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The Draney family and their personal trainers at Life Time.

One of the most rewarding outcomes of any transformation story is the positive impact it has on inspiring those around you, especially when that impact is on those nearest to you.

Meet the Draney family from Pickerington, Ohio. They’re a family of eight who run a functioning farm and Jon, the husband and father, also runs a large pediatric dental practice. Their life is busy, and the spark to their full-family health overhaul began with a nagging back injury Jon was trying to address.

This wellness journey has led to Jon feeling fully transformed in how he looks and feels, his wife Laura radiating both internal and external strength, their 18-year-old daughter Erika going from workout novice to barbell-confident, and their lean-framed 16-year-old son Tyler building the muscle and strength to fill out his shirts and easily perform full sets of pull-ups.

We had a chance to talk with the family and learn more about their journey to living their happiest and healthiest lives together.

“I really didn’t think I needed a trainer.”

Because of his back injury, Jon’s chiropractor encouraged him to build strength, and he decided to start working out with a friend. To appease the requests of their wives, they agreed to sit down with Andrew McGovern, the personal training lead at their local Life Time.

Jon shares that while he initially envisioned a trainer as just someone to workout with, he never anticipated that his time with McGovern would morph into a regular-session cadence that would be rewarding, fulfilling, and, in his words, one of the parts of his week he would look forward to most.

“I liked him instantly,” shares Jon. “I didn’t expect to want to work with anyone formally, but as it turns out, I had a long way to go. Had I just done my own thing, my workouts would have been completely ineffective. My life is now transformed, and Andrew is my go-to for not just exercise, but all things related to health and wellness. I honestly can’t believe I’ve been neglecting this part of my life for so long.”

An Unexpected Warm-Up

At the onset of Jon’s program, his stress levels were high, and he was typically rushing to the club directly after seeing his patients.

“It was important to me that we switched him into a parasympathetic state of his nervous system before beginning every session,” shares McGovern. This is the brake to our adrenaline-rushed, fight-or-flight stress system. To do this, Jon spent time using the in-club Normatec compression sleeves and 15 to 30 minutes in the sauna before each session. To this day, he also begins his sessions with foam rolling and targeted recovery with McGovern and a Hyperice massage gun to relax key muscle areas.

Once the session gets started, McGovern uses a strategic way to methodically fire up Jon’s nervous system once again to elicit the best results each time they meet.

In-Session Dynamics

McGovern shares that every single training experience provided by the trainers at the Pickerington club, including that of the Draney family, consistently brings to life several pillars of wellness, including nutrition, strength, sleep, stress management, and recovery, along with these other key components:

  • Full body workouts, every time. The focus of these shifts between being based on the individual’s needs and an emphasis on supersets to keep every session moving and effective. “This approach ensures that in the time we’re together, it’s go, go, go,” says McGovern.
  • Heart-rate monitoring. “This is an absolute prerequisite to an effective program,” says McGovern. “We use it in every single session.” McGovern explains this data can be a reality check when it comes to assessing someone’s level of exertion.
  • Metabolic conditioning. Pushing a client’s limits with interval training is done both in and out of the sessions with the trainer. This is gamified with heart-rate-recovery monitoring and progressively increasing bouts of intensity to make the challenge on the assault bike or rower interesting and motivating.
  • Muscle stability and endurance. Both of these areas are optimized by treating the body as a full, functioning system instead of separate muscle groupings. The focus is on ensuring all muscle groups are working together properly — and therefore efficiently. To highlight the efficacy of this approach, McGovern didn’t have Jon deadlift at all for their first three months together, and instead strengthened his whole system. As a result, the first deadlift Jon pulled up surprised him: he lifted nearly double his body weight, seemingly effortlessly.

When it comes to his actual training program, Jon shares, “What was most shocking to me was the amount of time spent working on big, strong, stabilizing muscle groups, such as the core and glutes, that I would have ignored on my own to focus just on my arms and chest instead.”

“You truly don’t realize how wrong you do something until someone shows you the correct way,” says Jon. “I now know that, had I done this on my own, I would have been completely ineffective.”

Jon shares, “Now, I feel strong when I work on the farm. For the first time in my life, I like what I see in the mirror and people compliment my body.” His feelings of strength are backed by hard data:

McGovern tracks Jon’s workout performance metrics closely, and at this point in time, Jon can deadlift 450 pounds as well as pull more than 230 percent of his body weight for repetitions.

The Ripple Effect

In the first month of working with McGovern, Jon’s weight was the same. If it wasn’t for the in-depth tracking he got by using the InBody scale at the club, he wouldn’t have known that, in this case, his static weight was a huge win. In that time frame, he had shockingly built nearly eight pounds of lean mass, while losing that same amount in fat mass.

His family began to take notice — particularly his son, Tyler.

“My dad’s body was getting leaner and stronger, and his back was jacked,” says Tyler. “I’m on the skinny side and always wanted to be stronger, so my mom took me to meet a trainer named Gage.”

From Skinny Kid to Confident Strength

Gage Corns was able to bring effective, total-body programming to life for Tyler.

“Gage has me do what I would never do on my own,” says Tyler. “There are movements that are hard to feel sometimes, but he has a million different ways to coach and cue me so I know exactly what to feel.”

This is yet another example of the total-body, address-the-system approach making all the difference. While many teens are misguided and focused on lifting as much weight as possible, Tyler’s comprehensive program includes addressing posture, correcting scapular winging, and activating lats to properly optimize larger movements, such as pull-ups and deadlifts.

Corns jokes, “I wish I had started training with a professional when I was Tyler’s age. I think I had been exercising consistently for over a decade before I ever properly felt my lats!”

As a result of his consistency and Corns’ training program, Tyler shows a great deal of maturity and an advanced understanding of effective training techniques for his age. He even appreciates the delayed gratification from working on some of the smaller muscle groups and corrective exercises. Tyler shares, “To get to the next level, we have to do these small things consistently. It burns and kills in the moment, but it’s necessary for long-term success.”

The results speak for themselves, too. Beaming with pride, Corns highlights Tyler’s progress: “As a 16 year old, Tyler can deadlift over 350 pounds, which is nearly triple his body weight, plus do 100 pushups and full sets of pull-ups. But what I am most proud of is the confidence I see in him and the fact that I can see him be an advocate for total-body health to his peers. He’s such a tremendous kid.”

The Ripple Effect, Continued

As Jon and Tyler got healthier together, Laura and Erika began their own training programs with their trainer, Sophie Mauch.

“Laura never set out on a weight-loss journey,” says Mauch. “Rather, she wanted to improve her overall longevity, honor her body, and create a great example for her children with discipline in nutrition and training, despite caring for her family from early in the morning until late in the night. And at 18 years old, Erika began as a newbie with formal workouts seeming intimidating.”

Erika adds, “At first, training in general didn’t seem fun and I was scared that I would be judged, but the trainers always make me feel welcome and the atmosphere is so great.”

Mauch worked diligently with both Laura and Erika to make the sessions entertaining and at their pace, pushing for little improvements each time. “Sophie is always by my side and changing little things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own throughout the session,” says Erika. “Because of her, I can position my feet a certain way to ensure I don’t feel pain and that I feel the movement in the muscles she says I should feel it in.”

At this point in time, Laura can squat and deadlift her body weight and lunge 95 pounds. She hits milestones weekly. Erika has come out of her shell, has the confidence to walk into Life Time on her own knowing she belongs there, and even has found a natural and comfortable groove with body awareness when lifting weights, including the use of barbells and equipment that she had initially been intimidated by.

Changes Outside of Exercise

Part of the program for each Draney family member includes guidance on what to focus on outside of their sessions.

Beyond their face-to-face time, Mauch supports Laura and Erika with nutrition guidance and sleep schedule and sleep habits support through a group chat.

Jon shares, “Nutrition guidance was a huge surprise to me, and the focus on fat and protein instead of refined carbohydrate has made me more in tune with my body.” He says that some previous staples, such as potato chips and soda pop, aren’t as tempting as they once were.

Tyler echos his dad’s sentiment: “Gage has taught me that it’s not about restricting. Instead, it’s about eating fresh food from the farm. I eat a lot of steak, eggs, and goat milk. I’m at the point where, if my nutrition goes off track, I can feel it, whether it’s two hours later or the next day. The less nutritious food isn’t worth it to me anymore.”

Words of Wisdom From the Draney’s

We asked the family for some thoughts to reflect on their experience and around what they want others to know. Here’s what they shared:

“It’s a strange and surreal experience for me to the point that I don’t feel like I’m the same person. I feel healthy. I feel strong. These positive life changes also extended to the rest of my family; my wife and my two oldest children are training and on their journey of living their healthiest and happiest life. I’m also making a pointed effort to get my youngest children involved and interested in some fitness fun.” – Jon

“Surprisingly, not everyone at the club is jacked and putting up internet videos of themselves flexing. There are great trainers and there is a great community there to support you. When it comes to the impact training like this has on you, you can’t forget about it; you carry it with your through your day, week, and month. It impacts your emotional state and every aspect of your life. The people there want you to succeed.” – Tyler

“Start today. Today is the day to do the thing you’ve been putting off. I definitely procrastinated a lot, but the moment I decided to start doing instead of saying — wow, what a difference it made. I am happier. Doing this helped me have a better lifestyle. I know I can set goals and accomplish them.” – Erika

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Health Facebook group.

Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Samantha McKinney has been a dietitian, trainer and coach for over 10 years. At first, her interests and experience were in a highly clinical setting in the medical field, which ended up laying a strong foundation for understanding metabolism as her true passion evolved: wellness and prevention. She hasn’t looked back since and has had the honor of supporting Life Time’s members and nutrition programs in various roles since 2011.

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