Jodi McMasters made a brave choice the day she walked into GX instructor Susan (Suzi) Annunziata’s class.

Having undergone physical and occupational therapy following a traumatic brain injury, McMasters still suffered from balance issues, but she was determined to overcome them. A member of 24 Hour Fitness Greenacres Active Gym in Florida, she decided to try a Silver Sneakers class taught by Annunziata.

“I figured I’ll be able to work on my balance disability slowly and safely—I got that half right!” McMasters says. She had expected the class might be too easy. “I originally thought Silver Sneakers classes were just for senior citizens,” McMasters admits. “After taking my first class, I realized I couldn’t keep up with most of the people in the class—and most of them are decades older than me!”

Initially, McMasters was not able to get down onto a yoga mat on the floor—or get up from it—unassisted. Still, McMasters kept showing up, looking forward to Annunziata’s encouragement and expert instruction.

“I want to go to these classes because I know I’ll get the highest quality instruction [with Suzi] while being assured I’m in a safe environment,” McMasters says. “Somehow, Suzi creates a fun class while watching every individual like a hawk to make sure they’re safe and doing the exercise properly.”

Support that goes beyond physical

Little by little the dedicated member started to improve. She began to see her stability and balance change and her endurance for certain movements increase.

“I remember the day I was able to get up all by myself,” she recalls. Just as Annunziata rushed over to offer help, McMasters was able to stand up without any assistance for the very first time. “When Suzi saw that I got it, she quickly (and comically) did a U-turn back to the front of the class and the whole class laughed and applauded my accomplishment! … Silver Sneakers has made a monumental impact on my life,” she says.

McMasters’ accomplishment is one of many that Annunziata has witnessed in her classes. “I see every day how this program has physically and mentally changed lives,” she says. “[McMasters] shows every reason why anyone can achieve their goals,” Annunziata adds.

And as for McMasters, she will continue to improve and is grateful for the sense of community and encouragement she’s found with her group.

“I love all the Silver Sneakers classes for different reasons—for all the friends that I’ve made in each class and [for] the best gym instructor I’ve ever had,” she says.