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Health & Wellness: Travis Struble and Valerie Cingle power through adversity

by on July 03, 2017 11:22 AM

You might never think that Travis Struble and Valerie Cingle have had serious health problems. After all, these are two of the healthiest-looking and most positive people you could find, him a fitness trainer and professional bodybuilder, her a fitness instructor with a glowing personality.

They are both devoted to helping their clients live healthy, active lives. So you might never expect that they have each dealt with significant health issues themselves.

Struble and Cingle met three years ago while they were both trainers at The North Club in State College. They quickly fell in love and later this summer they will be married. It is safe to say that after their first three years together, the two fitness trainers are prepared to handle any challenge that marriage might throw at them. Together they have battled through surgeries, cancer treatments and diabetes complications.

Through it all, they never stopped working together and never stopped inspiring people to become the best they could be. Through it all, they had each other.

At first it is hard to believe that someone like Struble is a cancer survivor. He is an intimidating figure with lean muscle packed on his body. His sculpted physique was good enough to place him third in his first bodybuilding competition, and he continues to train. He has made a career out of making healthy bodies as a certified trainer and nutrition consultant.

Yet a little more than two years ago he was diagnosed with lymphoma. The doctors are still trying to figure out why it occurred in him, and they may never know.

“You can’t explain it, it can happen to anyone at any time,” says Struble. “It’s funny, just before I was diagnosed I had watched an ESPN special about Stuart Scott, who was well known for his battle with cancer, and one of the things I took from that was you just need to keep living your life, just keep pushing forward no matter what is going on. So it was my mindset, from the very start, ‘OK, this has happened, we are going to deal with it, but I am not going to change my life because of it.’ I kept right on doing what I always did, training, working, just living my life. I feel that if you let it become your life, then you are giving up right there.”

The couple had been together for a year when they learned of this diagnosis just a few weeks after learning that Cingle needed to have surgery on both of her wrists to repair tendon damage.

“It was like a one-two punch at this point, like we couldn’t catch a break,” says Cingle. “We both leaned on each other at this point. It wasn’t easy, but we were always there for each other. There were days where I couldn’t drive because of surgery, so a friend would need to pick me up and take me to be with (Struble) while he was getting his treatment.”

Struble would have six- to nine-hour chemotherapy treatments one day and be back at the gym training the next day. Struble says he never lost his strength during his treatment. He feels his training as bodybuilder and the stresses he puts on his body helped prepare him for the rigors of chemotherapy.

“It think the fact that he had this great foundation as a bodybuilder helped him manage and ultimately conquer this horrible disease,” says Cingle. “Everybody reacts differently, but I feel like because he was in such great shape, he was prepared to fight this battle.”

Together, her in a cast from surgery and him going to treatment, they fought the battle. It will be two years since his last chemo treatment this August, and so far there has been no sign of the cancer coming back.  

“They are the ultimate power couple; he is more quiet and Val is more of a talker,” says Alyssa Spaw. She trained with Struble for a bodybuilding competition and became friends with Cingle along the way. “They are just so perfect together and have come such a long way. It is amazing what they have gone through and continue to accomplish. Just such positive, strong people.” 

Cingle seems to light up any room she walks into. It had been a while since she has taught a class at The North Club when I came in to take her “Blast”’ class on a recent day. Everyone in the class smiled when they saw her and many asked her how she was doing. Hugs came from all over.

Leading the group on a stage in the front of a large fitness room, Cingle got everyone warmed up for the step-type class. She pushed the participants to do their best with encouragement and cheers. The class was frantic, with steps up and over the equipment to the left and to the right. I took the class for the first time with Cingle and I was a little nervous about going the wrong way and looking out of place. But Cingle’s enthusiasm and spirit kept me motivated and her clear instructions helped me follow the right steps.

“This is my happy place, the place where I feel I belong,” Cingle says about The North Club. “I just love the people here, the atmosphere; everyone encourages one another and cares. Who wouldn’t want to come here and be a part of this family? I love to encourage people and in turn I feel encouraged.”

The family atmosphere is evident at The North Club. Besides all the friends and well-wishers, a friend of Struble’s made “Struble Strong” shirts with a silhouette of his physique printed across them. The shirts were sold at the club, and the proceeds helped cover the cost of his treatment.

“It didn’t matter what I had to deal with, the chemo, all the tests,” says Struble. “Because I had the support I did, it made everything a lot easier.”

Struble clearly feels at home in a gym. He spends most of his time these days as a trainer at Anytime Fitness in State College. He led me through an introductory training session, with the goal of assessing my fitness ability. While it could have felt intimidating training in front of someone who could probably out-lift me using just one finger, Struble has a calming presence that makes one feel at ease. He made sure that I was comfortable with everything and explained things completely before we did them. Spaw appreciated the same things about Struble during her training with him.

“He was so patient and really listened to me. While he pushed me to do my best, he was smart about it and listened to me. It made me feel like I was in the right hands,” Spaw says.

Cingle has battled Type 1 diabetes since she was a child. At first she didn’t realize the impact it would have on her life.

“I remember being in the hospital when I was 8 and my mother crying when we found out and I didn’t understand why, because I didn’t understand what kind of effect this would have on the rest of my life,” Cingle says.

But it affects her every day. She struggled with managing her blood sugar, especially during her teens and early 20s. She noticed problems with her kidneys and she learned at that point how important her health is. These days she is careful about what she eats and how it affects her body and her moods. Living with Struble has been a godsend, as he is meticulous about what he puts into his body. Along with being a trainer, Struble consults others as a nutrition specialist, so he knows how important diet is to feeling good.

“It is so helpful that we both make nutrition and fitness a priority in our lives,” Cingle says. “We both understand how important it is to each other.”

Cingle has worked with Penn State Athletics for years. Beyond that one step class, she hasn’t been able to teach fitness classes at The North Club since March, because Struble and Cingle are ready for their next challenge together, this one a much happier endeavor. They are expecting their first child in October. Because of her diabetes, her pregnancy is considered high-risk, so she is monitored closely by doctors.

“We have a great team in Hershey, and things are going great so far,” said Cingle. “We are both excited for this next step in our lives. I think we have been through enough difficult times, that we will be able to really appreciate this blessing.”


Vincent Corso is a freelance writer from State College.
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