Blog # 3 - Walking on water and other miracles

Hey blogger land!!

I've been waiting a long time for just the right inspiration to bring to you- and today, on the basement steps of my new client's house, I witnessed a miracle!

It was just a normal Friday session where we had planned to go over all of my clients's new exercises. (Let's call her Dawn* to respect her privacy). Dawn came to me after attending a few of my aquafit classes and told me "I love your classes! You really seem to know what your doing. What's your background?"

 After a brief chat about my education, training, and rehab-prehab specialization, she exclaimed: "I want to hire you!"

You see, Dawn, like most people who come to aquafit at 9 am on a weekday in Halifax, is a retired A-type personality, who loves to move, wants to stay fit and functional, but is limited by arthritis and pain. When she told me about the knee replacement surgery she needs to prevent bone-on-bone degeneration, and further disability, she expressed equal amounts of frustration and determination. On one hand, her surgeon said she needed to lose 50 lbs before he would operate on her (which, in my opinion, is a tad ridiculous, since BMI is what he's using to make that suggestion and this woman would be unhealthy if she got to that weight), but on the other hand she is determined to heed his recommendations, get healthy, strong, and lose weight. 

So she hired me to put together a water based pre-habilitation program (strength and endurance + range of motion) and a land-based total body exercise program. After just two weeks of practicing the water program and 1 week of practicing lower body and core exercises on land, today we went over the new upper body routine, followed by an optimization check of the exercises she already practiced. The optimization check is where I review client movement patterns and get verbal feedback about the difficulty of each prescribed exercise as we practice them together. As I watched Dawn struggle with a Pilates type exercise, I asked her to describe what made it so difficult. I quickly realized that there may be a physical/ mechanical limitation preventing ease of movement, and I asked Dawn if i could try something. I palpated her IT band and gluteus, only to find ligamentous tension so great that it felt like the high 'E' string on an acoustic guitar! My hands magically went to work, and with Dawn's courage and trust in me, we began slowly peeling back layers and layers of tension, frustration, and pain.  When we were done both legs, I had her try the challenging exercise again, which she did with incredible ease and fluidity. She smiled at the difference. "Wow!" She said, "thats pretty impressive." 

"It feels great doesn't it!" I said, empathizing with her newfound ease of movement that I too have enjoyed. 

But I wasn't prepared for what happened next.  As we made our way up off of the floor, which was typically a slow and monumental task due to her limited knee range of motion and chronic pain, Dawn grew quiet. I slowly gathered my things to leave, and she stopped me and said "Wait a second. I feel different. I want to try something. I want to try the stairs." So instead of going up the stairs to leave, I stepped aside, and watched Dawn cautiously make her way to the bottom of the stair case. 

With equal parts fear and a newfound energy about her, she grabbed the railing and stepped up with her good leg. Then, she paused slightly, and said "I think I can bend my bad leg, let me try." So I walked over to lend her my hand, and just as I was about to make contact with her, she lifted her bad leg up to the next step! No stopping in between! She just floated up, step after step, gaining momentum and releasing giggles with each stair. Then she got to the top, and said "I wonder if I can go down normally too?" Again, I put my hand in front of hers in case she needed it, and she slowly started her descent. Good leg, down. Pause. Balance. Bad leg bends slowly, normal weight shift, and the leg goes down! After that, there was no stopping her! She began barreling down and up, and down and up, and up and down the stairs at speeds I had never seen her go. At times she barely held the railing! "I can't believe it!" She said with tears welling up in her eyes. She did it again and again. Up. Down. Up. Down. "I can't believe it Candice! This is amazing!" Goosebumps came over my whole body! Then a wave of hot and cold!

Her emotions burst into tears of joy, and she threw her arms around me, shaking from the experience and the sobs. I hugged her back; so excited, so shocked, and so amazed at the radiant energy that was pouring out of her body. I could feel my eyes watering and my nose starting to get stuffy.  What a miracle to witness! 

Her husband heard all the commotion and came running to see. "Ron! (name changed) Ron! She exclaimed, look at what I can do!" She ran up and down the stairs again and again. He stood at the top in disbelief. Then he joked, winked at Dawn and said "this is great hon, I've got a bunch of stuff to go downstairs and now you can carry it for me!" We all laughed, and I left them to celebrate, knowing this was the first big step on Dawn's road to healing. 

Another miracle, another connection, and one more reason to always start from wherever you are.

Come as you are: Broken @ss and all!

Hey Blogger land!

Happy Almost spring!

I hope you all are kicking ass- and not breaking yours! Lol I actually broke my tailbone a few weeks ago, but just got diagnosed a few days ago. Let me tell you, if a broken @$$ isn't a test of walking my talk, I don't know what is!!

After many, many years of mornings getting up and hitting the gym, the pavement, or my yoga mat, I have had to take a break. I've had to meet myself where I am! Boy, has my ego been LOUD! "You're being lazy!" she yells. "You're going to get fat and lose fitness!" she worries. "Push through it and suck it up!" she tries to encourage. Because exercise is such a habit for me, scaling back has been HARD!  I would also venture to say that I use exercise as a drug to reduce anxiety and improve my focus- so as I've moved less- and some days not at all- I've felt anxiety creeping in, doubt not far behind, and a killer lack of focus and procrastination. (The kind where you start doing 5 things and finish maybe one or two by the end of the day, but you surfed the internet for hours, cleaned and cooked and organized things that weren't a priority... you know those classic things you suddenly MUST do before you study for a test? Lol) 

But- I have found a glimmer of hope!

Somehow, magically, I have been able to really ease myself into my training routine this year! It started by making a pact to be accountable to a good friend of mine. We both wanted to work on fitness goals this year and so we've been in regular contact about our successes and failures, struggles and reality checks. Her reality check was a touch of burn-out from a crazy work and workout schedule, followed by a nasty cold/flu. She gave herself permission to take days off. And most importantly, she shared this struggle  with me. Mine was a significant drop in fitness and activity since my recent move half way across the country. And now a broken coccyx. I had to slow down. I had to take days off. I had to listen to body in a more loving and compassionate way that I ever have before. Some days that meant going for a gentle walk and turning around the minute I felt pain and weakness in my back, legs, and hips as I was mid climb in my favourite local woodsy trail. More recently, it has meant doing whatever I can do that doesn't aggravate my injury, and as far as my weight training goes, that meant sitting or laying down to do some simple upper body exercises. It also meant I used at least 25-50% less weight than I did a few months ago. And the craziest most transformative part was this: I shared this struggle! With my friend, my journal, my partner, and now you! This sharing has somehow magically helped me be more cognizant of my efforts, and I have - for the first time- been able to be more consistent in my training because I did not push myself too hard the day before! When I was in my prime, maybe 6 months ago, I could kill it with heavy weights and a jog, and then do something equally intense the next day, as long as I used different major muscle groups and focused on cardio and stretching or yoga for example. But my body is out of shape right now. It's also injured. It's stressed from being in a new environment. It's stressed from lack of intense physical outlets for all of my frustrations and fears. It's stressed because when I can't use my body like normal, not only do I get grumpy, but I don't make as much money because I'm self employed. So now, I've actually taken my own advice. I'm starting where I am and reassessing where that is every day, and every hour. And guess what??  I'm feeling stronger every day! If I had to guess, I'd say I have taken more naps, down-time, and Epsom salt baths in the last two months than I have in my last 5 years combined! And it's been so amazing to see my body respond! It's gradual, but steady. I'm getting my energy back, and my motivation! I forced myself to buy an bathing suit that fits and get back in the pool for the first time since last summer!!! (Which felt great by the way;) 

I've had some amazing moments of self-realization and self-reflection, and have built a bigger, more comprehensive understanding of what it really means to give compassion to myself.  And what a beautiful thing! *Tears*

Side bar: Did I mention I got a concussion from the fall that broke my @$$? Cuz it has made me an emotional roller coaster too! Watch out for those symptoms if you fall folks!) 

Anywho....  This new form of compassion has been so tangible, maybe because it's been so slow, I'm not sure, but I have literally felt the healing process as it mends my broken spirit and body.  

And though I'm still on the mend, I was able to give these gifts of compassion and healing to some very special people. Yesterday I shared some of these struggles with a yoga class I was teaching. They shared their stories at the beginning of class, so I shared too, because I could recognize the physical and spiritual struggling. I shared to give them hope and perspective. I shared to honour their current reality. (They are all cancer patients undergoing treatment.) They know what it feels like to experience a sudden and drastic decrease in their health. They know the reality of significant changes in their mind and body. But as these brave souls continued to share their struggles -while attempting to relax in deeply restorative yin poses- I reminded them all to breathe. And with that, we all agreed: Hey! We're alive! We can breathe! And we are gonna love every last part of ourselves right NOW!- just as we are!!

"Come as you are" A blog about healing, hope, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Helloooooo blogger land!

Today’s the day! I’m uploading my first video to a new youtube channel, and I’m nervous and excited all at once! Though I’ve always wanted to make a video series that addresses how to stay active despite injuries, it wasn’t until recently that my clients and friends encouraged (and prodded) me to just get it done! I have been a varsity athlete and active person from a very young age. In fact, it was my mom getting me a personal trainer at the YMCA which steered me in the direction of a Kinesiology degree, and her love of sports and dance that inspired me. But one thing I have not been able to escape is my humanness. Debilitating injuries, depression, anxiety, loss, and hardship. But through it all, I have known in my heart of hearts that I can keep moving, and keep taking steps towards my optimal health – no matter what life throws at me.  It wasn’t until my first year of graduate school that I had my first debilitating injury and went through physical rehabilitation that I truly understood what it was like to have your life taken away from you. Life as I knew it was teaching kickboxing and aquafit classes, doing yoga and lifting weights, swimming and skiing, skating down the Rideau Canal in the winter, riding my bike and jogging everywhere, working as a personal trainer at Goodlife, and enjoying my active life.  I was in the stage of sorting through the data which was collected for my thesis research, and wham. One small injury after another, after another, and I was on the floor of my apartment, writhing in pain, struggling to breath, struggling to move into any position that didn’t make pain shoot down my back and leg.  I blew a disc that morning. Doing rehab exercises for my sprained ankle of all things.  Luckily I had my crutches handy, and hobbled down the street to our campus physiotherapist, Isabelle. This lady is awesome and had helped me with knee and shoulder injuries from my rugby career, so I knew she’d know what to do. She did a few tests and confirmed what we both thought it was. Compression of my S1 nerve root due to a herniated disc that was under so much pressure, it exploded.  I thought this was crazy. How could this happen to me? I had been taught how to exercise with perfect form and always used safe practices. I was active and happy. Now I had lost feeling in my right leg, hip, and pelvis. I couldn’t even tell if I was done peeing when I went to the bathroom. It was pretty bad. And pretty scary too. I had to temporarily stop working, and eventually gained weight and got depressed because I was very limited in my pain-free movements.  My boyfriend at the time couldn’t handle this big change I was going through, and became distant. We broke up. Then I couldn’t get to the lab at school very easily (or anywhere for that matter), and I told my professor I didn’t think I could finish my thesis.  Part of that was my ex’s impatience with my progress at school, telling me he didn’t think I wanted to finish my work, but what I came to realize was that I couldn’t finish it then.  Thank god for my wise professor who said “Candice, if I didn’t think you could do this I wouldn’t have agreed to take you on as a graduate student.” That made me cry right there in his office. I told him about my injury and bf troubles and he and I agreed that I would just take a month or two off to heal my body, and my heart.  So that’s what I did.  I worked a little bit on things when I could pull myself out of my depression enough to look at my data and emails, but mostly I just cried.  And I prayed. A LOT!  Once the initial swelling went down thanks to time, physio, and my doctor finding an anti-inflammatory medication that I wasn’t allergic to, I began to ask Isabelle, what CAN I do? Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do. As a lifeguard for over 10 years at the time, I realized – hey, I can swim! I could use a pull-buy between my legs and use my arms for exercise! So that’s how I began my recovery.  I was told I’d have to do therapeutic exercises almost every day for the rest of my life in order to get feeling and use back in my lower right side of my body.  So more or less, that’s what I’ve done.  I’m still healing.  This injury happened in 2009! I still can’t feel parts of my body, or flex muscles that I once commanded with confidence and joy. But I have used this pain and healing to help others, and there is a message, a lesson I learned that I can’t contain any longer.  You can start your healing journey WHEREVER you are RIGHT NOW! I put a hashtag #comeasyouare in my tags for the video I just uploaded because I needed to put myself out there – today! Not when I lose 20 lbs, or get my teeth fixed, or buy more flattering clothes, or have the perfect space to record video content, or buy special filming equipment – but NOW!  I know what I look like. And I know what people in exercise videos look like.  And that has been the biggest thing stopping me from sharing my knowledge and healing tools with a large audience on the world wide web.  And then recently, a wonderful friend and client said to me “Candice, you do such a great job of meeting others where they are! I like that you don’t look like a supermodel or fitness model. It’s less intimidating, and more encouraging because you’re fit and healthy. I feel like I can be healthy too! It’s more realistic for me to open up to you about my health goals and struggles because I know you’ve been there, and you’re not judging me.”  So I got up, didn’t worry about makeup or hair, and sat down to bring you all some love and relaxation! Feel free to do the same! Just come as you are J

Until next time!

Yours in health,
(cuz “keep fit and have fun” was taken ;)

Candice, M.Sc. Kin, CSEP CEP, RYT

" I write to discover what I know" Flannery O'Connor.