Cancer 'How beating disease inspired me to become a personal trainer'

"Health is a privilege, not a given.

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In Women's Health's fifth-annual search for American's top personal trainer, we looked for tenacity, passion, and skills. We found all of those in each of our five standout finalists.

But we found something much deeper and rarer too: a clear sense of purpose. Meet our crew and help us decide who should be hailed this year's winner. Go to WomensHealthMag.com/NextFitnessStar to watch videos of the contestants and support your favorite between June 20 and August 4.

DARCEY WION

AGE: 30
HOMETOWN: COLUMBUS, OH

MY WHY

Health is a privilege, not a given. I'd always been active, but in college, I put on some weight that I wanted to lose. I kicked up the intensity of my workouts so much that when fatigue set in at age 23, I attributed it to my routine. That is, until I blacked out in a cycling class. When I finally saw a doctor, the news shocked me: I had Hodgkin's lymphoma, an immune-system cancer.

I fought hard to get healthy, but I had to learn how to be patient with my body. I know how it feels to battle mental and physical hurdles that are out of your control. It's what inspired me to become a trainer. Working out is about enduring discomfort. I fully believe that if you can survive the struggle in the gym, you'll be stronger outside of it too.

MY TRAINING M.O.

I teach classes live and online—for digital subscribers—at a studio called system of strength, which offers a ton of different class styles. The workouts vary from cardio to strength training to stretching, or all three.

MY TAKEAWAY TIPS

Be proud of the now. Push out of your comfort zone, but not at the risk of beating yourself up. Think, I can do 10 frog jumps versus I can't do 20. If each week you can add only one more rep, that's worth celebrating too.

Strike a balance. Having been both sick and healthy, I know how easy it can be to fall into extremes with diet and exercise. But you need to embrace downtime. I take at least one rest day per week so my muscles can rebuild.

Blend your burn. Switch between loaded and body-weight exercises. Try a dumbbell squat to overhead press straight into skater jumps. The body-weight move will feel easier, so you can push harder and burn more cals.

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