Metro-East News

Belleville native thrives as trainer years after horrific work injury

Personal trainer recovered after being crushed between two train cars

Rehab after accident in 2003 changed Jeremy Genin's life — now he provides therapy to others.
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Rehab after accident in 2003 changed Jeremy Genin's life — now he provides therapy to others.

It’s hard to tell by looking at Jeremy Genin now that he’d been pinned between two train cars in 2003.

It’s hard to tell part of his pelvis was cracked in two and that one of his back bones was crushed.

Genin, 35, is a Belleville native who now operates Functional Fitness at 1208 Washington Ave. in downtown St. Louis. He said he’s in better shape now more than a decade after making a full recovery from the accident than he was before.

I was much more open to using my skill as a coach and a trainer on my own. So I started out of my parents’ basement in Belleville

Jeremy Genin, owner of Functional Fitness in St. Louis

A life in the gym

Genin admits he was “a rambunctious teen” and credits the wrestling program at Belleville East High School for keeping him on track in high school. Its impact lasted: After graduation, he stayed in the gym, helping train wrestlers for free, just for the love of it.

Later, he coached mixed martial arts for a few years while maintaining a job as a carpenter. Then, a career change. But the brief foray behind a desk didn’t cut it.

“I definitely got called back into the coaching world, the training world. I love coaching, I love everything about it,” he said.

His ensuing employment at a corporate-type gym didn’t cut it either. It was too restrictive. He felt like he wasn’t really meeting clients’ needs. “I was much more open to using my skill as a coach and a trainer on my own. So I started out of my parents’ basement in Belleville.”

Genin also rented training space in Clayton, Mo.

“When I branched off on my own, it was like a big burden lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “You can really get down to meet the clients’ needs. Everyone’s different. Everyone trains differently.”

Genin merged his rental space and his basement operations into one location a year ago. Functional Fitness currently has 2,000 square feet of usable training space, though that soon will double once work is complete on the building’s second floor. Genin also trains clients in an outdoor fitness park the City of St. Louis built just steps from his gym.

Nearly snapped in half

In 2003, while working at Metro-East Industries in East St. Louis and volunteering at Belleville East, Genin suffered the injury that could easily have cost him his life, not to mention his career as a coach and trainer.

He was hooking two train cars together when the coupler of one pinned him against the coupler of another.

The impact fractured his sacrum —the bone at the bottom of the spinal column— and separated the bottom of his pelvis.

That part hurt. But Genin said what hurt more was the aftermath.

The most painful part is after all the inflammation kicks in. Every little jolt, every little movement is extremely painful. I had to go from barely being able to tap my foot on the ground all the way up to full spectrum where I could do entire workouts

Jeremy Genin

“The most painful part is after all the inflammation kicks in. Every little jolt, every little movement is extremely painful,” he said. “I had to go from barely being able to tap my foot on the ground all the way up to full spectrum where I could do entire workouts.”

Rehab at the Athletic Therapy Center in Belleville took a year and a half. “It wasn’t an easy task,” Genin said, but he also called it “a great experience.”

“Even though that was a very bad part of my life as far as having to go through that, having to come back from it, it really opened up my mind to the possibilities as far as what you can do for meeting someone’s needs,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for going there, I don’t think I would have had the same recovery.”

Genin said the recovery he made following the accident couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t set lofty goals.

“If you’re not able to push yourself outside of what you consider normal recovery, you’ll never get there,” he said. “If you have small expectations, you’re going to meet those small expectations. If you set a grand scope, if you really shoot high, you’re going to go a lot higher.”

Even though that was a very bad part of my life as far as having to go through that, having to come back from it, it really opened up my mind to the possibilities as far as what you can do for meeting someone’s needs

Jeremy Genin

He also gained insight during recovery that he’d later put to use running his own business.

“(Therapy) let me see how important it is to take the time and really go and look at your clientele and analyze what their needs are above and beyond what they know and above and beyond what they’re able to communicate to you,” he said.

Custom approach

One of Genin’s clients is Mark Mueller, a St. Louis resident who is general manager of Mueller Furniture in Belleville. He also pitches in the Mon-Clair Baseball League.

Mueller, 34, has some nagging baseball injuries he works through by training in Genin’s gym.

“Sometimes people think that with rest, pain will go away. And it just usually doesn’t,” Mueller said. “You want to sit on your butt and not do anything, but you’re not going to get better just resting.”

Everybody is a little different as far as what exercises they can handle and what they can’t. (Genin) provides a custom approach to your goals

Functional Fitness client Mark Mueller

Mueller’s goal is to be able to continue pitching competitively despite having difficulties with a foot, hip, shoulder and elbow.

“Without exercising and strengthening stabilizers and tendons, it doesn’t get any better,” Mueller said.

“Active recovery,” Genin chipped in.

Mueller appreciates Genin’s expertise because it’s unique to his situation. “It’s very much custom to what you need,” he said. “Everybody is a little different as far as what exercises they can handle and what they can’t. (Genin) provides a custom approach to your goals.”

Genin said he wouldn’t be able to offer that level of attention if it wasn’t for his accident. “It opened my eyes to a lot of different therapeutic training techniques,” he said. “I think it made me better. It made me stronger.”

It goes beyond physical rehab. Don’t let people tell you how little you can do...People hold themselves back. Don’t be discouraged. Plan on coming back 100 percent

Jeremy Genin

His advice to those who have suffered serious injuries and face a difficult recovery?

“It goes beyond physical rehab. Don’t let people tell you how little you can do. Aim high. Listen to your doctors. Go through all your physical therapy,” he said. “A lot of people who don’t follow what their doctors or therapists say end up not coming back 100 percent. People hold themselves back. Don’t be discouraged. Plan on coming back 100 percent.”

Tobias Wall: 618-239-2501, @Wall_BND

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