“Why are you working out? You’re already thin!” I frequently hear when people see me exercising at the gym.
“I want to get strong,” I reply. “I don’t want to be debilitated from back pain.”
A few years ago, I would never have imagined I would be able to deadlift. At age 29, I felt hopeless. Every time I tried to rise off the floor, I screamed from the pain. The previous day I had left work early to get a back adjustment, bent over from my scoliosis and lifting the children I had been nannying. It took an hour to drive home due to Friday afternoon traffic and once I had, I was unable to get out of my car. When I finally peeled myself from the driver’s seat, I collapsed hunched over the front of my car, unsure if I could make it to my house. Slowly, I shuffled my way to the front door and stumbled onto our stair landing. Not knowing how I was going to get up the 10 steps to our main floor, I started to cry. My housemate heard me and came to assist. She lead me to my room and helped lower me onto my bed where I stayed for the remainder of the night as she spoon-fed me dinner.
When I awoke the following morning, I felt stiff. For over a decade I had begun every morning with a simple routine of about 10 minutes of floor stretches. I knew I needed to stretch so squirmed my way from my bed onto my room’s rug. The 10 minutes of stretches took me a half hour and I wasn’t able to complete them all. Afterwards I tried to get up, but couldn’t. Writhing in pain and confined to the floor, I felt as helpless as deformed street beggars I had seen while living abroad in Asia and felt new empathy towards humanity I had passed. Finally, one of my housemates heard my cries and came to offer a chair. With her assistance and the chair, I was able to rise back to my bed. As the day progressed, I was gradually able to get up and walk about the house for a bit, although I nearly collapsed from spasms most times. Sitting was impossible.
Friday had marked my last day on the job as a temporary nanny, and I wouldn't be able to get another job working with small children because I couldn’t lift them. Unable to sit, I couldn’t get a desk job either. My student loans loomed over me, along with rent, utilities and other recurring bills. I had been active all my life but now it seemed I would have to let that go and begin the journey of aging into a deconditioned, fragile state. Calls to my chiropractor weren’t yielding any help either as he continued to assure me I was “fine”. I decided flushing cash down the toilet would be easier and just as helpful as driving to visit him and never returned.
A few months later my best friend injured herself doing CrossFit. Her trainer referred her to a chiropractor who specialized in sport’s injuries. She told him the first day, “I don’t want to go to a chiropractor for the rest of my life.”
“I don’t want you to either,” he said.
Within a month after working with him, she was not only feeling better but was also able to do the movement that had injured her without pain!
“Now that’s results!” I said. “Who is this guy?”
My friend gave me his contact information and I began visiting this new chiropractor who not only adjusted me but also taught me exercises that would increase my strength and improve my movements. Slowly I began to resume the active lifestyle I had enjoyed before my injury, relapsing only a few times each year, usually as the result of lifting items incorrectly or sitting for too long. By this point I had picked up a job that allowed me to use a stand-up desk, a practice I continue to today.
I got hired at Rainier Health & Fitness because of my background in communications and community development. However, working out with the trainers here has been life changing. For the first time in my life I am starting to see definition in my biceps. More importantly, however, I am able to do things with ease I wasn’t able to previously. As I’ve begun participating in Group Training several times a week, I am seeing my abilities gradually improve. Outside of work, I have been able to help people move and unload their luggage without injuring myself. Recently, I bought more packages of bottled water for the gym. As the clerk handed it to me she remarked that it was heavy.
“That’s why working out helps to be able to lift it,” I said, sharing with her a free pass to RHF.
When I returned, Marla asked if I wanted her to get it. A couple years ago, I would not even have offered to get the water because I knew I would injure myself trying to lift it. Now it isn’t a problem.
Today I turned 35 and although my body is bigger and heavier than I’ve ever been, I am also stronger than I ever was in my twenties. Working with the supportive trainers at RHF, my team, gives me hope that I can continue to develop strength and agility to be able to do functional movements without injury. Rather than feeling hopeless, I am embracing the years that are to come!