Dr. John Downs

I am a 77-year-old retired physician, with typical problems of old age, including medication for moderately elevated blood pressure, arthritis, and elevated cholesterol.

My first fifty years were free of physical problems.

However, shortly after turning fifty I noted a decrease in exercise tolerance, overall strength and weight gain. I lost driving distance playing golf.

I sought assistance of a “physical trainer” and within a few months noted improvement in all areas. My three-per-week sessions focused entirely on strength training and little on flexibility. During one session I tore a medial meniscus in the left knee requiring arthroscopic repair.

At age 60 we moved, necessitating self-directed and sporadic gym sessions, focused mainly on endurance.

I was introduced to EM Coyer by a mutual friend in 2006. My friend trained with EM, with a focus on flexibility and strength, with a primary goal of golf improvement.

I considered training with EM, then, but it meant a daily 90-minute commute to which I was unable to commit, since I was working at a major University hospital at the time.

At work I became aware that stairs I once scaled two at a time were causing shortness of breath after two flights, my golf driving distance had decreased to the point that I couldn’t reach short par four holes with short irons, my handicap climbed from 3 to 7.

In 2007, I was unable to defend my match play club championship because of lower back pain. It was apparent that my physical, and therefore mental well being were deteriorating at a frightening pace.

By 2013 I found work fatiguing, golf much less enjoyable and decided I had to do something. I retired from my full-time job at the University Hospital and sought assistance at our local small-town gym. Knowing that a self-directed fitness program was likely to be inefficient, ineffective, a waste of time and energy and likely to result in recurring minor injuries, I asked the owner if he had trainers available to assist me. He said he had just the guy.

EM Coyer had just returned from an extended consulting job that took him from the area for several years.

Having sold his successful business in the area five years earlier, he was working a few hours a week at our local gym.

After meeting with me for a few hours, listening to my aspirations to gain flexibility, strength and endurance in hopes of improving my golf game, all while avoiding injury, we began what has become an intense working relationship and friendship.

At first, we spent three hours a week in the gym. I preceded our workouts with 30 to 60 minutes on an elliptical machine.

Progress was slow.

I was then 70 years old, had chronic back pain that affected my posture and ability to perform simple TRX aided exercises. I had to move from championship tees to member tees, then to senior tees.

Each year in May my wife and I leave Florida to spend the Summer in Michigan and return in October. Thus, each Summer, I suffered a 5-to-6-month regression in fitness.

In 2016, we instituted a “self” initiated Summer Program prepared by EM.

As a result, my golf game improved dramatically. I won the senior club championship in 2016, 17 and 20.


In 2017 I won the 4-ball championship with two different partners at two different clubs.

In the first quarter of 2018 I won the club championship handicap division and I won my second match play club championship, beating four individuals younger than me. In the finals I had a 5 and 4 victory over a young man who had just regained his amateur status the prior Summer, after playing Minitour events for several years.

In April 2018, one month after winning the match play club championship, I was preparing to leave for a three-week golfing vacation to Dornoch Scotland. Two days prior to departure, my cardiologist informed me that I needed to have my aortic valve replaced, immediately.

I flew to Los Angeles four days later and two days later I had a new aortic valve placed at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center (it helps to have friends in high places!). The ICU nurses said I was the healthiest and most fit individual they had seen have that procedure (thanks to EM).

After one ICU night, I was released to my hotel for a week of observation. Having been an ICU physician for nearly fifty years, I cared for thousands of cardiac surgical patients. I have never observed a quicker recovery than mine!

It took months of exercise to regain the prior strength level, but by the Summer of 2018 I was back. Then, while doing my “self-directed” stretching program in Michigan, I tore my right-hip labrum. A flight back to Tampa to see an orthopedic golfing friend brought devastating news. I needed a hip replacement. Early return to Florida and two months of preparation with EM was followed by a late October right hip replacement. The surgeon, the physical therapist and others said recovery was rapid, but I was anxious to play golf and the usual 3–6-month recovery was unacceptable.

EM worked for an hour a day, 5 days a week to get me in shape. I didn’t score well, but I played in an interclub match December 10, 2019 and went to a pro-am event in Kiawah S.C. in late February. I wasn’t able to successfully defend my super-senior club championship title in February, but I did finish second.

Daily sessions with EM Coyer have resulted in a marked slowing of the aging process. I am more fit physically than I was 15 years ago.

Although I may not be as strong, I’m able to exercise in a controlled fashion monitored by a trained, credentialed and highly skilled professional trainer.  I can participate in competitive golf events and travel. Without conditioning in such a controlled program, the risk of injury is significant.

Often, heart surgery and hip replacement results in a downward spiral of weight gain, de-conditioning and depression.

Thanks to EM, I have avoided these pitfalls and look forward to many more healthful years doing the things one looks forward to in retirement.