Impact Story Mar. 2018


March, 2018 • TOWPATH TRAIL YMCA •
Impact Story: Dave Lingo

He has long hair, wears kilts and is as big as a house. Who is he? None other than Mr. Dave Lingo. He became a member of the Towpath Trail Y in October of 2017. After taking his pool down for the season, he wanted to continue swimming and found himself at the YMCA. “The pool was the reason I joined and everything else really fell into place,” he says.

And ‘everything else’ is where Dave’s story begins. He joined the Y at a time in his life when physical activity was almost unbearable. Events in his life nearly 20 years ago had eventually caught up with him in a way that would change his life forever.

Up until that point, Dave asserts, “Back then, I felt immortal. I just jumped back up and kept going.” His huge frame illustrates that idea. He looks as though he could carry the whole world on his shoulders. “It’s just genetics,” he replies humbly. Nonetheless, it’s come with hard work. He remembers at 15 when he began lifting weights. “I started exercising at a very young age,” he says. The exhilaration fueled him forward and at the age of 20, he joined the military to serve our County and continue challenging himself to new heights.

After five years of service, he began his training to become a Navy SEAL. Soon after, he was severely injured while serving. After many surgeries, his military career was forced to come to an unfortunate end.

Now 20 years later, Dave is feeling those injuries as time takes its toll on his lower back and hips. “My goal right now is to strengthen my body so it can compensate for the injuries I have,” he comments. While everyday tasks such as walking brings pain, he’s continued moving forward in the best way he knows how: taking it one day at a time.

He’s found ways to work around his limitations and that alone holds a sense of resolution. Strength is found in the ability to adapt to our circumstances. He explains, “Because of my injuries, I can’t use the free weights I have at home anymore but the machines at the Y allow me to push myself and strengthen myself without further injury.”

For that reason, his favorite thing about the Y is accessibility. The equipment machines along with the swimming pool have really helped. “Being weightless in the water is one of the only times I can be comfortable without any pain,” he says.

Mr. Lingo has noticed a difference in himself since joining the Y. He reports, “I feel a lot better; I feel a lot stronger.”

Along with the fitness center and swimming pool, Dave enjoys the atmosphere of the Y. He describes how it doesn’t feel like a typical gym. “Nobody judges you here, I love that,” he expresses. “This place is so comfortable and welcoming, it actually feels like you’re family.”

He and his friend, Chris Mizer (Veteran and Y member) enjoy working out together to keep each other motivated. “You don’t want the be the guy that says, ‘Ah, we’re not going today,’” Dave adds with a booming laugh.

When he isn’t in the gym or the pool, Dave enjoys honoring his Irish/Scottish heritage by wearing his kilt. He had his first one brought over to him from Scotland. Dave recalls the first time he said he’d never wear it. Then one day he just put it on and wore it out. “I thought, ‘why haven’t I worn these before and why aren’t they more popular’?” He has just under two dozen kilts now and wears them most days. Not only are they comfortable, but they also help him dress more easily by wrapping the kilt around himself rather than pulling on pants.

It’s everyday tasks such as this that can cause him pain, sometimes to the point of not being able to get out of bed in the morning. It’s been difficult to live within these confines. Since his injury, Dave expresses his battle with depression. “My family has always been there for me and my girlfriend of 14 years. I think they’re my motivation,” he responds.

Having dealt with suicide scares in his own life, he understands the absolute tragedy of life lost. Because of this, he devotes his time to addressing that need. “One of my passions in life is veteran suicide awareness,” he states.  While his military career has come to an end, his acts of service have not. The lives that he’s reached through this demographic are truly impactful.

In addition, Dave recently has crossed over from Y member to employee by becoming a Group Exercise Instructor on Monday and Wednesday evenings taking over Scott Laudermilk’s (Personal Trainer) class. “He’s got a lot of fans here and he is so personable and makes everyone feel so comfortable,” Dave says about Scott, “He’s just a warm, welcoming guy so he’s a lot to follow.”

There’s something special about a member wanting to further his or her participation at the Y and become an employee. Beth Alban (Executive Director) comments, “The timing of the transition of Dave stepping up to fill this need has been a blessing.”  

There’s no doubt that Dave will inspire participants in his class to become the best they can be. He encourages those wanting to begin a new chapter in their life. “Always have a goal,” he emphasizes, “Put that goal as unachievable as you can make it and then put in micro-goals to get there. For as long as you have a goal that you cannot reach or seems unattainable, it will keep you moving and motivated for life.”

His military experience has played a role in shaping his determination towards life. His favorite quote is: “The only easy day was yesterday.” Those words help drive him forward. “Today might seem like hell, but you did the same thing yesterday and you’re still alive.” He goes on, “And while it felt like the hardest thing to do, when you look back on what you’ve done, it allows you to achieve so much more.”

The Y is where Dave chose to continue moving forward when everything seemed impossible. Now, he’s able to look back on where he started and feel a difference in himself. “The Y has brought me out of my shell by being around people in a healthy environment,” he says.

Since exercising regularly, he’s off his pain medication and is feeling better than he has in a long time. He notes, “Everybody here has very good goals, similar goals, and it’s all about living a healthy, good life,” he confirms, “That’s probably one of the best things I’ve gotten from this place.”

On the outside, Mr. Lingo’s towering frame can be intimidating but what you’ll come to find is a man with an equally big heart. He’s experienced the valleys of life and has come out on top. His courage and strength is admirable and we’re thankful to have him as part of our YMCA family. Likewise, Dave feels the same. “I don’t know if they realize they’re helping me more than I’m helping them,” he concludes.

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:8


Written by Kaitlyn Meister


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