Since I was young, I always knew that exercise and nutrition were important. My Dad taught group exercise as a side job and Mom always made sure we had a balanced diet. I was involved in every sport offered in school, an avid runner, and instead of playing with dolls in my room I would create workout programs from pictures in magazines. So you could say that fitness was ingrained in me from the beginning. It was my dream to be an Exercise Instructor and run my own studio one day, but as I got older I decided I wanted to be a Physical Therapist. Regardless, I knew I was meant to do something with health and fitness.
Going into college I was thankful for my habitual healthy lifestyle and continued to exercise and eat well. Soon, I realized the adult life made it more difficult to maintain this lifestyle but I did my best to be “healthy” and "fit” because I knew it was important. I continued down this fitness lifestyle by instructing group fitness and eventually graduated with my degree in Health Science and as a Physical Therapist Assistant!
Being a physical therapist assistant is a very rewarding job and I loved every minute educating and instructing patients on what exercises they could do to feel better and improve their “physical fitness.” I worked hard and gave 110% into my work as well as continuing my love for group fitness instructing. I had became the person I always hoped to be!
After being in the health fitness world for 6 years, I soon started to feel the physical toll of being both a physical therapist and exercise instructor. My health started to take a turn for the worse and I was constantly coming home drained and in pain no matter how much I tried to stay healthy and fit. Down deep I knew I was being a hypocrite because I knew from my education that I was way too stressed and my shoulder was injured. I needed to go to the doctor but I was planning to wait until a convenient time to pause my busy life and make sure I didn’t interrupt others rehabilitation.
Now, I have always believed that there is someone (if you prefer something) out there that is watching over us and guides us down the paths we are meant to walk. As it were, whether I wanted to or not, the decision to take a break was made for me. My back ended up going out one day after work and my busy life came to a sudden halt. I completely ruptured my low back spinal discs and lost function in my left leg. I couldn’t walk for a month and since I was already laid up, I had surgery on my shoulder.
I went through a year long process of rehabilitation. I was now the patient and had to do what I always instructed my patients to do, this was definitely easier said then done. During my year of recovering I learned how to not only physically heal but also how to take care of myself as a whole.
I did the usual exercises for my back working on core strength and stability and then of course followed the protocol for my shoulder surgery. I can tell you that I am definitely stronger now in ways that I never was because I started to focus more on strengthening my stabilizing muscles. I did this by performing Pilates and Core Align exercises, which I highly recommend for everyone of my clients! These exercises work our small muscles that work hard during daily activities to support our spine ,hips, and shoulder joints so that we can perform correct body mechanics without injury. When we go to the gym we work our big muscles such as our arms, Iegs, and six pack abs, right? Which is also important for overall strength, but what I realized is now that I have strengthened these stabilizing muscles, I can perform explosive and big exercises better! I also do not have pain during my daily work life like I use too.
Along with improving my physical fitness, I also learned the importance of rest and allowing myself to relax sometimes. I am not one to sit around so it took discipline to let myself heal. As I started to make myself rest, I realized how much stress I was putting on myself to constantly be going all the time. I have always been a “yes” person I had to learn that it was okay to say “no” sometimes and be okay with not always having something to do. I also realized that gentle movement and mobility work could be very relaxing so, I took up more of a meditative yoga practice and performed consistent stretching. I learned to be okay with walking instead of always going on jog. By doing these things I have found more time to spend with my husband and our dog and my overall stress level has improved. Stress is a real issue in our society today that tends to be overlooked but can affect the body at a molecular level which results in fatigue, delayed healing, and can also inhibit overall function of both the mind and body.
You cannot just focus only on the physical aspects of your body if you want to achieve your health goals. Your overall well-being is a state of mind, body and soul that should bring you full circle to happiness, peace, and health. Just as fitness should be a spectrum of strength, stability, and functional mobility. Together, fitness and well-being should work together as one to create a Healthy Lifestyle.
If I had only know what I know now, maybe I could have prevented my injury. However, I do believe I am now a better physical therapist assistant and exercise instructor because of what I went through and will not only educate my clients and patients on physical fitness but also on well- being. So I encourage you to find the balance of both in your life so that you can be your best self and reach your health goals too!
“You cannot help take care others, until you help take care of yourself.”
- Jessica Cabral