I can tell you now that I never thought I would be a personal trainer. The original dream was equine neurology and rehabilitation and linguistics (okay, I've always been a little all over the place). I was never a phenomenal athlete but I was one of those people who grew up "naturally athletic". I was hyper-mobile (had laxity in my joints) and so with a little determination I could do the same or more as the girl next to me with half the training or conditioning. Which meant that lazy young me did no training and no conditioning. By 16, my poor body mechanics and abuse of my body for sports began to catch up with me. My shin splints had become stress fractures, my low back ached, and I had constant pain in my legs.
Over the years I picked up more and more adrenaline sports, and with that, more and more physical therapists. Fast forward five years and I am on my 13th physical therapist. At this point I have torn my oblique, fractured my pelvis, and herniated quite a few discs in my low back. I am using a walker to get around; poorly. I've been told by the best spine doctors in Northern Colorado that I will never run again. The therapist I'd been sent to explains that with a lot of hard work I may be able to make my bed again, if I'm lucky.
I'll be honest and say I almost gave up. I couldn't feed myself or go to the bathroom alone. I don't think anyone can understand what humility and demoralization really feel like until they're having someone help with their pants and hold them over a toilet. That is a giving up moment and the doctors were telling me I should just give in.
With help and on my last shred of hope I wandered into the office of a local physical therapist who took me in. He thought he could offer something new. I slowly dragged myself in behind the tennis ball wheeled walker, tears from the pain streaming down my face, and doing everything I could to stay conscious. The guy walks out and starts laughing at me. No introduction or anything else this man just laughs at me. What kind of horrible human being laughs at someone in that condition? I didn't trust him. I didn't like him. He told me my pain was in my head. Well, sort of. He said that my pain was real in that I was experiencing excruciating pain. He explained that the pain at this point was not really in my muscles and it wasn't in my joints or bones. Pain is created in the brain and it has a nasty habit of getting a little out of control. There were some minor structural issues, there were some extremely poor body mechanics, but at the end of the day there was no REAL reason for me to be experiencing the level of constant pain I was experiencing. The trick is; how do we fix it?
That was how I learned about chronic pain and how I began my long journey towards becoming a trainer. Acute injuries are fairly easy to treat. In most cases there are two treatments: the old school P.R.I.C.E method (protect, rest, ice, compression, elevation) with the eventual addition of careful stretching and strengthening over time. The second option is surgery. When we sprain an ankle, we feel instant pain, that pain tends to decrease over time following ice and rest. Over time, we strengthen the ankle, maintain healthy range of motion, and eventually the pain goes away. Chronic pain, my pain, doesn't work like that. Our bodies scream at us to be careful! Don't move that way!!! That's how you hurt yourself before! The more our brains fear that pain, the more frequent the pain becomes. We get stuck in a pain pathway that becomes more guarded, tense, and irritated the more afraid we become it.
What I learned from the therapist that day took 60% of the pain out of my body in our very first session. I walked out on my own two feet. He took my walker from me and threw it away. I wasn't fixed but I suddenly had hope. I could walk. He told me to breathe. He gave me permission to feel the pain, and then move beyond it. Because that place, that place AFTER the pain and the spasming and the fear, that was a place of health and healing.
I've spent years working on perfecting body mechanics. It started with my own. I had fought crippling back pain for a year with rest, ice, and therapeutic modalities and was degrading every day. Within 6 months of very hard work with the RIGHT person, I was running 3-10 miles/day at Colorado altitude without an ounce of pain. I got back into rock climbing, boxing, horse back riding, and learned how to handle my body and my pain. It freed me.
I still have to be aware of my pain but I know that if I keep my body strong, I can live a long, healthy, pain free life and I am so grateful for that. What I was given, besides my life back, was education. Now I have the privilege of providing that education to my clientele.
I love training my athletes and my transformation clients. However, the most inspiring part of the job is when I get to take a client out pain or give them a piece of their life back. The stroke victim who can now raise his arms to hug his wife, the woman with RA who can now sleep through the night, the frozen shoulder client who can undress themselves. These sound like small victories but they absolutely change a life. I am so lucky that I get to spend my days helping those around me achieve them.