Pumping Iron, On One Leg


Weights: It was only natural: Thomesina Stanley needed to build her upper-body strength for her swimming workout.


Thomesina Stanley pumps iron.

Lots of people do, but Stanley is 53, a mother of three and a grandmother of four. And she lost a leg to cancer in 1967.

Three years ago, the Edmondson Village alterations seamstress went on a search for an exercise she could do safely. Try swimming, her doctor told her. Driving home one day, she heard an ad for an open house at the Druid Hill YMCA. "I took a tour of the facilities, and I liked it. I didn't even know how to swim."

With just one leg to propel herself through the water, she knew she'd need to build her upper-body strength. At the Y, she met Coleman Adams, who volunteers with people working with weights.

'He said to me, 'I think you could work with free weights.' And I said, 'You do?' "

Although skeptical, she started working on Nordic machines, then picked up the weights. "I started basically with regular dumbbell curls and I increased, and then started doing leg lifts and calf raises, then benching and chin-ups."

She began to put more weight onto those free weights.

And she learned to swim.

Stanley, whose leg was amputated above the knee, initially used a prosthesis, which she wears for walking, to lift weights. But because her exercise resulted in weight loss, she started noticing friction where the prosthesis joined her body. Since she couldn't swim with it anyway, she tried lifting weights without the prosthesis -- and found she could balance just fine.

"I balance just with the leg itself," she says. "My leg is quite strong. Once I get focused, it's really not a problem. I had good balance from years of using crutches."

Stanley easily squats 35 or 40 pounds. She works out three mornings a week with weights, and two mornings a week she swims. She also avoids meat and sticks to vegetables and fish.

"I never call it dieting. I just eat healthy and I juice a lot of things. I drink lots of water, and I don't drink sodas."

Stanley, who never before had a regular fitness routine, now tries to talk others into exercising, too.

"If you're motivated, you're supposed to motivate someone else," she says with a laugh.

Pub Date: 04/11/99

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