It wasn’t until early 2015 when I attended my first group fitness class that I really started to understand how important being physically active and building core strength was in my overall chronic pain recovery. My husband dragged me to an hour-long TRX suspension training class at Revolution Buffalo. Walking in the door, I had absolutely no idea what I was signing up for, what I would be doing, or if I could even make it through the first 10 minutes. But, once I was there, I knew I had to give it a shot. For those of you who unfamiliar with TRX suspension training, it is a training system developed by former Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick. It consists of a lightweight, portable set of straps with handles that attach at a single anchor point. They can be mounted almost anywhere for use while traveling, in your home, or in a gym setting. Using these straps, one can develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. The best part about it is the ability for every individual to choose their own difficulty simply by adjusting their position to the anchor point to add more resistance from gravity and their own bodyweight.
I’ll admit, the first class felt like absolute torture. It was an hour of getting tangled up in the straps, losing my balance, and feeling like I was going to pass out at any minute. But, you know what? I survived. I made it through an hour of intense physical activity, wasn’t leaving the gym on a stretcher, and in the days to follow, I noticed that it was easier for me to do everyday activities. I had a brand-new awareness of my core muscles, felt stronger than I ever had and noticed an increase in overall energy. Best of all, I noticed a decrease in the pain around my lower back! I signed up for another night of torment the following week. In the weeks and months that followed, I starting taking regular weekly indoor cycling and TRX classes. After only a couple months of keeping up with my new routine, I noticed a drastic reduction in overall pain, a brighter outlook on life and a new determination to be my best. I even left class one night and realized that I could actually put my full weight on my left leg. I had built up enough strength in those supporting muscles that I could actually hop on one foot. It was something that seemed little to most, but for me, it was an amazing victory.
My recovery definitely hasn’t been an easy road. The first few months were grueling, but with perseverance and an incredible support system, I came out strong and ready to rise to the next level. I was ready to do anything it took to become and stay physically fit. I started to make physical activity a part of my day to day life. In my day job as a nanny, I would walk up to 20 miles a day around downtown Buffalo pushing my charge around, making sure to engage my abs and not hunch over the stroller. Countless hours were spent reading up on the best exercises to stabilize my spine and strengthen my core. With this new knowledge, I practiced these exercises staring at myself in the mirror at home, attempting to perfect proper form. Most of free time was spent staying active with my husband on long bike rides and awesome hikes. Instead of watching my favorite TV shows all evening long, I would find a good book on my Kindle and practice holding planks while reading. Last, but certainly not least, my recovery would not have been possible without the hundreds of fitness classes I attended at Revolution Buffalo, taught by incredible instructors, who I now proudly call my friends.
Over time, I became so passionate about the importance of building up core strength as a tool in chronic pain recovery that I attended a TRX group certification class to become qualified to teach TRX myself. I wanted to share the strength and knowledge I had gained with everyone else looking for a little relief. Within a few months, I became a TRX instructor at the gym where my recovery first seemed possible. I quickly gained confidence I never had before in my life. It helped me to overcome feelings of social anxiety and recognize that I had the strength within myself to do anything if I put my mind to it. I absolutely love teaching group classes, but quickly realized that if I wanted to reach clients on a more individualized level, I would need to further my fitness education.
I spent a little over a year studying on and off to become a personal trainer. When I was finally ready to take the next step, I hunkered down and seriously started gaining the knowledge I needed to pass the certification. I read and reread my textbooks, along with any other fitness books I could get my hands on. My notes and flashcards traveled with me wherever I went and I spent my evenings taking practice quizzes to prepare myself for the exam. Along with knowledge I had gained from my experience as a fitness instructor, this preparation enabled me to pass with flying colors. As an AFAA certified personal trainer, I am now proudly training clients and guiding them on their own personal fitness journeys.
Over the past couple years, I have undergone an incredible transformation. I have become a stronger woman, both physically and mentally. Things that once seemed impossible, are now a regular part of my life. Never in a million years did I think that my idea of fun would be attending fitness classes with friends! I have tried dozens of crazy workouts all over Buffalo. I’ve bounced to the beat in Kangoo boots, climbed and spun around a pole in pole-dancing class, hung upside down from aerial silks and swung from plastic bananas in ninja class, just to name a few! I’ve also spent some time getting stretchy in some awesome yoga classes, learning to be more aware of my body and recognizing the importance of stretching in my daily practice. And guys, I can do handstands. They are by no-means-perfect, but I can freakin’ flip myself upside down and stand on my hands! This is absolutely mind-blowing to me after everything I’ve been through.
Although I’ve worked hard to be where I am today, I know that I wouldn’t here without the help, guidance and encouragement of some pretty amazing people. I am forever grateful for their love and support on my journey to a healthier life. Surrounding myself with these people who radiated positive energy, women who inspired me, and those who believed in me was absolutely essential in my recovery. To them, I say thank you for giving me the tools I needed to change my life. I want you to know that you have all made an incredible difference in my life and I love you more than I can ever show.
Looking back on my journey, I am so incredibly proud that I have gained the strength, both mentally and physically to overcome the pain that limited me for far too long. I won’t lie and say I’m 100% cured. There are still days when I need to take it easy and the weather fluctuations still wreak havoc on my back. There are certain exercises I won’t do, or ones I modify so that I can better support my spine to prevent further injury. I still have rough days, but they are few and far between and I have learned now that the pain is only temporary. In my book, this is a tremendous victory! I wanted to share my story for those of you who may feel hopeless. I’m here to tell you there is always hope. The road may not always be easy, but you have the power within yourself to overcome your challenges. Stay strong, surround yourself with positive people, believe in yourself and you will move mountains. Pura Vida!