Overcoming Obstacles with Patti Bartlett and Chris Dollard

by Rachel Tallant

HAC member Patti Bartlett is a force to be reckoned with. It wasn’t until a little over 10 years ago that Patti decided to get up, get fit, and change her life for the better. After training for 7 years with HAC Master Personal Trainer, Chris Dollard, Patti has transformed into a fitness fiend. A regular at HAC, Patti does everything from strength training in the free-weight area to bodyweight exercises when working with Chris. Not to mention she’s 63 years old– and not afraid to say it. Patti Bartlett takes pride in both her age and in being one of the few women on the weightlifting floor.

Both Patti and Chris can attest that achieving your fitness goals doesn’t always go as planned. Even though they have both faced surgeries amongst other physical setbacks affecting their endurance and overall health, they’ve been able to re-work their bodies to become even healthier and stronger than before.

Patti’s Spinal Injury

Patti’s first delay in her campaign for health happened during one of her several self-defense classes.  In addition to her training at HAC, Patti has been involved in MMA and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu for some time.  In a sparring event a few years ago, she injured her spine when one of her opponents fell on top of her. Yet, after going to physical therapy and being told her spinal issues were hereditary and not due to the event, Patti set out to restore her spine. At HAC, Patti was able to work directly with personal trainers Chris Dollard and Keith Glines to get her spine and health back in order. She worked on a series of corrective exercise routines with Chris and muscle activation techniques (MAT) with Keith and within four sessions her spine was back to normal. But this was just the first obstacle for Chris and Patti.

Along with powerlifting and strength training Chris’s training focuses on corrective exercise techniques, which he considers to be “the best approach to minimize injury risk from playing sports, exercising and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle”. By using a comprehensive injury prevention strategy, corrective exercise specialists like Chris help their clients develop highly stabilized joints, thus preventing unnecessary dysfunction and compensation.

Their Second Setback

Chris Dollard, who also passionately devotes his life to health and fitness, often trains and specializes in powerlifting. Due to degenerative arthritis in his hip from years of powerlifting and a previous sedentary desk job, he was in unimaginable pain. Deciding to bite the bullet, Chris went through corrective surgery for his hip. The surgery ended up not only relieving him of his pain but also corrected a number of imbalances in his body. Post-op, Chris couldn’t lift as much. But by adding modifications to his routines and working at a slower and more deliberate pace he says he is now more aware of his lifting technique.

More recently,  Patti discovered that due to previously undiagnosed digestive issues, her gallbladder was only functioning at 15%. In May, she went under the knife and had it removed; it was starting to feel as though she and Chris were swapping surgeries back and forth. Post-surgery Patti went through some complications and restrictions including the inability to digest food for weeks, excessive weight loss, fatigue, and inability to lift more than 5 pounds. By modifying her routine with Chris’s assistance and knowledge of corrective exercise techniques, she is currently back in her groove and regaining muscle and strength.

Chris and Patti’s Partnership & Recoveries

Through all of these obstacles, Patti and Chris’s training partnership and friendship have grown even stronger. In our interview, Patti said, “Chris and I are a team”. Back when Chris was prepping for his hip replacement surgery, Patti even went out of her way to take him to his first doctor’s appointment. Initially, Patti endured not being able to eat for two weeks after Patti’s surgery. With the help of Chris and other friends at the club, Patti was able to begin working towards taking care of herself properly and getting back to the gym. With a strong support system at HAC and a previously rigorous routine, Chris and Patti expressed how thankful they were to effectively deal with their post-surgery complications. Patti says in our interview, “I was happy to get back to working out and being active, but it was tough for me to take baby steps”.

Tips for Recovery

If you’ve experienced a physical setback such as surgery, Patti and Chris say the best thing is to get a professional trainer who can help your situation and really focus on the areas that need help. According to Chris, people who have experienced such an altering change to their body often choose to live there and use it as an excuse to not get back to the gym. For Patti and Chris, they said “no excuses” and got back to the gym as soon as their doctors gave them approval. When asked if she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get back to the gym, Patti said, “Not training was never an option”. She and Chris say that there is always something you can do. Training shouldn’t be about performing hardcore, intense workouts, but rather gradually pushing your body to its full potential.


Hockessin Athletic Club opened its doors on June 10 2007. Boasting over 100,000 sq. ft., a 5-pool aquatics complex, and over 200+ weekly group and aqua fitness classes, it is Delaware's premier fitness destination. 100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, DE · HAChealthclub.com

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