Ken Ballou: Too Fit To Fail

Ken Ballou: On His Way

By Martha Hicks Leta and Greg Briggle

Trainers hear excuses all the time and if pushed will eventually pose the question to evasive clients, “What fits your schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”

Ask a guy who’s stared into the gaping maw of his own mortality, and he’ll tell you for sure, exercising. Definitely exercising.

Ken Ballou is the kind of guy you could miss in a crowd. Unassuming, average height, average build, he’s not the sort to come up and start telling you his life story. But if you ask him why he works out at Fitness Together in Westford, you’d better pull up a chair.

For most of his adult years, Ken was not the sort to embrace physical fitness in any form.  “As far as I was concerned ‘exercise’ was just two four-letter words made into one big, bad eight-letter word,” he says.

The sorry state of his health showed it. At 255 lbs, he had type 2 diabetes, hypertension and couldn’t get through the afternoon without falling asleep at his desk. He’d go home and sleep 12-14 hours and still feel tired.

But that wasn’t enough to get him to make the necessary changes. “The idea of working out on my own was laughable,” says Ken.

Finally, Ken’s doctor said he was running out of options. If he didn’t do something drastic he was looking at a future of declining health and insulin injections, which Ken dearly wanted to avoid. And then a co-worker convinced him to try the one-on-one personal training program at Fitness Together.

Trainer Greg Briggle wasn’t expecting much when he first met Ken, but it didn’t take long for him to be impressed by his new client’s tenacity. “Ken’s one of the toughtest people I’ve ever been around,” says Greg.

Ken was equally impressed by the program at Fitness Together. He says he never once questioned the expense. “The value of 45 minutes a day of a training program designed just for me by experts of this caliber? You can’t put a price on it. These are people who really know their stuff, and I know the trainers put time into preparing my program for each and every appointment.”

Since committing to his four-days-a-week FT program, Ken has lost 57 lbs., lowered his glucose levels into a healthy zone and has been able to cut back on or eliminate some of the medications he once relied on to keep him alive. But that was just the beginning of his journey.

Last Christmas Ken was behind the wheel when he collided with the business end of a large deer, totaling his car. He was left with a severely broken wrist that required surgery, something that would have been much riskier had Ken not taken care of his diabetes.

Despite his injuries, he kept up with his fitness program and his trainer was, once again, very impressed. “Ken was unable to put any load on that wrist, meaning no weight-bearing workouts,” says Briggle. “Ken could have easily stopped his training, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He never complained, he never quit, he never canceled and he trained hard every single day doing whatever his trainers asked of him.”

As it turned out, Ken’s decision to keep up with his program may have been the difference between surviving or succumbing to the next major event that awaited him.

As Ken describes it, he was in the middle of a fairly typical workout when he realized something was very wrong. He became short of breath, had pains in his lungs and became very light-headed.  Fortunately, his trainer realized it too and called 911. When Ken awoke in the hospital he was told he’d survived a major episode, one that had nothing to do with diabetes but rather a blood clot that had traveled to his lungs: a pulmonary embolism. The same thing had killed his mother at the age of 32, and, as it turned out, Ken carried a genetic permutation that made him susceptible.

When Briggle showed up at the hospital to check on his friend, he was greeted unexpectedly by Ken’s nurse: “So you’re the guy who saved Ken’s life.”

Greg was baffled. “The nurse left and I asked Ken what she meant. He began to tell me how the doctor said there was no doubt that his workouts saved his life.”

Briggle’s not likely to take credit—he says it’s all Ken. “Ken gives us every ounce of energy he has every time he walks through the door. Were some days hard? Of course they were. Did he want to cancel sometimes? No doubt. But he showed up anyway. And it paid off. It saved his life.”

Ken says the experience changed his perspective. “Now I look at training differently. Now it’s not just the diabetes. I don’t know if I could have another episode like that and I need a strong heart to get through it. Now I say, ‘Train as though your life depends on it.’”

While Ballou credits his Fitness Together trainers with saving him, the benefit has obviously been mutual.

Says Briggle, “The odds of this happening to anyone are probably pretty slim but I know I’m training just a little bit harder and when it gets too tough, I think about Ken and I push on.”

To learn more about one-on-one and small group training at Fitness Together in your area go to

For FT Westford, contact Greg Briggle at 978-392-5800.

Greg Briggle
Owner Fitness Together Westford

Greg Briggle is the proud owner of FT Westford as well as a Certified Fitness Coach. He has been a certified personal trainer since 2002 through the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association). The ISSA is recognized world wide as a leader in sports and fitness certifications. Other certifications include Specialist in Performance Nutrition and Endurance Fitness Trainer. In the past he trained at Golds Gyms specializing in training competitive bodybuilders teaching about diet, weight training and posing. He is also a former competitive natural bodybuilder winning several titles. Outside of the gym he enjoys spending time with his wife Dreana who he has been married to for the past 14 yrs and their dog Coco. They spend some of their free time together traveling to the Caribbean and scuba diving. (The dog, though, stays home, Greg says.). They also enjoy watching and participating in any sport and generally staying active. “Our Westford trainers,” he told us, “and I have a passion for fitness and helping people achieve their goals. We genuinely share their joy when they tell us we have helped them change their lives. Our mission is to help you change yours. I look forward to meeting our next client, perhaps that’s you?”


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Filed under Diabetes, Diet, Exercise, Fitness, Success Stories, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Weight Gain, Weight Loss

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