“When I went into the operating room, I told myself that this is the start of a brand new day,” says Malcolm. “This is my chance to do things differently, and one of those things is going to be exercise.” Malcolm recognized that exercise would play a big role in his life moving forward as he recovered from his cancer treatments.
Exercise remains an important part of Malcolm’s life. His long-term goal is to participate in a small triathlon. He thinks the key to staying committed to the Centre is to make exercise a regular part of his routine and a consistent part of his day. His membership at the Reh-Fit has helped him start to build that foundation.
“Seeing people here do what they do tells me that if they can do it, I definitely can do it. The positivity of the environment is what I like most about the Centre. Nobody is intimidated and everybody is supportive. Some people are more fit than others but they’re more than willing to help out, which makes the Centre a really comfortable place.”
Laura Cowie is getting back into exercise at the Reh-Fit.
“It’s only been weeks, but I feel an improvement in my stamina already,” she enthuses. “I walked my dog in St. Vital Park for the first time in three years. He was happy, and so was I. “I feel a euphoria that comes from trying,” the single-parent librarian beams.
Cowie started getting back into life, as she says, when she reached a tipping point last summer – was her future going to be sedentary like her recent past, was she going to remain overweight and out of breath, or was she going to be more active and robust again? She found that it wasn’t a difficult choice.
“I wanted to stop identifying with my limitations, with thinking of myself as a broken person,” she says. It’s not that Cowie, 58, was ever an athlete, or had any interest in being one – she says she was born “big boned and klutzy” and was raised in an academic household where the emphasis was on exercising the mind, not the body. “I can’t remember my father ever once asking us to play baseball,” she notes.
Four years ago, she found she no longer could keep up with other people. Then two years ago, her joint problems – which made a walk from her car to her office “excruciating” both to perform and to witness – finally rendered her incapable of doing her job as a school division library services manager. She went on disability leave and started a course of surgeries to replace first one knee, then the other, and then a hip.
Six months after the hip surgery, Cowie was largely free of pain, but she realized this spring that “my life had just shrunk and shrunk and shrunk.” She also realized that she could do something about it. Her mother, whom she lived with and cared for, had died; her two daughters were still at home but in their twenties and self-sufficient; and Cowie was becoming mobile again.
“I just had this yearning, this feeling that my life could be bigger.” Cowie visited the Reh-Fit Centre and joined up.
Cowie did not know that she would fit into the Reh-Fit’s age and health demographics when she first went there after friends told her how much it had changed their lives. But she very quickly realized that the facility offered everything she wanted and, more importantly, everything she needed to achieve her first basic goal – “to change from being someone who is inactive to someone who regularly is active.”
Her first surprise came when she received the results of the required health and fitness tests. They were better than she dreamed. “I was terrified,” she says. “I thought they’d say why not just jump off a cliff. But my triglycerides are excellent and I’ve basically got more (cardiovascular endurance) than I would have imagined. My cholesterol was good. That was really exciting. I now feel very positive about the health that I do have. You can build from there.”