MAY PEN, Clarendon - For the better part of the past two years, Martin Dempster was basically crippled.
Unable to move about without help from family members or friends, he made regular visits to the May Pen and Mandeville hospitals seeking a diagnosis that would explain why his feet had suddenly stopped responding to his demands.
But the doctors could find no problem, not even after doing blood tests and x-rays.
"The only thing the doctor said to me is that I need to go do therapy because him no see any reason to operate on me," said 68-year-old Dempster.
"Me never meet into accident or anything like that. Me have feelings in both legs, even if a mosquito pitch on it, but me just can't walk like me used to," he added.
Today, however, he is doing much better. He moves around with the aid of a walking stick, can bend his legs and is even harbouring thoughts of running again.
While Dempster's sheer determination to get over his ailment is undoubtedly a major driving force behind his ongoing recovery, he reckons he owes much gratitude to Shermane's Sweat Shop - the gym where he has been undergoing his rehabilitation.
The senior has been visiting the Sweat Shop at Lebros Centre on Manchester Avenue for the past four months, doing five sessions per week under the guidance of owner and personal trainer Shermane Wisdom-Tyndale.
"When he came here he was complaining about circulation problems; he couldn't walk," Wisdom-Tyndale told the Jamaica Observer Central. "Now he's using the treadmill, bicycle... doing weights on his legs and he has only been here for a (few) months."
Wisdom-Tyndale - known to Jamaican theatre lovers as 'Cherry' from the Stages Production's Like Father Like Son, is a relative newcomer to this line of business, having only opened her gym a year and a half ago.
"The response has been great," she beamed. "I never dreamed in a million years that I would have over 200 customers, plus the joy that I derive from people telling me how good they feel about themselves is just amazing. I can't ask for anything more."
The gym, which opens five days per week, has a general membership fee of $2,500, but there are special packages for groups, couples, senior citizens, and for parents and their children.
"If you come as a couple it's $4,000," explained Wisdom-Tyndale, a graduate of Portmore Community College and the University of Technology with a degree in business management. "We also have special packages for groups of four, groups of 10, for corporate customers, $2,000 for senior citizens and $1,500 for students with ID. There's also a deal for parents with a child who is under 10 and is overweight; the child comes for free," she added.
Like most entrepreneurs these days, Wisdom-Tyndale admitted to feeling the strain of the harsh economic climate, but said she is determined to soldier on, especially seeing the many success stories she has had since opening her doors on January 3, 2011.
"I have people who lost 50, 46 pounds," she noted. "I have people dropping 12 pounds in one month the healthy way."
Ella Samuels is one such client.
Aged 52, she weighed 286 pounds and suffered from shortness of breath and hyperon lifetension, among other ailments, when she signed up for the gym just under a year ago. Today, she boasts of dropping 54 pounds at her last weigh-in and was given a clean bill of health at her last doctor's visit.
"Ella Samuels. I love that lady so much," said Wisdom-Tyndale. "The first day she came in here she could hardly move, but said to me 'I need to lose some weight' and now, 54 pounds are off".
"She's a real motivation to the other ladies," Samuels said of the gym owner. "As slim as you might be, don't feel you can do as much as she can because she is not backing down. She's very consistent with her workout."
Samuels lists Wisdom-Tyndale, with whom she has developed a friendship, as one of her biggest motivations "because she practises whatever she preaches".
"It's very important to maintain a certain image in this line of business," Wisdom-Tyndale, 27, argued. "When people step through the door and say 'are you the owner' you can't look out of shape. Whenever I'm eating people tend to be very observant, so I can't be telling them eat bananas and oranges while I'm walking around the place eating burgers, even though I do hide and do it sometimes," she laughed.