By the end of 2016, Araxy Shamlian, a 64-year-old Glendale resident, had undergone several health-related surgeries and said she felt as though her body was falling apart.
Unable to move like she used to and needing help from others to get up from a lying position, Shamlian's health provider recommended she attend a gym that offered a free fitness program for seniors sponsored by the SilverSneakers organization.
Now, Shamlian's recovery has placed her as one of 10 finalists in the running for the 2017 Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award, a SilverSneakers honor that recognizes seniors who have made significant life changes through fitness.
"I wanted to find a solution because I couldn't move that much," Shamlian said. "My body was, like, collapsing, so I wanted to do something. Otherwise, I knew I was going to have more health issues."
In January, Shamlian first attended NuFitPro, a Glendale fitness center that offered SilverSneakers' more intensive "FLEX" program tailored for untraditional group activities such as yoga, tai chi and boot camps.
NuFitPro owner Rod Miller became Shamlian's personal trainer and fitness coach to help her restore her stabilization. He focused on muscles responsible for balance such as those in the abdomen, legs and glutes.
In just two weeks of training, Shamlian said she experienced major changes in her body and could finally stand up on her own.
"One day, we're working out and we're getting ready to leave," Miller said. "[Shamlian] was on the floor and getting ready to get up, and I was going to help her but she said, 'No, I can do it.' Then she stood up on her own, no help."
Shamlian can now exercise with light weights, do kettle-bell routines and can hold the plank position for 40 seconds.
Miller, who entered Shamlian in the Swanson Award competition, said he was influenced by more than Shamlian's dedication to the program — he was also impressed with her ability to motivate others to never miss a FLEX class.
Before Shamlian began attending classes, Miller said he was on the verge of closing the FLEX program because of a low number of participants. Not long after she arrived, enrollment picked up dramatically, and Shamlian became a sort of cheerleader for others facing similar mobility issues.
Miller also credits Shamlian with increasing the number of classes from one a week to three times weekly.
"I look forward to going to [NuFitPro]. Everybody motivates everybody," Shamlian said. "[Miller] likes to help everyone and challenge those who can't do things — then in a week or two, they do it. Everyone is improving."
For more information about any the 10 Swanson Award finalists or to vote for Shamlian or others, visit silversneakers.swansonaward.com/vote.