister are both tired at the end of a workout, but it’s “a very good tired.”

“Our physical and mental strength is increasing with every workout,” Patti said.  “Peggy’s upcoming stem cell transplant is getting closer.  Her fitness level will soar once she is wiped clean of MS.  And that’s when she’s really going to shine.  I can feel it.”

Teamwork.  It’s a beautiful thing – and a powerful force.

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10 of the Most Inspiring Success Stories of 2017

We couldn’t ever say one story is “the best.” There are moments, and people, and achievements we are proud of happening all year long! Sometimes it’s a mental victory, beating a long-term physical struggle, a community rallying around someone, or all of the above. Each has their merit. Here are some of our favorites from 2017! Find many more (and submit your own!) inspiring tales at MyAnytimeStory.com.

Marcia before and afterMarcia McDowell

Marcia has officially lost 200 lbs. in one year. But the transition wasn’t quick and easy. Her son’s wedding was what inspired the dramatic lifestyle change. “Their wedding day was beautiful and a few weeks later, we saw the beautiful photos from the photographer. All was fine until I was faced with a picture of my son and I dancing the mother/son dance together. I was in total disgust as I looked at myself in the pictures. Who was this person? Had I really gotten that big?”

Read Marcia’s Story


Lou Maldonado

At his heaviest, Lou Maldonado weighed 540 pounds. An emotional conversation with his 9-year-old son prompted Lou to join Anytime Fitness in Mays Landing, NJ. Gym owner Myke Collazo took a personal interest in Lou and helped him lose 300. Now, Lou is enjoying life to the fullest with all three of children – and golfing with his new friend, Myke.


Karla Pankow

Karla progressAt her heaviest, Karla Pankow weighed 300 pounds. Fast-forward to today, Karla has lost more than 100 pounds. She’s now a firefighter, a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, a Certified Personal Trainer working on her Emergency Medical Technician certification, and she’s incredibly active and much healthier and happier than she’s been in years. How did Karla Pankow accomplish so much? A big part of her turnaround has to do with personal trainer Heather Clark.

Read Karla’s Story


Christine H.

Christina H success“In May of 2016 I stood on the scale for the first time in a long time. My weight was 375 lbs. I was in disbelief that I had let it get so out of hand. I’ve spent the better part of 8-9 yrs over 300 lbs. but never thought I’d be that close to 400 lbs. I made a promise to myself to stop taking advantage of my body and to follow through with a healthy life style for 1 year. That promise has brought me so far, and I committed to a 2nd year, and plan to continue forever.”

Read More of Christine’s Story


Lexi and Danny Reed

When Lexi and Danny Reed got married two years ago, Lexi weighed 485 pounds and Danny weighed 280 pounds. They were doing what a lot of us do — spending their free time relaxing with takeout and TV and not finding time to exercise or eat healthy. Lexi was tired all the time and even got out of breath walking. Finally, the two had had enough.

Lexi and Danny Reed

Watch Their Story


Gerald Yenny

Everyone starts somewhere. For Gerald Yenny, it was a place of pain, too much weight, and a warning from his doctor. With help from personal trainers at the Anytime Fitness gym in Batesburg-Leesville, SC, Gerald has lost a remarkable 150 pounds in less than a year, despite multiple back surgeries that limited his mobility. But the weight-loss pales in comparison to the love and support Gerald received from his Anytime Fitness family when personal tragedy struck.


Heidi & Trainer ClarindaHeidi Johnson

Heidi has lost 150 pounds and hopes to lose another 90. But her weight loss journey is about a LOT more than numbers. After lots of hard work and time with a personal trainer, she’s learned valuable lessons to keep propelling her toward new goals.

Read Heidi’s Story


Jen Frazier after picJen Frazier

When Jen Frazier suddenly lost two loved ones, she was faced with a “huge wake-up call.” She knew she had to change her lifestyle if she wanted to live a long, healthy life and be there for her friends and family. She went from battling high blood pressure to running half-marathons and doing a triathlon. Her journey was anything but easy, but she made some incredible accomplishments along the way, like her bike tour through Tuscany, Italy! Read on for her full story on PopSugar.com.

Read Jen’s Story


Ashton Parsons

She was barely a year old when Ashton Parsons was first diagnosed with cancer. She survived, but was diagnosed with another form of cancer at age 14. Multiple orthopedic surgeries left Ashton weak and in constant pain. But, with help from a personal trainer at the Anytime Fitness gym in Wake Village, TX, Ashton is now healthier than she’s ever been – and so strong that she competes in powerlifting meets.


Lydia before picLydia Dziubanek

In January 2014 Lydia Dziubanek felt profoundly unhappy. She was overweight and trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, while raising three young boys. As she struggled with depression, she started having suicidal thoughts. Read the rest of her story on Today.com.

Read Lydia’s Story

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