Workouts more than training for vets
May 7, 2009
A group of disabled veterans and civilians is finding strength and friendship during weekly exercise sessions at Fort Jackson's Perez Gym.
About 15 members of a local chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America and a multiple sclerosis support group have teamed with the fitness center's staff to improve the members' ability to stay fit.
"I can now stand up. That's every paraplegic's dream, to be independent," Lonnie Day said.
Day, who said he is a former military police officer, said the muscle toning exercises and working out with the group have helped him with his mobility issues.
"Coming to the gym is a big help for all of us with disabilities," Day said.
In the past five years, and under the leadership of Donna Madl, Perez Gym facilities have been modified to serve the disabled, especially those who seek strengthening and conditioning of their muscles.
Many of the facility's exercise equipment can be adapted for use by people in wheelchairs.
"We try to do our best to help and get the things they need," said Madl, the fitness center's supervisor. "It's a good way to give back."
In addition to installing ramps and wider aisles, Perez Gym recently acquired a NuStep low-impact cardio machine, which allows the disabled to exercise their arms and legs regardless of whether there is movement of the limb.
Mike Steward and Tim Goodwin, both veterans with disabilities, coordinate the group's weekly workout sessions. Several of the members exercise three times a week.
Goodwin, a former Air Force staff sergeant, said he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 24 years ago. He has been able to manage the disease and maintain his ability to walk.
"It's God and exercise," said Goodwin as he prepared to help a fellow group member with some arm strengthening exercises.
Larry Ducate - a former Navy pilot and lieutenant who said he also has multiple sclerosis - started working out with the group about four years ago.
Ducate said the exercising and interacting with others has been refreshing for his mind and body. Though he uses a cane, he, too, has been able to maintain his ability to walk.
"I've gotten stronger, my legs have gotten stronger," Ducate said. "Plus, it's a social thing - just to see the people who have disabilities working out. They are making the best of it. And it's encouraging."