Today, I am a fitness instructor. That doesn’t seem unusual in that there are thousands of instructors. For me, however, it is an unbelievable accomplishment! Let me share my story:
For much of my adult life, I have been battling degenerative disc disease, a connective tissue disease and severe arthritis. After yet another spinal fusion surgery in which a large blood clot formed over a nerve root because my doctor nicked a muscle trying to cover the rods, left me having to spend over a month in a Physical Rehabilitation Center and confined to a wheelchair. Over twenty surgeries had taken a terrible toll both physically and mentally. Three C-sections left my abdominal muscles weak and full of scar tissue. Surgery every twelve to eighteen months for eighteen years to repair a badly damaged jaw and spine left me debilitated, under weight, and weak. I was sent to numerous Pain Clinics and was taking narcotics. Eventually, both my back and neck were completely fused. Complications from the three fusion surgeries left my left arm weak, a nerve root damaged, and my right leg numb and unable to support weight. My life was awful. I had allowed myself to become a victim, physically weak and mentally even weaker. There had to be a better way. Then I had an epiphany! I must take control of my body and health.
I had been in a medical maintenance water program that used the Burdenko Method for years. This physical therapy program is very targeted for specific problems with a finite program. Insurance only pays for a limited number of sessions and those were running out. The Burdenko Method had made me stronger, but I needed something more.
By chance, I saw an advertisement for a new water program at the Fitness Center. It was a Poolates class. I was somewhat hesitant, but knew I was no longer making progress on my own. I spoke with the instructor, Liz, about trying it. She was incredibly encouraging. The class was upbeat and fun but initially I could only stay about fifteen minutes. That was fine with Liz. She assured me I would become stronger and to always listen to my body. She showed me a wall stretch that would relieve some of the pain in my lower back. I spent so much time in that stretch she named it after me! Gradually over several sessions I gained enough stamina to make it through the whole hour-long class. I wasn’t very forthcoming with her at first about all the physical problems I had. I’ve always been a rather private, reserved person. I quickly learned however, how compassionate and knowledgeable Liz was. She would notice when I was having trouble with some movements and would modify the exercises for me or give me alternatives to achieve the same goals. I continued to come to class and gradually worked up to three classes a week.
This class and Liz’s instruction has been life changing. I found as I became physically stronger I was able to use what I had learned to relieve some of my pain. Strengthening my Abs to better support my lower back and create a strong core has been a Godsend. It was particularly difficult to accomplish because extensive nerve damage prevents me from feeling my muscles work. Liz would tell me which muscles were working, where they were and what I should feel. I would have to imagine the feeling. Her positive attitude, superb knowledge, experience, and unending encouragement helped me meet each goal I set for myself. Sometimes she would suggest we meet privately so she could go over other exercises to help. Plateaus and set backs occurred but she was always ready with alternatives. Her faith in me gave me the courage and motivation to continue. My posture improved. My legs began to track properly and my abdominal muscles are strong enough to support my lower back. I am strong and flexible enough to now attend land Yoga classes three times a week!
I believed the program would make me physically stronger. I was astounded at the changes mentally. As I met the physical goals my self-esteem soared! If I can do this, maybe I can take the next step. I was becoming mentally and emotionally stronger. I was no longer a victim of circumstances beyond my control. I took my life back! On occasion when Liz was absent, the class would be whatever the sub normally taught. Our Poolates class is composed of people with many physical problems who cannot participate in many of the other classes. I ask Liz what it would take for me to become certified as an instructor. She arranged for her Poolates Master Trainer to come to the Fitness Center. Four people, one of them me, became Poolates certified insuring the program’s future!
I have participated in the Poolates program for four years now. We began with six people. Over the years under Liz’s leadership, classes grew and are offered four times a week with up to thirty-three people per class. I will do anything possible to give others the opportunity I have had. I am physically and mentally stronger. I still have pain, but am far better able to cope with it. I am off all the pain medication. I know more surgery is in my future. I will workout until the day before to be as strong and ready for recovery as possible. In my current physical and mental state I will successfully cope with the setbacks it will bring. Each day is a gift as I continue my journey. I would not have been able to accomplish any of this without Liz’s caring, compassion, knowledge and encouragement. There are no words to thank her. I have my life back!
Grateful Student and
Poolates Certified Instructor!