Countless surgeries, looks, teasing and success have built Lisa Gough into one tough cookie.
The longtime Fallon resident has made her mark through fitness and mental toughness, although the road to her fulfillment was filled with detours. Gough started life at a disadvantage, but she considers it her biggest asset.
Despite the challenges, name-calling and ups and downs of life, Gough is a successful businesswoman in her adopted hometown. Her upbeat personality, though, shines daily as she roams the floor of Total Fitness Athletic Club.
After her birth, doctors diagnosed Gough with Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency (PFFD), a nongenetic defect that leaves one leg shorter than the other.
In Gough’s case, it was her right leg. The Reno native said her mother was prescribed Thalidomide during the pregnancy to treat morning sickness.
The result, however, led Gough to countless surgeries and eventually two amputation procedures.
“I really got lucky and dodged a bullet,” she said. “It (Thalidomide) was being marketed as a wonder drug. It’s got some pretty bad intent behind it. One dose created a lot of different birth defects.”
Throughout her childhood, Gough suffered through numerous social stigmas including wearing a leg brace. But Gough endured through the support of her family, but she said her first amputation at age 8 gave her a sense of relief.
Gough’s first amputation came after a trip to Mt. Rose where she was already in a full leg cast. She rebroke the leg and emergency room doctors set her leg and ushered her out of the hospital.
“The emergency room doctor … insisted it was normal,” Gough said about the swelling. “The doctor (finally) cut the cast off and discovered it was a big problem.”
Hours later, the leg was still swelling and after a consultation with her primary physician in Salt Lake City, Gough made the eight-hour drive to Utah for surgery. Doctors there discovered gangrene and had to amputate the leg below the knee.
“I was never meant to be an amputee,” Gough said. “I think that’s the biggest blessing that could’ve happened. Once the leg was taken off and I was in my prosthesis … I was unstoppable. I could run, I could play … and I could keep up with everyone else.”
Losing her leg, she said, was a game changer. Now, the spry child was fitted with a prosthetic and sprang to life. Gough was running and competing with her classmates and developed a mental edge.
As time passed and Gough entered high school, she said her classmates became more accepting and understanding of her condition.
“People wanted to know me for me and not push me aside,” Gough said.
Soon after high school, Gough was married and gave birth to her two children 18 months apart. She was divorced, a single mother and striving to provide for her family.
Unsatisfied with life, Gough, who tipped the scales at 215 pounds after her second pregnancy, decided it was time to make a change. She started a fitness regimen and shredded the extra pounds.
“I started studying body building magazines and fitness magazines,” Gough said. ”I started doing step aerobics in my house as a way to manage my weight.”
Nine years passed until Gough met her future husband, Theron Gough, who also worked at NAS Fallon flying Search and Rescue and C-12’s. Lisa Gough, though, maintained her workout routine, but soon she would be on a crash course with her destiny.
Several years later, Gough met Sandra Blackie, a San Diego-based trainer, promoting a body building show in Reno. Gough hired Blackie and made the transition into the world of body building.
“I worked with her, long distance, for two years,” Gough said.
In 1997, Gough entered her first competition in Oceanside, Calif. As her workouts intensified, Gough noticed an increase of individuals seeking her advice, which led to an idea.
As a side job, Gough became a certified trainer, but later that year, she was laid off from her job at NAS Fallon and resorted to driving a laundry truck.
Stuck in a dead-end job, Lisa Gough had an idea. She and Theron built a small workout studio in their backyard and started a pseudo-gym.
“I made a makeshift business plan,” Lisa Gough said. “I asked my husband if I could bring enough money to cover the laundry route, could I do that? He said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s what started this (Total Fitness).”
Working as a personal trainer at the Body Shop, Lisa Gough’s drive to open a new gym came when she heard the previous owner utter disparaging remarks to one of Lisa Gough’s clients.
“That made me say, ‘You know what, you need a little competition,’” she added.
The Gough’s hooked up with Wayne Ocegeura and began discussions about starting a new gym. In the meantime, Lisa Gough wrapped herself in the world of fitness and bodybuilding. She entered several competitions, but knew the gym was her fate.
Lisa Gough, though, was aided by Rod Jorgensen, a business director at the University of Nevada, Reno. He helped Lisa Gough develop a business plan and learn the ropes about running a business.
Carry Thibaut, meanwhile, has seen Lisa Gough’s passion up close. Thibaut hired Lisa Gough as her personal trainer before becoming a trainer about nine years.
“Being around that drive, and I don’t think people understand the difficulties being an amputee … she doesn’t let any of that stop her,” Thibaut said.
Soon the Goughs and Ocegeura scratched together enough money to open Total Fitness Athletic Club. On Aug. 1, 2001, the gym opened for business and Lisa Gough’s dreamed was a reality.
“We did an aggressive presale campaign,” she said. “The place was a mess and we were showing people what we were going to do.”
Twelve years later, the vibrant club boasts between 800 to 1,200 members, 20 employees including three independent trainers. The Goughs bought out Ocegeura in 2010 and even discussed selling the gym.
“She’s just a very motivating person for the gym.” Thibaut said. “She’s a driven, down-to-earth, get-it-done person. She will tell you how she feels.”
Lisa Gough, though, could not bring herself to sell the club. It means too much to her, even though she has not be able to work one-on-one with clients since 2010.
“This gym came from my heart, and I couldn’t do that,” Lisa Gough said of selling.
Over the years, though, Lisa Gough’s knee was still giving her problems. In 2002, she underwent the second amputation to mitigate the constant issues with the knee.
But Lisa Gough’s knee troubles were not over. In 2009, she had knee replacement surgery on her left knee.
“I had been battling that a very, very long time,” she said. “I finally said we got to do this. My doctor said, ‘If anything happens with the surgery, you’re going to be in a chair.’ I told him I’m the surgery queen. It was a hard surgery to come back from, but I’m glad I did it.”
Lisa Gough’s surgical road, however, still had one turn left. Due to atrophy in her right knee, her prosthesis did not fit. She underwent yet another surgery this year and is finally back to full form.
“It’s been up-down, up-down,” she laughed. “I’m feeling good.”
Expansion at the club, meanwhile, is always on the Gough’s mind. She said staying up-to-date with new fitness programs, such as Pink Gloves Boxing, enables the gym to stay relevant.
Lisa Gough’s outlook on life, though, will not stop her quest of providing opportunities for residents to change their lifestyle. Her passion about fitness, wellness and nutrition has changed her life.
In return, Lisa Gough drives to bring her passion into the lives of others.
“I was never meant to be an amputee. I think that’s the biggest blessing that could’ve happened. Once the leg was taken off and I was in my prosthesis … I was unstoppable.”
— Lisa Gough
owner of Total Fitness Athletic Club