The gym has saved Cindy Miller’s life

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2020

Recently, there has been lots of talk about gyms and the importance, at least in my circles, of why they need to be open. I met Cindy Miller at The Forum early this year and often see her at Father and Son Produce. But I didn’t know her real story until she came by one morning to encourage one of my personal training clients.

Cindy is 53, a retired school teacher and lifelong resident of Salisbury. She said, “I was born with anomalous origin of the left pulmonary artery, a congenital heart defect. This condition does not allow oxygenated blood to go back to my heart.  I lived with this condition for almost 26 years. When put on a heart transplant waiting list in 1992 and told I had less than a year to live with my own heart, I realized how serious my situation was. I’ve had two open heart surgeries since then but no transplant. I also had an insertable heart monitor put in a year ago. Most kids born like I was do not live to be a teenager.”

Never athletic or a gym user in her younger life, Cindy was told that she had multiple sclerosis in November 2004 and was extremely discouraged. After finding the gym, she lost weight and has become much stronger. Steve Safrit and Matt Marsh, The Forum co-owners, helped Cindy get ready to ride the MS Breakaway to the Beach ride, 167 miles on a tandem bicycle, with Glenn Heilig in September 2006. In 2007, she rode another MS ride with her husband, Jerry Miller, on a tandem bicycle. Then in 2010, Cindy rode 143 miles on her own road bike in two days in Florida to complete her third MS ride. The MS diagnosis turned out to be incorrect, confirmed by two neurologists.

A member at The Forum off and on since 2005, Cindy returned on a regular basis about a year ago.  Cindy said, “My cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center said I had to lose weight to stop the issues I was having with my heart at that time. I got serious about working out and watching what I ate, so I could stay alive and not end up back in the hospital with heart issues again. I actually lost 13 pounds before COVID-19 hit and closed the gyms.”

When The Forum, or any other gym for that matter, was not open, Cindy struggled. She said, “That was really tough for me. I was completely out of my comfort zone. My normal routine included working out in the gym five days a week. My husband and I were forced to create a home gym so that I could continue my workout schedule. I even did some of Matt’s classes on Facebook live in my home gym. Some walking and mountain biking helped, but it was just not the same without my Forum family. I really missed my friends and the encouragement I get from them. I also gained back all of the weight I had lost since last August when I started training with Glenn Heilig and eating the plant-based diet my cardiologist suggested.”

Currently happy to be back in the gym, Cindy does strength training with trainer Heilig three days a week and cardio 4-5 days a week on the treadmill and/or an elliptical with workout partner Shay Cohen. Her favorite workout is pushing the football sled across the gym floor.

Heilig said, “I’ve had the privilege of training Cindy for many years now. Her positive attitude has overcome adversities that could have easily defeated her, and she always makes the most of her situation.”

Marsh seconded those thoughts. “From the first time I met Cindy, she was committed to the process of getting healthy first. We made short term goals and achieved every one of them. She is truly an inspiration to me and everyone at the gym.”

What I continue to find regularly are amazing stories, just like Cindy’s. She is an inspiration to others, but she’s also happiest when working out and staying ahead of her heart issues. And just like so many more, she needs her gym open and accessible because being there makes a difference.