DEAR LITHE (LOVE LETTERS) 5 Apr 2016
This is my second love letter to you. I've wanted to write this for a while but finding the time – well you know what that is like.
I signed up for the Lithe Escape in Nicaragua last summer to focus on lithing, clean eating, and getting daily doses of vitamin D. It was an amazing experience. The setting was serene and my fellow Lithers were inspiring. And my results blew me away. So all in all one would say it was a successful Escape experience. What I did not expect was how the osteoarthritis in my knee would react to the level of activity. I found myself modifying every activity and not looking forward to the next Lithe session. I was in pain (yes, actual pain) but I found a way to fight through.
When we got back from Nicaragua, I thought it was the level of activity that led to the discomfort. Unfortunately that was not the case. I was uncomfortable, unable to sleep properly, and sore all the time. I needed to hold the railings going up and down stairs. I thought I could manage with pain medication and my brace, but that didn't ease my symptoms. Even doubling up my mats in the studio didn't help. I dreaded going to Lithe because I felt like I was at a status quo and that this where I had topped out in terms of my physical health. I was going to be like this for the rest of my life. (I paid a lot of money in late cancels last year.)
I finally made an appointment with my orthopedist. He told me I was looking at possible knee replacement surgery. What? No way! I wasn’t ready for that. I asked him what my other options were. He said I needed to wear sneakers during workouts, which I tried and hated. He decided my last and only option was to fit me for a brace and throw away my generic drugstore brand one.
I received my new knee brace at the end of January. I wore it hoping it would decrease my pain, but I was not so lucky. I still experienced pain and new pain that I definitely did not expect. I used this recovery time to concentrate on form, as I couldn't do reps at the pace that was typical of a class, and to get through the transitions.
I hadn't completed a challenge in two years. Now I am happy to say that I completed the Earned in Winter challenge earlier this month. I took eight classes in the last five days, even three doubles in a row. I feel stronger than I have in a long time. I am more confident and happy. I don’t always get through 30 reps, but I know that my form is in good shape. Now I can even get through 15-20 plyos before I have to modify. I am hoping that by the end of the summer challenges I will be able to complete 30 plyos.
I am grateful beyond words. Lithe is again my happy place.
As with any chronic pain, you adapt and it becomes your new normal. You're aware of your body position at all times. Don't stand for too long, don't sit for too long, always sleep with a pillow under or between your knees, and forget about sleeping on your stomach. Ice sometimes, heat other times, and lots and lots of Motrin. The bathroom sink becomes a dangerous place. You're always sure to rest your elbow on it as you brush your teeth and if you must wash your face at the sink it has to be one-handed as the other needs to lean on the sink. The one thing that never eased was my inability to have all of my weight on one foot. I was in my late 20s and had to lie on my bed to get dressed every day.
My condition exacerbated whenever Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around. I would stand for too long while baking and end up on bedrest for a few days. This post-holiday slump was particularly bad in 2010. My doctor sent me for an MRI and it revealed three bulging discs and degenerative changes to my spine. It was clear that this injury was not new and the changes had most likely taken place over many years. My neurosurgeon friend reviewed the results and told me it was time to make changes as I couldn't keep living this way as I would end up in a wheelchair. We talked about surgery which I vehemently opposed and thankfully he advised against. The only other option was finding a serious core strengthening program. He explained that if I tightened the muscles around my spine, I would have a chance of relieving the pressure on the discs. A fellow nurse was going to a new exercise studio called Lithe Method. She loved the program and encouraged me to try it. I wasn't into classes and preferred blending into the walls of the gym. Since my usual exercise methods weren't helping, I took her advice and went to an immersion class in April 2010. At first, I was in uncomfortable, but not in pain. Once you experience true pain you always know the difference. I took the classes at my own pace and focused on form. I was petrified of injuring myself and was often behind the rest of the class. I worked up to 4-5 classes a week and focused on the sculpting as it was physically impossible for me to do any jumping. I fell in love with the workout and stuck with it. Over time, I picked up my pace, but I always maintained form as most important. I watched myself gain strength from the inside out and began to understand my body. I can't pinpoint exactly when the chronic pain began to fade away.
After two years of Lithing, one of the instructors suggested that I audition. I was thrilled and proud of the recognition. That was when I reflected on how far I had come and how great I felt. I auditioned and made the Lithe team in March 2012. That same year, the girl who couldn't lift her feet years ago ran the Broad Street 10-miler. All of these accomplishments were new to me since I never considered myself athletic. My pain is mostly resolved with only occasional rainy day aches. Though my injury is still there, I've learned to manage it by maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Thank you for the opportunity to encourage others and show them it is possible to achieve relief. Most importantly, we all need to listen to our bodies and take the time to care for ourselves.
Dear Lauren and the Lithe ladies,
I wanted to write this letter for awhile, but I figure there's no better time than Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As some of you know, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in June 2014. I found out that I was positive for a gene mutation, giving me an 85 percent chance of developing it. Because it is genetic, lifestyle factors didn’t play much of a role in my diagnosis. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, five long months of chemotherapy, and another surgery which included my last reconstruction, or the placement of my permanent implants.
Prior to my diagnosis and surgery I was in the best shape of my life. I Litheing almost daily for about four years. My 6AM Lithe routine was an important part of my life – but I had no idea just how important.
From the day of diagnosis until my surgery I continued to Lithe. It was my escape. It was the one hour each day that I wasn't thinking about what I was going through. On July 31, 2014, I underwent a surgery that was almost 11 hours long. As soon as I woke up in the post-operative unit I sat up (yep, I popped straight up because I was terrified to roll to either side) and was walking to the bathroom and sitting in a chair less than 24 hours after surgery. My surgeon and nurses were beyond impressed. My recovery went smoothly once I was home and I know it's because of how strong I was prior to surgery. I am a physical therapist, someone trained in rehabilitating the body, but it is completely different when it is your own body.
About six weeks after my first surgery I was back at Lithe, modifying, but happy to be back. The instructors were so kind and understanding. I started to tell my fellow Lithers what was going on, where I had been, and what was to come. I had no idea that these women, who I had spent so many hours with before would become a great support system to me. They listened, asked how I was, and genuinely cared. Not long after returning I started chemotherapy. I tried to continue Litheing but the chemo got the best of me and kicked my Tight End. I worked throughout chemo and that took every last ounce of energy. In February 2015, I finished chemotherapy and had my final surgery in April. I returned to Lithe exactly six weeks after my second surgery, on the first day I was off my restrictions. I’ve worked hard since then. I’m still not at 100 percent, but I know I will get there. I learned how incredible my body is and what it's able to withstand. I cannot imagine how much harder the entire journey would have been if I wasn’t active and strong – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Lithe gave me so much of that strength. I consider myself lucky to Lithe every day.
Lauren, you have created an incredible workout, brought together an amazing group of women, and changed so many lives. I am grateful to be part of this community.
So, to this community I think so highly of, I would like to share one last part of my story. Just prior to my diagnosis, I found a lump in my breast. Because of my age, I never had a mammogram, nor did I know I had this gene mutation. I went to my physician and was immediately sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. As if all of this isn’t scary enough, my mammogram and ultrasound showed nothing. The cancerous tissue appeared similar to the rest of the tissue. In fact, we celebrated after the mammogram because I had been told there was “nothing suspicious.” It was recommended that I see a breast surgeon, but I wasn't told it was necessary. However, deep down I knew something was wrong. I ended up having a biopsy and that’s how I got the news, but could you imagine if I had stopped with the mammogram? I encourage you to never stop when it comes to your health. Women have incredible instincts. Trust yourself and be proactive, no matter how scary something may be. I didn’t waste a minute getting answers and for that I am grateful.
It’s been two years since we separated and I still often think about how you made me feel and how I felt when I had you in my life. You’ve given me confidence and physical and emotional strength. I see that you’re spreading your wings and I can’t help but be happy knowing that more people can share in my love for you. Please keep doing what you’re doing. And if you ever feel like coming to where I am, I would love that.
I promise to visit when I’m in town.
I’ve been meaning to write this love letter ever since I left Philly but it was a little painful. I realize how ridiculous that sounds. I guess I felt that if I wrote this love letter, then the good-bye would be official. And I just wasn’t (and still am not!) ready to say good-bye. I know a lot of people write in to tell you how Lithe has changed their lives and how much healthier they are. I am writing to express the same and more.
Lithe has changed a part of me that I wasn’t expecting. It changed me mentally. It was the first time that I witnessed myself doing the impossible. (Tight-end? That’s like at least 100 reps on one leg alone, right?? ) The physical and mental training that we had in Lithe has carried over to other parts in my life. So often in class, I would see an instructor demo a move that I was sure was physically impossible. Though I never got through those reps un-interrupted, I attempted it. That’s more than I would’ve done, pre-lithe. That’s the mental toughness Lithe gave me. I don’t know that I would’ve gotten this on my own. For that, I am forever grateful.
Physically- well, you already know. I now scoff at other workouts (cocky, I know). I push myself more. I test my limitations. I don’t quit. I’ve found the coveted muscle-shake. I walk into other workout classes with an inflated sense of confidence knowing that I have the best form and breathing technique. All this, I’ve learned from Lithe and the instructors.
I’m learning how to get to the next physical level because I’ve had the physical training from Lithe to push me there, no matter what I’m doing.
I know you hear it all the time, but, we love Lithe. We know you pour your heart into it. We feel it with every 2.0 class, with every new Lithe drink, and seasonal Lithe challenge.
If you ever need a moment of clarity, just remember that you’re changing lives in so many ways other than in the physical sense. You’ve transcended a mere “workout” into something that permeates into all other aspects of our lives. THIS is why we can’t live without it.
I am very much in the zone with the EarnedInWinter challenge. I participated in the Lithe Spring Clean and TMINUS30 last year. Something about the daily hashtag calendar really showed how we band together to support each other in Lithe and life.
I’m not sure if my current state is completely inspired by Lithe, but I can’t think of anything else in my life that has had such an impact. I make Lithe a priority during packed workdays and weekends. I am single and always searching for the right guy. Last year, I posted during the TMINUS30 challenge, “single, is not a status, it’s a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without depending on others.” At that point, I was building the strength to allow my health, mind, and body to be the focus and to take the attention away from the seemingly woeful single life.
Now I'm shedding the fat. At first, it had nothing to do with body fat at all. There are a few men in my life that come and go. They reach out whenever they want. I acquiesce, thinking that’s all I deserve. A transient, temporary situation, at best. Friends say that you manifest what you portray you deserve. In some ways I take full responsibility for the type of situation I attract. I was almost eager for that random text/email to make plans with a guy. I found myself saying, “maybe this time he’ll be different.” We all know the answer to that hope.
Since I’ve delved into the challenges, I feel myself becoming stronger and wiser. As I gain more muscle definition, use higher weights, and watch inches fall away, I am redefining myself on the inside as well. I’ve sent a few courtesy no thank you texts to those who reach out to me intermittently to hang out without any intention of a serious relationship. I am reshaping and restructuring my heart, as well as my body.
I know Lithe hearts my heart, but now I'm beginning to heart my heart as well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you,
Hey Lithe. How’s it goin’?
So here’s the thing - I had a baby and stuff got weird. I mean, it’s not as if I wasn't warned that it was going to happen. Throughout my pregnancy everyone with a face insisted on telling me about the delightful physical changes that occur both during and after pregnancy. I smiled my way through a number of traumatic conversations around birthing hips and foot swelling. But, turns out the alarmists were right on this one. I emerged from my pregnancy about 9 months ago with a wonderful baby girl named Perry and a whole mess-o baby weight.
In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I wasn't exactly rockin’ a Victoria’s Secret Angel body pre-baby, but I've always been active. When I found out I was pregnant (read: surprise!) I had been Lithing for a few months, maybe 2 or so days a week. I supplemented with fairly long runs and some spinning. Exercise has always been a big part of my life and I think, key to my sanity. Although I'm slightly embarrassed to do so I have to admit that I obsessed throughout my pregnancy about when I could get active again. I was basically chomping at the bit to no longer be a swollen, hormonal maniac.
The doctors cleared me for physical activity 6 week after my c-section and I was ready to roll. I busted out that jogging stroller and made it happen, only to find that the strain of running caused me incredible pain in my lower back and hips. Not one to give up easily, I kept running only to find things escalating to the point where I was unable to pick up the baby. Panicked about how I’d get back in action, the friend that I had Lithed with pre-baby (shout out to Lindsay) suggested that I start up again, so I hit the studio. I started with Step Rally, which had been one of my pre-baby favorites. Needless to say, it was hardly a magical experience. I left class crying and drenched with sweat, shocked by how far my strength and stamina had fallen. But the thing is, I kept coming back.
It’s hard for me to even say that I enjoyed Lithe before the baby. I spent so much of my time hiding in the back, stressed about what the fitness mavens in the class might think of me. I also felt certain that I could only do the sculpting classes because my tall and moderately awkward (on the best day) body doesn't lend itself well to CCS.
But after a few post-baby classes, I found myself letting all that go. It wasn't about just surviving through classes, it was about thriving. I forgot about everyone around me and instead looked inside…literally. I started thinking about my breathing and my core. I focused on the instructors’ cues instead of praying that they’d ignore me entirely. I even started doing the unthinkable…I asked for their input on my form.
What I’ve found is that my time in the studio is now entirely stress-free. I’m able to focus on improving each time and not worry about how ridiculous I look during that RockSteady CCS sequence (I know the answer – fairly goofy). It's funny to notice that around the time that I stopped caring if I looked like JLo is when I started to see some great results.
So now, you name the class, I take it. Pom? I’m there! Sideline? You betcha. All That? With bells on! I can’t say it’s entirely about confidence, but something has changed for me. It’s easier for me to feel accepted because I see that we’re all in the studio with different motivations, but we’re all in it together. We’re trying to improve for a countless reasons, each one as valid as the next. It’s about accepting who you are and having a little fun with it. If you don’t know the steps just be sure to keep moving…and you might surprise yourself. Letting go is fun. Not to mention very good for your hip pops.
This is my Lithe love letter to you and your amazing team. For years I struggled with a very serious eating disorder. When something life altering or traumatizing happens, the human body finds a way to cope with the pain. When I was 18 my life got turned upside down. Instead of dealing with my trauma, I decided to internalize my pain, creating a demon within. My eating disorder stripped everything from me, leaving nothing but emptiness. I didn't have the capability to smile, feel happiness or love; I just felt a numb. The only thing I cared about was my image. I starved myself, over-exercised, purged, and did everything in my power to become "perfect." This internal battle went on for years, causing my weight and health to plummet. I was dying inside and out.
The morning of my 22nd birthday, I woke up truly furious that I was still alive. All I wanted was to be dead so that this demon would finally leave me. I tried to push it away, make it leave my body, but all of my attempts failed. It was at that moment I knew I had too much to live for. I was young, smart, and athletic with the world at my fingertips. My family is the greatest thing in my life. If I couldn't get better for myself, then I would get better for them. I knew my disorder was tearing them apart each and every day. I got up, got dressed, and marched down to the University of Alabama's student services center to withdraw myself from school (I was halfway through the first semester of my senior year). I bookeda flight home to Delaware that day, only leaving another time to say goodbye to my loved ones.
The morning after returning home, I researched the best rehab facilities in the U.S. Remuda Ranch came up in my search. A very amazing treatment facility in Arizona would be my new home for the next few months. Within two days I had arrived leaving the real world behind. I was in treatment for four months total. No phone, computer, TV, mirrors, etc. This was a legitimate rehab that took all triggers away and that was my saving grace. I put my life into my team's hands. Strict meal plans were enforced and there was intense therapy for hours a day. By the time my four months was over, I was up 15 pounds and had a clear head. I was happy for the first time in years.
I returned home the day before Thanksgiving (crazy holiday to return to, I know). I went to my aunt's holiday party begrudgingly. That night I met the love of my life and have been happily with him ever since. Funny how that worked! Anyways, we now live together in Old City and have the most amazing life together. I am almost done with my marketing degree and will soon be the college graduate I planned to be.
Lithe Method was one of the most pivotal things in my recovery. It truly changed my idea of what a woman's body should be. Instead of idealizing skinny, frail models, I now look at you and all the other instructors as what we should be. All unique, strong, and motivated. No matter how hard we try to fix our imperfections, they are a part of us. I see you and the other women who could kick some serious ass and to me that is awesome. Those weak models would snap after one seesaw.
Lauren, you truly are one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Not just esthetically, but internally as well. You realize that being perfect is impossible and it isn't something we should strive for. Finding Lithe fresh out of treatment was the best thing that happened to me. Being a Lither made my recovery successful beyond my wildest dreams. Your whole outlook on exercise changed mine and I now respect my body and all the amazing things it does for me. I used to not have a single muscle on my body. Now I am fit, happy, healthy, and most importantly strong. You have no idea what Lithe means to me, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Lithe has changed my life and helps me to smile every single day. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
All my love,
Dear Lithe Community,
As some of you have realized, I have had to take a personal leave from Lithe and haven't been in the studio recently. I wanted to share what's been going on with me and also hope that it might inspire you to start your New Year with a fresh perspective like it has done for me.
Earlier this fall, I started to have trouble with my vision. It started gradually, but by November it was quickly deteriorating to the point where I could no longer read, drive, differentiate colors, or see my husband's and daughter's faces clearly. I went to an ophthalmologist about six weeks ago and was sent for an emergency MRI. They found a tumor on my brain that was pressing on my optic nerve, causing the changes in my vision. Making things a bit more complicated, I am also 14 weeks pregnant. The hormones from my pregnancy were stimulating the tumor, which the doctors believe led to my sudden loss in vision. The tumor was thankfully benign, but it was large and growing more quickly because of my pregnancy, so the doctors wanted to move fast.
About three weeks ago, I underwent a craniotomy to have the tumor removed. It was a long procedure that lasted over 10 hours, but fortunately my neurosurgeon was very happy with the removal and everything went well. And, even though I have not had any official testing yet, my vision appears to have fully returned or, at the very least significantly improved, and I can see more clearly than I have seen for a long time. The doctors believed that I was at a serious risk of being permanently blind and had told me that it would be "something of a miracle" to wake up from surgery with my vision fully recovered, so I feel extremely fortunate. I have also had three ultrasounds since my surgery, and my baby is doing well and growing right on track. For these things, in particular, I will forever be grateful.
Over the past few weeks, I have been feeling better and my recovery has gone about as well as it could be. Less than 48 hours after my surgery, I was able to move around, take short walks, and even managed to make it up and down a flight of stairs on my own. My doctors and physical therapists at the hospital were impressed with my strength and stamina after such a major surgery and had told me that it would be a game-changer in my recovery. I am thankful that I am in good shape, and know that it has made such a difference in helping me to overcome so many of the challenges my body has faced since my surgery. In the past, I've worked out with intentions of "fitting into that smaller dress from a few years ago" or "getting bikini-ready for summer", but this experience has helped me to realize how important it is to be active and fit, for no other reason, than to simply be healthy.
When the doctors found my tumor, I was told that I could no longer exercise because they didn't want me straining in any way. While I knew that I would miss it, I was not prepared for the void I would feel by not being active. I miss moving my body, taking walks with and carrying my daughter, and, of course, lithing, more than I could have imagined. For me, it has truly been the hardest part of my recovery; trying to just relax and forcing myself to do less and rest more. Once I return to a more active lifestyle again, I know that I will not take it for granted, and that I have found a much greater appreciation for it.
As anyone can imagine, receiving the news of my initial diagnosis was a life-changing shock for my family and me. And while I definitely can't say that I'm thankful for it, I am grateful for the new perspective it has given me. In the beginning, I kept thinking this can't be for real...this can't be happening. I'm not sure if it's even fully sunk in at this point. It definitely was a jolt that shook me to my very core. How quickly life can change in a matter of seconds. For me personally, it has always been easy to over-think minor details, to let my to-do lists run too long, and to get caught up in "keeping up," to the point where these things take over and cause me a great deal of stress and worry. But in the face of a situation like the one I've just been through, I realize that so much of this doesn't matter and that life is just too short. Now I can appreciate that, at the end of the day, there are very few things that truly matter aside from health, family, and friends. My New Year's resolution is to keep this new perspective in mind each and every day, and to be there for others during their time of need, just as I’ve been lucky enough to have so many people here for me.
I am looking forward to regaining my strength and getting back into the studios and seeing all of you over the next month or two. Wishing you all a very healthy and Happy New Year!
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