Knee surgery is no obstacle for von Vorys’ transformation

April 14, 2018

Joni von Vorys, 59, started telling me she was going to do my 12-week body transformation six months before we started the annual Schell Brothers weight-loss contest, but at the time I had no idea she was in need of an operation to repair her knee. She seemed eager and was willing to take the challenge despite the obstacles surgery presented, so we started in February with the goal of losing as much body fat as possible and strengthening muscles around the joint so that recovery from her operation would be faster and less complicated.

Joni’s knee issues started 45 years ago when she broke her leg in five places in a ski accident. “When they repaired my leg after the accident, it was not done correctly,” she said. “They should have reset the bones, but they didn’t, and because of that, everything healed crooked and out of alignment, causing constant wear and tear on my knee.”

In addition, one of Joni’s legs is now shorter than the other, causing constant problems throughout her knee, leg and hip. It has required four surgeries so far to repair the damage, but despite all this, she was ready to make a change.

“I wanted to do this program ever since I started working at Schell Brothers two years ago, but there was always been a reason that prevented me from signing up,” she said. “However, this year I knew ahead of time I was going to participate, so when the contest started in February, I immediately signed up.”

She also was aware she would have to get the operation during the program, but decided to do it anyway. “I was very anxious to start, but was also nervous because I know I can’t squat, jump or do some of the things other people can do. But I was just done with excuses and wasn’t going to let another year go by without doing this program.”

Luckily, Joni’s surgery was scheduled close to the halfway point of our program, so that gave us five weeks to make progress before she had her operation. We designed a plan that would help her get in shape and strengthen her legs while making sure we protected her from further injury. The weightlifting portion consisted of exercises that worked the entire body, but we carefully chose things that would not put pressure or trauma on the joint. We started very slow with the cardio, adding only a couple minutes a week. Eventually, she was amazed when she was doing 27 minutes per session despite the fact that she was getting ready to get an operation to fix her knee. At Week 5, Joni had already lost 22 pounds – an average of 4 ½ pounds per week – and a total of 12 ½ percent body fat. She even lost a couple pounds the week of the surgery without going to the gym because she continued to follow the diet. She is already back to modified workouts and a limited amount of cardio.

The moral of this story is that despite injuries or obstacles, there are always ways to improve your situation, and fitness training is an excellent vehicle to get the job done. Joni’s accomplishments at Week 6 are not only an inspiration to anyone trying to get in shape, but also prove there are no excuses if you are truly willing to make the commitment. She still has six weeks left in her program, and if she continues getting results at this rate, she is going to have an incredible transformation. When I asked her what advice she has for anyone in a similar situation, she said, “You have to change what you’re currently doing if you expect different results. There is no sense doing it halfway; you are either 100 percent in and ready to follow directions or there is no sense in doing it at all.” I can’t wait to see Joni’s final results when she does her final Bod Pod test in May. I’m sure it’s going to be incredible.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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