Strength Defined

Former bodybuilder sings praises of Cardiac Rehab

John Paschal gazes out over the lake behind his home. There is a sense of peace and purpose here.

“When I was a boy growing up on the farm in Dandridge we’d go fishing on the lake sometimes,” Paschal says. “I always thought someday I’d like to live on the lake.”

This son of a tenant farmer has come a long way from the 300 acres where he milked cows every day. Counting himself blessed, Paschal can say he’s achieved everything he ever really wanted out of life, and he has continued to enjoy life into his 80s with help from Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation (CROP).

At 84, Paschal has been through three courses of therapy at CROP following procedures placing a total of 11 stents in his heart. He certainly didn’t end up there because of an unhealthy lifestyle.

For more than 40 years Paschal owned and operated fitness gyms in the Knoxville area, and was a competitive bodybuilder.

He began lifting weights when he was a soldier in Korea, fashioning a barbell out of concrete blocks and an iron rod.

Paschal has been featured in ads for his gym, has been the subject of articles, and he modeled swimwear for “The Cas Walker Show.” But he notes that other experiences stand out in his memory.

He’s seen a lot, experienced a lot, and accomplished a lot, but when Paschal enters the doors of Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, he happily yields to the expertise of an exercise physiologist and nurses assigned to his case.

“They start you out light, and then the next week a little more, and the next week a little more,” Paschal says. “By the time you’re done it’s a good workout.”

If anyone should be able to develop an exercise plan, it’s Paschal. But Paschal went to CROP after each of his procedures because the program. The program is supervised by medical staff specially trained in dealing with matters of the heart. Nurses and exercise physiologists monitor new patients closely, track progress, and can easily connect with physicians.

“They’re wonderful and they keep you motivated,” Paschal says. “They keep you monitored, and they look after you.”

The exercise physiologist assigned to Paschal happened to be the son of a friend, and a former student of karate at Paschal’s gym. Chris Spruiell, exercise physiologist, helps patients like Paschal develop an exercise plan that is appropriate for developing a heart patient’s strength and stamina from the inside out.

“We take them through modifying diet, stress management, and helping them make sure they’re properly using medication,” Spruiell says. “We’re also making sure the exercise is safe, progressing them in a manner that’s not too much, too soon.”
With his days of competitive bodybuilding and wrestling bears behind him, Paschal focuses on other meaningful pursuits now, like being a grandfather and a 33rd degree Mason. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his commitment to health and fitness.

“Your body is your home, and exercise keeps you in a fit house,” Paschal says.