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Beating The Odds… and Then Kicking Them While They’re Down


Before Betty Lou Sweeney, 71, joined Anytime Fitness, her doctors told her she probably wouldn’t survive. Suffering from a bladder infection, Sweeney’s health soon spiraled out of control after she experienced complications with her medication, resulting in kidney failure and a grim diagnosis. That didn’t stop Sweeney. Soon after getting on a compatible medication, her kidneys began improving and she made the decision to take control of her health. “I made up my mind that I better start doing something, because I had children and grandchildren that I wanted to continue to enjoy,” said Sweeney.

Displaying more determination than some women half her age, with the help of Anytime Fitness and her personal trainer, Dave Candra, she started on the road to recovery, better health and fitness. She has exceeded not only her own, but everyone’s expectations. Losing a total of 110 pounds, recently breaking the Guinness World Record in planking and appearing on the Today Show, Sweeney doesn’t plan to stop — she plans on using her story to inspire others. She and Candra now give motivational speeches and have a message: “When things aren’t going your way, don’t stop, just keep pushing and you’ll get there,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney displayed that motivation on her journey to where she is now — 110 pounds lighter and the holder of a Guinness World Record — and she said she couldn’t have done it without Anytime Fitness and Candra. “The people at Anytime Fitness encouraged me to join and were really patient and understanding,” she said. “I joined and have never looked back.”

Sweeney signed up for personal training with Candra after working out on her own and hitting a plataeu at 200 pounds. “When Dave first saw me he said that he gave me a week or two at the most until I quit,” she said. “We laugh about that now, but while we were going through it he never gave me that impression.”

Candra’s influence on Sweeney wasn’t a one-way street. Before Sweeney came into his life, Candra was going through trials of his own, and his relationship with Sweeney has been a positive experience. Struggling to get clients and market himself, before Sweeney he was ready to quit as a personal trainer. “And then Betty Lou walked in the door,” he said. When Sweeney originally signed up, he was pleasantly surprised when she continued to sign up for lessons every two weeks. “She just never quit,” he said.

After realizing Sweeney wasn’t going to give up, the duo began training three times a week and discovered during Sweeney’s initial physical assessment that she had an impressive talent for planking. Able to plank for seven minutes at the start, Sweeney was soon improving her time by two to three minutes a month. “And then one day I wondered what the world record was,” recalled Sweeney. “I said to Dave, ‘I can beat that.”” To prepare to beat the world record, she and Candra worked on strengthening Sweeney’s isometric stability and core, and on hardening her mental strength. “Mentally she had to let go of anything holding her back. Growing up life was a struggle — people were telling her she wouldn’t succeed and that stays with you over time,” said Candra.

On September 28, 2011, Sweeney proved those who had said she couldn’t succeed wrong by holding an abdominal plank for 36 minutes and 58 seconds. The previous world record had been 33 minutes and 40 seconds. “I nailed it that day,” said Sweeney.

Her story shows that even the most seemingly impossible cases for success can be proven wrong, and that clubs should never stop motivating their members to push past their perceived limits. “When I tell Dave I’m done he says, ‘No you’re not,’ and he pushes me to do more,” said Sweeney. “He’s just pushed me so much further than I would ever have dreamed imaginable.”

“Me and Betty Lou always say, no matter where you are and no matter what you do, the sky’s the limit and you just have to keep on trying and you’ll get there,” said Candra. “Every day you have a choice — do you want to get better or get worse? And you decide which one it is.”

After reaching their goal of beating the Guinness World Record in planking and accomplishing much more, Sweeney and Candra celebrated by tattooing half of the “Running Man” logo, the symbol of Anytime Fitness, on their calves. Sweeney has one half on her right calf, and Dave has the other on his left. The tattoos are “a representation of our story and what Anytime Fitness and our partnership has done for each other,” said Candra.

Their relationship exemplifies the influence that clubs can have on their members, and the affect members can have on the club as well. Along with motivationally speaking alongside Sweeney, Candra has been promoted to club manager. “I’m very happy now,” he said. “I didn’t do it on my own. Without Betty I wouldn’t be here.”

“We’ve really gotten close. There’s lots of respect,” said Sweeney. “I told Dave, ‘Now you’re stuck with me.’ I will never quit training with him.”

To stay motivated to continue working with Candra and Anytime Fitness, Sweeney thinks back to the day she learned she might not survive. “I just kept on remembering what my doctors said, that they didn’t think I was going to make it and I thought, ‘you have to.”’ -CS


By Rachel Zabonick

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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