Joani found her groove...

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Joani has overcome a few injuries that have sidelined her over the past few years. Read her story about her fight to remain both physically and mentally strong throughout recovery and her journey to be a badass not only in her workouts but in her personal life too! She has found her groove again winning the Studio ME bi-annual Rowing Challenge. Joani rowed over 125K meters during the month of September. Way to go girl!!!

“Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt

A friend shared this quote with me in 2011.  It resonated because I had just left a large firm and started my own law firm with a friend.  That choice and this quote inspired me to try lots of new things, including singing and acting in a musical.  That is where I met Siri, who was the pianist.

Eleanor also prompted me to walk 60 miles in the 3-Day walk for breast cancer in 2012.  (I liked it so much I did it three more times).  I had been a competitive sprinter/hurdler throughout high school and college, but family and career had derailed regular exercise.  Training for the 3-Day was what I needed to find my way back to being physically fit.  And it was great…I was walking 60 miles each week and was mentally fit, physically stronger and I lost the extra weight I had picked up after 2 kids and years of no regular fitness routine.  This eventually propelled me into running and, to my shock, my long-lived hate of distance running was replaced by avid appreciation for the stress relief and cardio.  I ran two half marathons in 2014 and one in 2015.  It was around this time that Siri invited me to support her new adventure at Studio ME.  I tried it in early 2015 and loved her Saturday morning classes.  I also wanted to support Siri, so I invited many friends to try it as well.

Aside from dabbling at Studio ME, I was intensely focused on running and set a goal to run 1,500 miles in 2015.  I was on track for that through September when I hit the first major setback in my middle-aged fitness journey: a stress fracture (and likely cartilage tear) in my left hip.  I was devastated to go from running 30 miles every week to being non-weight bearing, in significant pain and on crutches for 7 weeks.  This was a shock to my body and my mind.  Almost instantly, I put on weight (thanks to replacing a daily run with nightly glasses of wine to manage stress).  I sludged through mild depression.  I skipped physical therapy because I expected my body to heal and become healthy again the way it always has, but it didn’t.  While I could have been doing other kinds of exercise, what I really wanted was to run.  After a year, I found the courage (thanks again, Eleanor) to figure it out how to be well again. 

Beginning in October 2016, I started working hard in physical therapy to strengthen and support all the muscle groups around my hip in an effort to return to running.  In the meantime, I returned to Studio ME in December 2016 where Megan and Siri helped me figure out how to restore my body and mind.  Unfortunately, my (dramatic) second setback happened in Megan’s kettlebell circuit class on January 31, 2017.  While hopping off a bosu, my left achilles completely ruptured.  (Lisa Spencer heard it pop—it was gross).  To Megan's credit, she administered first aid without missing a beat with the other student's intervals.  I had surgery two days later followed by six weeks in a cast, four weeks in a boot and an anticipated 6-12 months to full recovery.

Having learned my lesson from my first injury, I was determined not to return to inactivity and depression.  I did not add to my weight gain while on crutches.  Even though I took a break from Studio ME, I continued to exercise my upper body.  When it was time, I diligently went to PT, although the first sight of my completely-atrophied left calf was truly upsetting.  Still, I worked to re-teach my brain to be connected to my foot.  At first, I struggled to grasp marbles with my toes and I had no strength to lift my heal off the ground when I walked.  Just flexing my foot up and down took concentration and effort. With no achilles or calf strength, I couldn’t have jogged two steps to avoid being hit by a car.

I gingerly returned to rowing on May 11, 2017, being cautious and careful to protect my weak calf and surgically-connected achilles.  I sat out sprints, but Megan and Siri and my fellow early-morning classmates were supportive.  It felt great to move again.  Bit by bit, my strength improved and I’ve been able to enjoy other classes at Studio ME as well, always with kind, compassionate and encouraging instructors who work around some of the dynamic movements that I am not yet able to do.  With their help, I keep surprising myself by rowing faster and longer.  Adding strength components to my workouts has helped too.  Tiffany’s Sunday evening classes are transformational.

I am not fully healed yet.  I still struggle to rise onto my toes unassisted on my weak leg and my left-side weakness is evident when I walk on tip toes.  Then again, just being able to walk on tip toes is huge progress.  After two years of struggle, Studio ME helped me find my physical strength and new ways to release stress and feel mentally strong.  I haven’t felt power in my legs for years and I celebrate the return of that feeling.  And while I’m not back running yet, I know I’ll get there.

In the meantime, ROWING IS MY CARDIO.

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