Breakthrough Spotlight – Donna Rice

Breakthrough Spotlight

Donna Rice

Our Spotlight Member for July is Donna Rice! Donna’s “never give up” attitude is an inspiration to all of us at Breakthrough and we are so grateful to her for sharing her story with us!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Good morning, Donna.  Thanks for chatting with me this morning.

DONNA: Sure!  I’m happy to!

BREAKTHROUGH:  We love hearing about all the different journeys that our members have been on.  And obviously right now we are living through a very crazy time.  And your dedication in coming back in for training now that we can see people in person again is so great! So, tell me a little bit about how you have been feeling lately…  What got you started with training…  Give us a little background on you.

DONNA: Ok.  Well, actually, I’ve always been active, but I was active doing stuff like – I used to run.  I used to belong to “regular” gyms.

BREAKTHROUGH:  Okay! Ha, ha!

DONNA:  I went to a free gym for seniors at Pierce College, and I was going to that before my husband Bill died.  Actually, my daughter Sarah had been nagging me to go to come to Breakthrough since she started going.  What happened is that Bill died, and I didn’t have enough energy to say no when she dragged me in here!  It was a stretch!  I really thought that this is ridiculous.  This isn’t going to work.  Who does this stuff?  Especially women.  I thought this is really like for men to look good.  You know?  I had no idea.  And really, it’s amazing what it has done for me.  By the time my first month was done, I knew I wanted to keep doing this.  The changes were remarkable.  One of my biggest problems is balance and I can’t tell you how many people, how many of my family and friends came up to me and said how much better I was walking after I had been to the gym for a couple of months.  Really!  I couldn’t even walk straight on a sidewalk before.  Somebody said I looked like a baby deer when I walked.

BREAKTHROUGH: Ha, ha! Oh no!

DONNA: So that has been a big thing.  Another thing is the strength training.  I have never been strong, but it just felt so good!  I started with nothing.  I couldn’t even lift a 4.5kg kettlebell at first, and now I can do so much more!



DONNA: It has just really changed my life for the better.

BREAKTHROUGH:  Yes! It has been so amazing to see all the things you have accomplished so far.  You were in a car accident, is that true, and had some injuries?

DONNA: I was run over by a car.  And a year and half after that, I needed surgery on my neck.  I had 5 of my vertebrae removed because I had spinal cord damage.  So, I have titanium in my neck.  I have had bad balance ever since the car ran me over, and it just kept getting worse and worse.  The surgery was awful, and the doctor said I would be able to walk, but I would never be able to walk like I could before.  I actually surprised him!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Well, you are very dedicated!  If there is one thing that I have learned about you it’s that you will never give up!  You never stop. You are one of our most tenacious trainees at the gym. It is amazing to see your determination.  I know there are times when it’s hard and you are struggling to learn something new or struggling with injuries – it’s a challenge to overcome something like that.  Spinal surgery!  Oh My Gosh!  But you just never give up!  And it is so awesome to have you in our gym family sharing that strong spirit with everyone.  I love it!

DONNA: Actually, it is you guys.  I have never felt like this about a gym before.  I used to think that it was ridiculous when people cheered you and stuff and thinking like, “That isn’t so good.  Why is everybody cheering?“ But I love it! I love it! You guys are so positive.  You guys inspire me!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Well, then it is the perfect match because that is how it should be.  We inspire you; you inspire us.  There is just all that inspiration to go around.

DONNA: I love the gym! I love you guys! I love the family feeling.  Everybody in the gym is great!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Yes, we are very lucky that we have so many nice people and a lot of actual families too! Like you mentioned, Sarah, your daughter is training here, too.  We have a lot of families that do train together or they might not be able to come at the same time, but they both train.  Obviously, we are a family business.  And we want that feeling.  We want people to feel like they are part of the family when they come in and are part of a team.  Especially now!

DONNA: Everybody is wonderful!

BREAKTHROUGH:  We are so glad that you feel that way.  I was going to say, I think especially now, it is so hard with everything that has been going on when we had to close down and we couldn’t see people in person.  It was really tough.  We wanted to do everything we could, but we know that it is hard to create that family feel when you are zooming with the coach or doing the online classes. It’s not really the same. You know, you were one of the first people to say, “Let me back in the gym as soon as you open. I want in.”  How did that work for you?


DONNA: Oh yeah, I wanted back.  Really, being there is an inspiration to me.  Being in my living room is not inspiring.


DONNA: I couldn’t wait.  And when I read that thing that they were closing the gyms, I was like NO, NO!  It can’t be!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Yeah, I know.  it was tough for sure. Because we know that we are a part of people’s, not just physical health, but mental health care.  A lot of people were really struggling with all sorts of things.  Being able to come in and exercise and be around supportive people is not just a boost physically; it is a boost mentally and emotionally, too.

DONNA: Well, actually, when Bill died, because I was in so much pain all the time, the only relief I ever got was when I went in the gym because I was so busy concentrating and exerting myself with what I was doing, that it gave me an hour of peace.


DONNA: And when my grief group would ask me, “What has been the most helpful thing to you as far as your grief is concerned and in alleviating it?” I have said from the beginning, the gym.

BREAKTHROUGH:    Well, we are so glad we were able to provide that space.  Obviously, we knew Bill and we are really happy that he got to train with us for a while, too, but it is such a hard thing.  So much to deal with.  But you just kept, and still keep showing up and that’s where it has to start – showing up. So at least we can have our doors open to be a place for that.

DONNA: Yes, but you know what.  I can’t tell you!  Since I have been to so many gyms and so many places and running groups, hiking groups and all that stuff.  It is you guys!  It is YOU!  Really.  I wouldn’t keep coming back.  You are the inspiration that keeps me coming.  I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to have a relationship with your coach.

BREAKTHROUGH:  It makes a huge, huge difference!  We have felt that.  We have coaches ourselves that we learn from. And we know how that feels when you have someone who actually, really cares about seeing you succeed. And so that is a huge part of what we do.  We’re in this because we want to help people not because we want to count reps or look at our phones while we are training you.  We want to see you guys actually get what you came for.  I am glad that you are feeling that and that it makes a difference to you because it makes a difference to us.  One thing that you said the other day, as you were leaving – you said that every woman who is older should be doing this, and we said that everyone in general should be doing this.  But I wonder if you have any advice or words of wisdom for someone who might be looking to get started.

DONNA: You know, I think that is the other thing about you guys…  No matter where anybody is, that is where they are. They start there. It’s not a competition.  That makes a big difference even in classes, if I couldn’t do what other people were doing, you guys would give me something else to do. That I could do.  And I love that, because you can only start from where you are.

BREAKTHROUGH:  Right. That is important.

DONNA: It would improve the quality of anybody’s life.

BREAKTHROUGH:  Yes, and I’m glad you were able to take a chance and try strength training because many women don’t. Like you said, they think, “Aw, that is just for guys who want to have big muscles or whatever.” So, it can be hard to see that it is actually something different than what we might perceive.

DONNA: It is much different than what I perceived.  Actually, when I first started, I there were times there were younger people who could do way more than me.  But just being where I am and improving from there has been a life changing event for me. When I am there, I know I will feel better when I finish.  I just don’t feel as good if I don’t go.  I just don’t.  I love the people, I love the inspiration, I love the training!

BREAKTHROUGH:  Well, Donna, we love you!  This is just so awesome. Thank you so much for sharing all this and taking the time.  I really appreciate it.

DONNA: Well, thank you! I really appreciate it.   You guys rock.

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