Esther: How a Health Club Really Did Change a Life
By Richard Synnott, Upper Valley Aquatic Center’s Executive Director
Recently a member whom I hadn’t seen for a few months stopped in to say hi and update me about the improvement in his medical condition. He is back to riding 50 and 60 miles on his bike after undergoing hip surgery that kept him out of the saddle for a time. He credited his quick recovery to being in good shape before the injury, and getting back to his UVAC workouts as part of his rehab. His story reminded me of “Esther” and why I am so pleased to be part of the fitness industry. We truly can change people’s lives.
Many years ago, I was working as a sales manager at a club in Mass. One Sunday afternoon, just about closing time, I was called to the desk to give a tour to a woman who looked tired, intimidated, and worn out. I approached her, stuck out my hand, saying “Hi. I’m Rich… and you are?” At which she stepped back a bit and apologized for coming at closing time and said that she would come back another day. For some reason I intuited that she probably never would.
So I said something like “It’s not a problem. Let’s go talk in my office for a bit and see how we can help you. By the way I didn’t get your name.” She barely squeaked out, “Esther.” At this point I asked her what we could do for her. A tear formed, and with some additional prompting, and letting her know that everything she said was confidential, she told me that she was in her mid-50’s, knew that she looked at least 10 years older, was 30 pounds overweight, and had several health conditions for which she was taking various medications. Additionally she said that her husband of 30 years recently died, her children were all grown and out of the home and that she felt “totally out of sync with life.” She thought that maybe joining a health club would be a positive step towards “what’s next.”
I told her that she had come to the right place. We talked for another half hour and she joined the club. I set her up for her fitness appointment, she came in, and I introduced her to our Fitness Director and her trainer. After finding out her interests, the trainer laid out a recommended schedule and some group classes to take.
As time went by, I saw her regularly and said hello. She was losing weight and looked happier. One evening, about a year after she started her membership, she stopped by my office and asked if she could talk to me for a few minutes. She wanted to give me a progress report.
She went on to tell me that she had lost 25 pounds, and she was off all but one of her medications. She felt the best she had in 20 years, and she had joined a tennis league and made a lot of new friends. She had also met a man at the club and they were developing a relationship. I congratulated her and let her know that this conversation had made my day.
“But that’s not really why I wanted to see you,” she said. “That Sunday a year ago, you somehow convinced me to have a conversation about myself. I really wanted to leave and I never would have come back. I want to thank you for helping me save my life.” I broke into tears. Even writing this now, it’s hard not to as I remember Esther.
What we do at UVAC is not always quantifiable… and not even always acknowledged. But I just love to hear from the “Esthers” whom we’ve helped. I really work at creating a staff that makes UVAC a welcoming place. I thank you for choosing us to help change your life. And I’d love to hear from you about how we have.