IRON MOUNTAIN – After a 46-year nursing career, Mary Negro entered retirement, but she knew she needed to lose weight and get in better physical shape in order to fully enjoy her golden years.

“I pretty much turned into a slug and gained weight,” she said. “All the years of nursing had taking a toll on my body, not to mention 35 years of downhill skiing which contributed to a total knee replacement more than 10 years ago.”

Arthritis was also slowing Mary down, making her think that at age 69, maybe she couldn’t get stronger.

Returning to her hometown of Iron Mountain in the spring of 2019, Mary joined the YMCA and signed up for a free personal training session – a benefit offered to all new YMCA members. She was partnered up with YMCA personal trainer Jeannette Sword for her first session in June of 2019.

“Right away I could sense her knowledge and compassion and her love of her job as a personal fitness trainer,” Mary said. “I told her my No. 1 goal was to increase my strength so I could get up out of a chair without holding on and pushing myself up, and to get up from the floor or ground if I had a fall.”

Mary also hoped to improve her balance and walk more than a mile at a time without pain or fatigue. Weight loss was also a goal.

“I knew I didn’t have the sustained discipline to do it on my own,” she said. “I have tried and failed so many times.”

That initial free session with Jeannette led to an instant connection, and Mary quickly signed on for 10 sessions. They started out slow.

“For one thing, I had never been on a spin bike before and could barely get on the thing and could only ride slowly for a few minutes,” she said. “One of the first times she had me on the fitness ball I managed to fall off and she had to help me get up off the mat.”

Still, they focused on basic strength training workouts.

“Jeannette was always doing the reps right along with me and always encouraging me and giving me positive feedback,” Mary said.

After a few sessions Mary began to feel very encouraged. She signed up for 20 more sessions.

“Through the weeks and months we have worked on just about every muscle in my body, many of which have not been used in many years,” she said. “Hence the saying, ‘no pain-no gain’.”

Every time a routine starts to get a little easy, Jeannette changes up the routine to keep the challenge fresh. Mary said she appreciates Sword’s encouragement while being constantly pushed.

“I moan and shoot her the evil eye sometimes, and she’ll laugh and ignore it, but then later that night she’ll reach out with a text to make sure I’m still alive,” Mary joked.

Mary has logged more than 50 sessions with Sword. She can perform 30 minutes on the bike. She can get down onto the floor mat and back up fairly easily without help. She now walks 2-3 miles 3-4 times per week and does 100 sit-ups on the exercise ball. She can get up from a chair without holding on to anything, and she has lost more than 35 pounds since last fall.

“I’m sure mine is not the only success story and there are many others benefiting from the Y,” she said. “None of us would be able to continue without the Y. I’m so thankful for Jeanette and excited to continue on this journey together.”