I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as a Michigan resident in 1999. In 2005 after I moved back to Richmond, VA (my original home) I began to experience new symptoms of MS in various intensities. Within the next three years I had bouts with double vision, left side body pain and torso numbness, heat sensitivity and loss of balance. Most of these symptoms were controlled by medication, but others, referred to as residual symptoms, remained.
Reason For Joining American Family Fitness
After a debilitating exacerbation and my subsequent recognition of need for exercise, in 2009 I joined the American Family Fitness gym located on Brook Road, Richmond, VA. Within weeks of joining the gym, I was presented with information regarding personal training but realized that at the time (divorce in progress) this option was not within my budget.
Reason For Personal Training
On March 12, 2012, I received an email from American Family Fitness regarding a new program called Be Reconstructed. The email stated that there were four morning and three evening informational sessions available which would provide information. Due to my work schedule at the time neither the morning nor the evening informational sessions were feasible. The email went on to say if I am interested in hearing more about the program either register for one of the informational sessions OR respond to the email. Since the email did not provide much if any information on the new program and I couldnt make it to the scheduled informational sessions I responded to the email. In response to my email I was invited to meet with a Fitness Director to discuss the program. At the onsite meeting with the Fitness Director, it was explained to me that the Be Reconstructed program would provide its participants with success (or increased level of success) with their fitness goals through working out with personal training groups, which would also provide group accountability, and greatly reduced per person personal trainer costs. This sounded ideal to me since I still could not afford a personal trainer. The Fitness Director went on to explain that groups are formed based on special needs, time restrictions and etc. I explained that I worked 10 hour days and that I had Multiple Sclerosis. He stated that he had a personal trainer who currently worked with INDIVIDUALS who had Multiple Sclerosis and I would be hearing from that individual soon.
Well, when the personal trainer contacted me she informed me that she works from 5am to 6pm, Sunday through Friday, and she currently works with only one individual who has Multiple Sclerosis and that she normally meets with that person at 12pm on Wednesdays. Her availability was not what I was expecting. After a lengthy conversation that focused on the obvious and some not-so-obvious benefits of exercise for someone with Multiple Sclerosis versus the time and monetary investments I agreed to meet with her in person. During my visit she evaluated my weight, my blood pressure, my BMI test results and a very few other tests to determine my physical strengths and weaknesses. After hearing of these results I did agree to meet with the personal trainer for a time period that does not extend past my gym membership expiration date. The personal trainer used the American Family Fitness PT cost spreadsheet to determine what my personal trainer contract cost would be with a one weekly session PT rate of $65 an hour. She used a basis of 5 weeks a month. I questioned why the contract would have to be written based on 5 weeks a month since every month does not have 5 weeks. I was told thats just the way AFF does things,that the contract had to be over a certain amount and thats the way it has to be. She also went on to say that she was pretty sure the contract terms could be changed but those changes had to be handled by another area/department. Hindsight tells me now that I should have walked away at that point but I was feeling pretty low regarding my physical assessment results. Then the AFF locations Manager joined the personal trainer and I to gave his pep talk/input to further motivate me into signing the contract. After signing the personal trainer contract, I was told that there was someone who I could speak with to discuss altering the payment arrangements specified in the contract. When I left I was determined to go through with personal training and to realize the benefits as they were explained to me. Within three days of signing the contract, I called AFF to discuss the modification of the payment terms of the contract.
Within three days (as stated in the details on the back of the contract) of signing the contract, I called AFF several times to discuss the modification of the payment terms of the contract. My intent was to find out if different payment arrangements could be made and NOT to cancel the contract if different arrangements could be made; I wanted to reduce my monthly payment from $325 to a lower amount such as an amount that would reflect the actual number of sessions there were in a month. I was asked to leave messages each time I called with no one returning my phone call. This went on during the three day period; I feel that this was by design. When I did get someone on the phone (way after the three days were up) I explained that the first payment was coming due and I wanted to modify my payment arrangements. At this time I was told not to worry and that the payment arrangements could be changed after payments began drafting. Also by this time, I had had my first session which had to be at 6am. Also, my gym membership payments continued to be drafted from the same account they had been drafted from for the past 3 years.
Based on the ignored phone calls/messages to AFF I started to believe that they were only interested in the contractual commitment and that my request regarding the modification of my payment arrangements were being ignored, so I never made the first personal trainer payment. Weeks later after repetitive calls to AFF regarding this situation, I finally spoke to an individual who explained to me, to my dismay, that the payment arrangements could NOT be modified. I was horrified to find out that after two months, which I also feel was by design, I could not alter my payment arrangements; had I been informed at the contract signing the payment arrangements could not be modified, I either would not have signed that contract or I would have canceled the contract immediately within the 3 day period instead of trying to modify the payment arrangements. By this time, two months had passed by and I had attended only one personal trainer session and I owed over $600.
In June of 2012, my cyclical compliance workload increased and at the same time the temperatures had increased drastically (high 90s low 100s). I was starting to experience symptoms related to my heat sensitivity. I was told by an AFF representative that I could submit the AFFs Verification of Disability form (attached above) OR obtain a doctors note (attached above) indicating that I had multiple sclerosis and my inability to adhere to a personal training program. I did ask my neurologist to fill complete the AFFs Verification of Disability form; he declined because he was not comfortable with the language and the options in that they did not apply to my situation. So he drafted a letter for me to submit. I dropped off the letter to my AFF location and I was told that someone would get back to me with a response. Two to three weeks went by and I heard nothing from AFF. So I called several times before someone returned my call to say that the letter was not sufficient because the letter it did not say that I could NOT work out. The individual went on to say the heat sensitivity did not make sense because the gym was air conditioned. I found this response to be totally insensitive. NOTE: Heat Sensitivity is related to the bodys internal core temperature. When a person with MS gets overheated, they can experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms. There is no way to estimate how long my symptoms will last and the risk of them occurring was too high for me since I was expected to be at work on the days I was scheduled to meet with the personal trainer. I informed my neurologist of the local AFF response and he provided me with yet another letter that is attached below.
From what I was told (after the fact) that once the payment for one service is defaulted on then AFF automatically stops drafting payment for the other service(s) which are not in default and that are drafted from a totally different account. My doctors office strongly advocates exercise under the appropriate conditions for their patient. I had NO intentions of cancelling my gym membership, but during this fiasco, I dont have the gym membership either and the amount of the gym membership not drafted since May has been added to my defaulted total even though I have had no problems with paying since February 2010.
Most recently (September 2012) my doctor's office completed the 'Verification of Disability' form to the best of their ability, as it is not designed to accomodate every condition and related scenario and faxed it to Brandon Hepler at American Family Fitness as requested. As a result, Brandon left a voicemail on my personal cellphone requesting that I call. When I called on September 25, 2012, Brandon informed me that the contents of the form did not warrant a cancellation. I am done with American Family Fitness.