At 51 years old and more than 50 pounds lighter, Charleston resident Ginger Scully is shattering all odds.
Only 1 in 5 adults exercise each day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Scully can boast that she is “the 1.” A mere 23% of American adults get the recommended amount of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity each week: Scully is among those few.
Scully never considered herself an athlete who shatters the odds. In fact, for most of her adult life, she shied away from exercise, even though she struggled with her weight and knew that physical activity was an important part of getting healthy and staying that way. When she did try to engage in any sort of exercise program, she felt like she was setting herself up for failure.
“I thought my only option was cardio activities,” she explained. “I didn’t like running or cycling. I didn’t have any endurance, and so I never made any progress. I didn’t know where to start.”
As her 50th birthday neared, Scully committed to a new plan that would help her cultivate healthy habits through nutrition, moderate exercise and other lifestyle changes. She began setting nonfood rewards. For instance, if she achieved her initial weight goal, she would invest in regular sessions with a personal trainer.
With a lot of dedication and hard work, she reached that first goal – to lose 40 pounds – and immediately signed up to work with Alicia O’Connor, an exercise physiologist and the Medical University of South Carolina Wellness Center’s director of personal training.
“When Ginger first came to me, she lacked conditioning and didn’t have much stamina or strength,” O’Connor recalled. “A loss of muscle will typically accompany a significant weight loss. In Ginger’s case, in addition to building strength, we wanted to work on keeping her joints healthy.”
Scully works with O’Connor twice a week for 30 minutes of HIST – high intensity strength training. Each day is a little different but includes strength training for her legs and arms, core exercises and cardio, along with functional exercise for balance and mobility.
One key factor in attaining long-term health and vitality is muscle mass. Scully’s training includes a variety of ways to keep or even build muscle mass, which O’Connor believes directly equates to a better quality of life by maintaining mobility and reducing the possibility of injury.
From the start, Scully jumped in with gusto, and Alicia was impressed.
“After only four weeks, I could increase the difficulty of her workouts,” O’Connor said. “She shows up every time, on time and with enthusiasm. It is so much fun to work with her. As she gets stronger, I have to mix it up and be creative, so I continue to challenge her.”
Scully’s discipline and determination set her apart from many others who have joined gyms or even worked with personal trainers. She credits some of her motivation to the accountability she finds knowing that she has an appointment with O’Connor. It’s on her calendar, and she doesn’t want to let O’Connor, or herself, down.
O’Connor agreed that accountability is key for anyone looking to maintain a fitness plan.
“Accountability doesn’t have to involve a set appointment with a personal trainer,” she explained. “Some people like having an exercise class schedule to follow, some people take advantage of our drop-in classes and sometimes just making a plan to meet a friend to walk creates that feeling of commitment.”
Scully also continues to be motivated by setting challenging, yet attainable goals.
“I am proud of even small increases in strength, endurance and balance,” she said. “I know that some of these gains happen slowly but I’m willing to keep it going.”
The benefits of a training session last far beyond the half hour she is at the Wellness Center.
“After a workout, I have more energy, my head is cleared, I’ve worked out a lot of stress and I can even think better,” Scully pointed out.
O’Connor, knows there is no magic to developing and maintaining healthy exercise habits. But she said Scully has a unique spark, an intensity to accomplishing her goals that shows each time she comes to the Wellness Center.
“Ginger is an inspiration and an athlete,” O’Connor said.
Numerous reports cite the statistic that 50% of people who start an exercise program will dropout within six months. Ginger Scully is not one of them.
By Lisa Wack