“If Mary Lou Retton could do it, nothing should stop me, either.”

Elaine Hayden never had gymnastic aspirations—she simply loves to dance. But a serious injury to her ankle and foot, followed by emergency surgery, left her discouraged that she’d never enjoy her favorite hobby again.

That is, until she saw Retton on television one night, recounting her triumph over injury just six weeks before the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Doctors said her surgery would keep her from competing, but for Retton, sitting out was not an option—and she became the first American female to win the gold medal in individual all-around competition.

That story convinced Hayden to try something else instead of deciding her dancing days were behind her. “I walked into 24 Hour Fitness and met my trainer Lorenzo that day, and we started training that week,” she says. Read on for Hayden’s insights on the outcome.

24Life: Congratulations on taking that first step! It’s also easy to get discouraged when you try something new—how did you manage to stick with it?

Elaine Hayden: Lorenzo was the perfect trainer for me. Why? Because he never accepted my “I can’t do it” attitude. He pushed me beyond what I could have imagined possible for myself and it made all the difference.

24Life: What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself during your fitness journey?

EH: To trust. In the beginning, I was concerned that I would overdo it and get injured. I had to learn to trust my trainer’s judgement and do the things he asked of me. I no longer assume I can’t do something difficult. I now assume if he thinks I can do it, I can. I have also learned to trust my own ability to do things I wouldn’t have attempted before training.

24Life: Any words of wisdom for someone else who wants to make a change?

EH: You are never too old, overweight, or out of shape to turn your life around. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you are willing to put in the time and effort.  The benefits will continually surprise you.

Today, my ankle and foot injury is healed. I am managing my osteoporosis and improved my balance. My self-esteem increased and my fear of falling decreased. These were goals when I started. I retired this year and look forward to continuing my training and Zumba classes.

Results may vary. Please consult a physician before starting or changing a fitness routine.  Personal training and virtual personal training available to 24 Hour Fitness members for an additional fee.

Photo credit: Elaine Hayden