Fitness Together trainer Kati Salowski and Ken Ballou at Boston's Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes.

Trainers hear excuses all the time and if pushed might eventually pose the question to evasive clients, “What fits your schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”
Ask a guy who’s been poked in the chest by the icy finger of his own mortality and he’ll tell you for sure: Exercising. Definitely exercising.

Ken Ballou is the kind of guy you could miss in a crowd. Unassuming, average height, average build; he doesn’t necessarily look like he works out, but he does, usually four days a week with a personal trainer. And he’s not the sort to come up to anyone and start spouting his life story, but if you ask him why he works out with a personal trainer, you’d better pull up a chair.

For most of his adult years, Ken was not the sort to embrace physical fitness in any form. “As far as I was concerned ‘exercise’ was just two four-letter words made into one big, bad eight-letter word,” he says.
The sorry state of his health showed it. At 255 lbs, he had type 2 diabetes, hypertension and couldn’t get through the afternoon without falling asleep at his desk. He’d go home and sleep 12-14 hours and still feel tired.

But that wasn’t enough to get him to make the necessary changes. “The idea of working out on my own was laughable,” says Ken.

Finally, Ken’s doctor said he was running out of options. If he didn’t do something drastic he was looking at a future of declining health and insulin injections, which Ken dearly wanted to avoid. And then a co-worker convinced him to try the one-on-one personal training program at Fitness Together in Westford, MA.
Trainer Greg Briggle wasn’t expecting much when he first met Ken, but it didn’t take long for him to be impressed by his new client’s tenacity. “Ken’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever been around,” says Greg.

Ken was equally impressed by the program at Fitness Together. He says he never once questioned the expense. “The value of 45 minutes a day of a training program designed just for me by experts of this caliber? You can’t put a price on it. These are people who really know their stuff, and I know the trainers put time into preparing my program for each and every appointment.”

Since committing to his four-days-a-week FT program, Ken has lost 57 lbs., lowered his glucose levels into a healthy zone and has been able to cut back on or eliminate some of the medications he once relied on to keep him alive. But that was just the beginning of his journey.

Last Christmas Ken was behind the wheel when he collided with the business end of a large deer, totaling his car. He was left with a severely broken wrist that required surgery, something that would have been much riskier had Ken not taken care of his diabetes.

Despite his injuries, he kept up with his fitness program and his trainer was, once again, very impressed. “Ken was unable to put any load on that wrist, meaning no weight-bearing workouts,” says Briggle. “Ken could have easily stopped his training, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He never complained, he never quit, he never canceled and he trained hard every single day doing whatever his trainers asked of him.”

As it turned out, Ken’s decision to keep up with his program may have been the difference between surviving or succumbing to the next major event that awaited him.

As Ken describes it, he was in the middle of a fairly typical workout when he realized something was very wrong. He became short of breath, had pains in his lungs and became very light-headed. Fortunately, his trainer realized it too and called 911. When Ken awoke in the hospital he was told he’d survived a major episode, one that had nothing to do with diabetes but rather a blood clot that had traveled to his lungs: a pulmonary embolism. The same thing had killed his mother at the age of 32, and, as it turned out, Ken carried a genetic permutation that made him susceptible.

When Briggle showed up at the hospital to check on his friend, he was greeted unexpectedly by Ken’s nurse: “So you’re the guy who saved Ken’s life.”

Greg was baffled. “The nurse left and I asked Ken what she meant. He began to tell me how the doctor said there was no doubt that his workouts saved his life.”

Briggle’s not likely to take credit—he says it’s all Ken. “Ken gives us every ounce of energy he has every time he walks through the door. Were some days hard? Of course they were. Did he want to cancel sometimes? No doubt. But he showed up anyway. And it paid off. It saved his life.”

Ken says the experience changed his perspective. “Now I look at training differently. Now it’s not just the diabetes. I don’t know if I could have another episode like that and I need a strong heart to get through it. Now I say, ‘Train as though your life depends on it.’”

While Ballou credits his Fitness Together trainers with saving him, the benefit has obviously been mutual.
Says Briggle, “The odds of this happening to anyone are probably pretty slim but I know I’m training just a little bit harder and when it gets too tough, I think about Ken and I push on.”

To learn more about one-on-one and small group training at Fitness Together in your area go to FTGetsResults.com.

For FT Westford, contact Greg Briggle at 978-392-5800.