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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 21, 2018
Whole Health, Whole You: A Health Series

Doctor’s orders

HCHC doctor takes her advice seriously when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Mar 02, 2018
Photo by: Karyn Spory REC Center personal trainer Raul Becerril looks on as Sarah Ledger pushes through the most intense portion of her workout. Ledger says since she began working out with Becerril last year she’s seen vast improvments in her overall health, including physical, mental and emotional health.

*Editor’s note: This is the final article in a four-part series that takes a look at a person’s health from head to toe and discusses how one aspect of an individuals health can have lasting affects in other areas.

Sarah Ledger squared her shoulders to the bicycle machine and dipped her head low, her silver Asics gym shoes tied together with hot pink shoelaces, spun faster and faster and she gave the last 40 seconds of her workout everything she had.

Her breath came out in short clips, “puff, puff” as the countdown began. “20 seconds,” her personal trainer Raul Becerril announced. “10 seconds, you’ve got this.”

“Puff, puff.”

As the stopwatch hit zero, Becerril told Ledger to relax, part of her personal training is making sure she recovers between sets. He gives her a fist pump and congratulates her on finishing the workout.

Ledger has been working out with Becerril, the health and wellness coordinator at the REC Center, for just over a year now. The results are visible to anyone, but it’s the changes that can’t simply be seen by the naked eye that Ledger is proudest of.

“I’ve lost about 70 pounds,” she gleefully admits. “I know I’ve probably gained a lot of muscle mass because muscle weighs more than fat. But I can tell my muscle tone has improved and I’ve gone down quite a few sizes.”

But it’s more than her physical appearance. “It’s so much more than the weight; it’s feeling good mentally. I’m less stressed. I wish I could get everyone to realize that.”


Lifestyle change

Ledger first began her lifestyle change nearly a year-and-a-half ago. Ledger had began clean eating — eating “real” foods that are un- or minimally processed, refined or handled — and knew it was time to take the next step in her lifestyle change. “I had lost 20 pounds just by changing my eating habits,” she said. “I was feeling a lot better and knew it was time to get on the exercise.”

Ledger knew Becerril through his now in-laws. “I’m friends with Mallory’s family and they suggested him.”

So Ledger and Becerril began a partnership — client and trainer. At first they met just one day a week. “In the beginning I didn’t do anything on my own, I just went with him (Raul). I wouldn’t have known the first place to start.”

They began by figuring out two things — what were Ledger’s goals and was she going to be dedicated.

“I can just tell when they’re listing me their goals; I know by then if they’re really into it,” said Becerril.

Ledger was. Her goals seemed simple — to be able to run.

“She wanted to be able to move better and to lose weight, of course. But her main goal was to be able to run without gassing out,” he said. “She wanted to do runs and she wanted to be able to play with her daughter. She just wanted to keep up.”

At first, Becerril said, Ledger was struggling with running for 30 seconds. Now she can run five or more minutes straight.

Ledger and Becerril are now meeting three days a week, with Ledger working out on her own as well.

Their workouts are typically high intensity, low interval. “I found that was a really easy workout to work into,” she said. “I definitely challenge myself and he challenges me. We just work really well together.”

At the beginning of each session, Becerril has an idea of what they may do. In fact, he has two workouts planned and chooses one based on how Ledger is feeling that day. And if he needs to tailor the workout, he does.

“If I’m seeing them struggle with what I planned for them, I narrow it down,” explains Becerril. “People may say I’m babying them, but I’m taking care of them. There’s a difference.”

Little by little, Becerril get his clients, like Ledger, out of their comfort zones. “I let them know that it’s going to be tough, but in order to get where they want, there will be some bumpy roads, but once they get to the other side, they start seeing results, they get that confidence and something clicks. Sometimes I have to hold them back because they’re ready to take it all on.”

“He tailors it to what I can do and he takes me to my limit and then we go a little further beyond because he knows that I can, which is pretty cool,” said Ledger.


A family activity

When Ledger and her husband, Jacob Dodds, purchased their house, it had an excerise room, which sat untouched for years. “I was busy having babies, we have three now and that kept us really busy,” she said.

Then Ledger made her health a priority for the family. “I made this commitment that I was going to get myself healthy — I needed to do it for myself, for my husband and for my kids,” she said.

She began scheduling her workouts, writing them down in a calendar alongside her kid’s activities and doctor’s appointments. “If it’s in my calendar and it’s written down I’m more apt to do it.”

And that excerise room in her house, she’s not the only that uses it. After Ledger began working out with a personal trainer, so did her husband. The couple help hold each other accountable, Becerril says. “Sarah goes home and tells her husband, ‘I did this, this and this’ and so he tells himself he should get a workout in as well. He doesn’t want his wife to outwork him,” he said. “It’s a friendly competition and it’s having someone to hold you accountable.”

The two also do couples workouts with Becerril and his wife, Mallory. “We do couples workouts,” said Becerril, “but we also go bowling. We try to do things outside of the REC Center.”

“We’ve become such close friends. It’s pretty neat to see,” added Ledger.

Ledger’s oldest daughter Bella, 8, also gets in on the action and works out with her parents at the REC Center and at home.

“Seeing someone young, and with that energy, why not put it to use,” said Becerril of Bella. “It’s a lot of fun seeing her want to learn and to see her here and joining her dad and her mom. It’s pretty cool.”


It’s all connected

Once Ledger began hitting the gym, everything else in her life began to change. She was feeling less stressed, sleeping better and was just happier overall.

“My endurance has improved. My confidence has improved. It’s been really great for me,” she said.

This journey has improved her overall health — mental, emotional and physical, which means she can better take care of her family. It has also improved her work. Ledger is a doctor at Family Medicine of Mt. Pleasant. “I’ve had more conversations in the last year with my patients regarding health than I have since I’ve been here,” she said.

Ledger says her patients have been able to see her transformation and are asking questions. “They know I’m busy. They know I have three kids and I have a lot on my plate and I’ve done it,” she said.

And when patients throw out excuses as to why they can’t live a healthier lifestyle, Ledger says it’s nice to be able to point to her own journey to say “yes you can.”

Ledger says sometimes that’s all you need, someone saying you can do it. “Raul has made a huge difference in my life,” she added. “And we’ve become such close friends, too. I think it’s been rewarding for both of us. He enjoys changing lives and he’s definitely changed my life.”

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