PICKERINGTON, Ohio — When Zac Stephenson first met Edna Mason nearly three years ago, he knew right away they could build something special.
“I’m like, all right, I’m the person for her, I can do this,” he said.
Mason had joined Life Time Pickerington to kick off a weight loss journey, and Stephenson was tapped to be her personal trainer.
“He is just so awesome, you just don’t understand, he really is,” Mason said. “He is so kind, he is so sweet. He’s very patient, very understanding, and he’s just so caring.”
Those are pretty effusive words for a personal trainer, but the bond the two have formed is something special.
In fact, Mason now calls Stephenson her “son” and considers him an extended part of the family. That’s likely just one reason she has found the success she has.
Three years ago, Mason was facing health challenges and a number on the scale that topped 300. She had lost her husband and then moved with her daughter from Michigan to Ohio, where she hadn’t yet made many friends. It was all taking a toll. And, after a previous weight loss of more than 100 pounds, she was struggling yet again.
“You look in the mirror, and you start to hate your reflection and don’t want to go anywhere, don’t want to do anything,” she said. “I knew that I could just sit around and be depressed, you know, or I could get up and do something about it.”
That something was joining Life Time and slowly working her way back to good health. And it involved more than just exercise.
“My role is, like, it’s constantly changing, and it’s whatever I feel like she needs the most from me to make that change within herself,” Stephenson said. “Sometimes we’re seeing what she can do, just for that day alone, and, because of that, we couldn’t really center around just exercise. It had to be the lifestyle, it had to be nutrition, it had to be sleep, water, everything.”
Mason kept a food diary and tracked her fitness activities. And she managed to lose nearly 90 pounds. That happened despite a two-month gym shutdown because of COVID-19 and some days that were more than challenging.
She described one particularly hard day where she faced down a lot of pain.
“I was just in tears, and when I looked at his face, (Zak) had these little tears dropping out of his eyes, too, and he said, well, it hurts me, too, to see you hurting so bad,” she said. “And that’s how I know that I not only have the right trainer, I have someone that really cares about me.”
There is no doubt about that. Stephenson got a bit emotional describing how he views their relationship.
“I know it’s hard for her to just come into the gym sometimes, like, it’s hard to get out of bed, go down the stairs, so seeing all that and knowing all that, it makes me think about myself, too,” he said. “It makes me think about, what are things that I’m avoiding in my life, and why am I avoiding it. If she can go through this, I can probably go through anything, so she inspires me, she really does.”
That inspiration has meant a major change in her health as well.
Mason now has both her diabetes and cholesterol under control so that she no longer has to take medicine. And she has improved her blood pressure as well.
Her weight has fluctuated a bit as has struggled with losing muscle mass and other mobility challenges. But she is determined, and so is Stephenson.
“She can do it, I know she can,” he said.
Mason agrees and has advice for anyone else who might be ready to kick off a fitness journey.
“You have to make the first step,” she said, “You have to come to grips with yourself and say, I have to do it for myself.”
Meanwhile, Life Time is launching a new program called ARORA I the new year. The program will include workout classes and social programs geared toward those 55 and older.
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