Lifestyle

YMCA trainer works one-on-one with blind, deaf Bremerton man

Tim Smith uses the leg press at Kitsap Family YMCA as his trainer Barry Hernandez looks on during their Wednesday morning workout session. Smith is determined to not let the fact he is blind and deaf prevent him from staying physically fit.  - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Tim Smith uses the leg press at Kitsap Family YMCA as his trainer Barry Hernandez looks on during their Wednesday morning workout session. Smith is determined to not let the fact he is blind and deaf prevent him from staying physically fit.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

Barry Hernandez and Tim Smith laugh and joke with one another during Smith’s morning workouts.

It might take a little longer than most for the pair to tell jokes, but the workout duo does so nonetheless.

Hernandez, a health and fitness instructor at Kitsap Family YMCA in Bremerton, works with Smith three times a week in the YMCA’s weight room.

Smith is both blind and deaf, but the Bremerton man does not let that stop him from staying physically fit.

“He’s so inspiring,” Hernandez said. “He never misses a day (at the YMCA).”

Smith has not always been blind and deaf. The 46-year-old had complications from a brain tumor when he was about 25 years old and lost his vision and hearing as a result, Hernandez said.

Hernandez has worked with Smith for about six months, but Smith has worked out at the YMCA for at least 10 years. Hernandez did not know any sign language before meeting Smith.

“I never knew how to sign before,” Hernandez said. “He taught me everything.”

He and Smith communicate through sign language and Hernandez spells out words in the palm of Smith’s hand. Smith then verbally repeats what Hernandez signed in his hand to make sure the pair are on the same page.

Hernandez said it was difficult at first to communicate with Smith, but after six months together, communicating is not a problem.

Kitsap Family YMCA Health & Fitness Director Janice Ventura said Hernandez and Smith bonded instantly and people who lift weights around the pair cannot help but notice they have a good time together.

“They just clicked,” Ventura said.

Smith said he is grateful to have a trainer at the Kitsap Family YMCA because he could not work out without help from someone.

“It makes it a whole lot easier for people with a disability to have somebody help them,” Smith said. “You need help, just a little bit of help.”

Smith said he’s particularly grateful Hernandez is his personal trainer.

“I thank God for Barry. He’s a very special person,” Smith said. “He’s willing to help me.”

After years of lifting weights, Smith is capable of lifting a lot of weight on a variety of gym equipment. Smith lifted 650 pounds with his legs Wednesday morning at the Kitsap Family YMCA.

“We’ll go up to 800 pounds on the leg press,” Hernandez said.

“I know I can lift a lot of weight, but when people see the handicap they don’t see the person,” Smith said.

Hernandez said there is no piece of gym equipment off limits to Smith. He’ll try new exercises with Smith from time to time and if he likes them, they will make it part of their workout routine.

“I always ask him what he wants to do. I don’t like to dictate,” Hernandez said. “I do anything and everything he wants.”

Hernandez said the Kitsap Family YMCA is a great fit for Smith because he gets the one-on-one attention he needs to reach his fitness goals.

“(Other gyms) wouldn’t give him the attention that he needs,” Hernandez said.

When Smith isn’t working out at the YMCA with Hernandez, he spends time with his wife, Sandy, and his dogs.

Hernandez said meeting Smith was “a real enlightening experience” for him.

“I think that people can learn a lot from this. I know I’ve learned a lot from this,” he said. “(Smith’s) a tough guy.”

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