1.11.2008

Florida Stories: Here's to Jeff and Stephanie

I'm excited to tell you about my trainers (that's right, plural). But first, there's a little back story you need to have: Kim and I moved to Clearwater in May 2005. We had purchased two houses in April. Both houses needed work; the one we were going to use as income property wasn't too bad and the one we intended to live in was majorly awful. I can't even begin to describe how awful it was. Think Florida, and then 100x that. Anyway, it didn't take very long to get the rental ready and then our complete attention was on our house. It was difficult living in it, but we had no choice. So for two solid years, my only job was the renovation of this house. I did all the demolition and 99% of the finish work. I don't do electrical, plumbing, major construction. The house was finished and we put it on the market last July. And I was in very, very, very bad shape. I had not taken care of myself at all. I had worked my body hard and had done virtually nothing to repair all the damage I was doing: long hours, heavy lifting, repetitive movements, etc. At the end of those two years, my right shoulder, elbow, wrist, my back, my hips, my knees, you name it, it hurt. With the house done, I decided to spend my new free time doing things that would be good for me. My first decision was to get acupuncture for the pain, which was a good thing to do. It really helped. The next thing I did was hire a personal trainer. That was the weirdest thing -- the equivalent of deciding to live on Mars. I mean, who hires a personal trainer? Brad Pitt maybe, but ordinary, regular folks? I don't think so. But I did. I did a little bit of research, looked at what kinds of things to be careful about and then, the next I knew, I was going to this gym twice a week. It's not a gym like Gold's is a gym, where you can get a membership and do whatever you want. This place, AMA Fitness (not connected with the American Medical Association, thank god), is like a private club. You go there only to work with a trainer. I knew that I was never going to exercise at home, by myself -- simply not going to happen. So, I work with Jeff. He's a very, very good trainer. That statement is based solely on the changes in my body and attitude over the last 5 months. Jeff is a cyclist and a sports fan -- he knows all about football teams and players. He goes on really long bike rides almost every weekend and his legs are definitely a bicyclist's legs. I like working with him because he gives clear instructions, he's patient, has a wry sense of humor, and is sooo encouraging. He only lets me cheat the tiniest bit, like on walking lunges, but mostly he makes me go further than I think I can. And I feel so good when I do.

My other trainer is Stephanie. She owns Poise Pilates and also works with clients at AMA, which is a good thing for me, otherwise I probably never would have found her. And the difference she has made in my posture, balance, alignment and breathing are priceless. This is one amazing woman. When she set out to learn about Pilates, she didn't just learn Joseph Pilates' method and his exercises. She read medical books so she'd know which muscles were doing what -- not something taught to Pilates instructors. She also prepares future instructors for their certification, and they pass. Like Jeff, she practices what she preaches. A big part of Pilates is breathing and learning to expand the ribcage. Today Stephanie demonstrated for me what breathing is really about. She put my hands on her ribs and stomach so I could feel what happens when a person takes a really deep breath. She inhaled for 35 seconds. You try it -- see how long you breathe in before you run out of room. Stephanie can show me the exact exercise to do for practically any muscle/joint discomfort I'm having. I whine about something and boom! she's got instructions for where my arm should be and how long my neck needs to be and which part of my foot to put my weight on. Amazing. I love how I feel afterwards. I love how my life has changed because I'm so much stronger and taller and more able to see my future.

Thank you Jeff. Thank you Stephanie. I'm more grateful than I can say.