The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Joanna Ward

Personal Trainer/ Owner, Joanna Fitness Studio, Lithonia

Certified Aerobic Instructor

Contestant, Survivor: Amazon 2003

MA, school guidance counseling

BA, education, SC State University, Orangeburg, SC


Joanna Ward: A Faith for Fitness

By The 700 Club

Joanna has always been athletic, and in the 8th grade she was a big girl. She is now 5’ 10”. Her height and size drew the attention of the coaches in her school.

“I was agile and quick,” she says, so much so that the boys picked her to play on their teams because she was bigger and stronger than many of them. She attended college on a basketball scholarship. But it was in 1996 when fitness became her passion. It was during that year that she recognized and took control of her life. She was at a low point. Her marriage was falling apart, she had no money, her son was about to turn three years old, and she weighed 192 lbs – 30 lbs over her ideal weight. It was the New Year and she decided that she did not want to weigh 200 lbs.

Having grown up in a strong Christian home, Joanna knew where to turn for help. In early January, standing in her bathroom, she prayed to the God she’d drifted away from. “Show me that You are real,” she prayed. “I need You to do something for me.” Joanna says she didn’t experience an immediate sensation but God really showed up in her life. “I expected Him to do something,” she says.

Soon after that talk with God, an instructor contacted her for a job. That month she made $4,000, more than she’d ever made before. Many other wonderful things started happening. She also went to the gym where she tried the step aerobics plan, but found she could not step at all. She couldn’t get it, she says. She went to the treadmill, tried the elliptical, but after four months she’d lost only four pounds. Discouraged, she quit. But at the coaxing of a friend she went back to the gym. This time she got better. After such a dismal start during her first four months, this time she lost 30 pounds in two months! Her metabolism was high, she says, she had to break through her plateau by increasing the intensity of her workouts.

By 1998 Joanna had gone back to college, finished her Master degree in education and became a fitness trainer at her school in Orangeburg. It was from here that she was recruited for Survivor. It turns out that some of the teachers who were fans of the show submitted some of her tapes. She was chosen and went to Miami. The top 50 of this group then went to Los Angeles where they underwent full auditions. There were all kinds of rules and regulations to follow. At the end of two weeks she learned that she’d made it. That was the fall of 2002. The series aired in Feb 2003. It was interesting to note that the Survivor staff and crew knew her from her videos.

Joanna says being fit means being physically, mentally, and spiritually strong. A strong spirit and a strong mind go together. It enhances everything you do. And to succeed in fitness Joanna says you have to choose to make fitness a priority in your life. When she talks to her clients, she asks them if they will commit to working out, say, between 5:00 am-7:00 am daily. It takes a lot more commitment to get up and do it than just to say it. Some people will do it once or twice. But to stick with a routine you have to make it a necessity for you. “When you recognize it as a daily need, then you make it a necessity,” she says. “You must value what working out does for you.” That’s what causes people to stay with it. Over time you begin to see yourself differently, grow more confident, grow in self-esteem, and how you view life and other people. It’s not that other people change, but YOU change. Your life outlook becomes brighter. And as a Christian Joanna says you have more joy and peace.

Kristi Watts and Joanna WardJoanna is quick to share biblical concepts with those she trains and tries to help them in any way she can. “I try to connect with them. Once I am connected with you, then when we walk, not just your body changes, but your mind, your body, and your soul changes,” she says. She desires to see past a person’s weight to the “person they are ordained to be instead of who they have become.” One young lady, Darlene Jamison, who is featured on one of Joanne’s videos didn’t know the emotional bondage she was in that held her down. Joanna says sometimes people don’t realize that there are better ways to live your life. But once she caught the vision of a better life and future Darlene committed to change her life, and exercise was a key part of that. She was 4’11” tall and weighed 294 pounds. Today she is a confident, certified fitness instructor who helps others. One other young lady was Camilla who came in weighing 306 pounds. She has lost over 106 pounds. “People need more,” Joanna says. “Sometimes you have to help them walk out of the fire they are in, because they don’t know.” She helped walk them through.

Joanna is part of President Bush’s “Healthier US initiative.” She sees the obesity in America as an epidemic, and believes that people should take care of themselves rather than run up high medical bills. Joanna enjoys spending time with her son – and tae bo, basketball, mountain climbing, and running.

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