AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DETERMINED ERINN COULTER, FOR THE MY JOURNEY STORY SERIES.
LAC: When did you decide to start making your health a priority (what or whom inspired this decision) and what were your goals?
Erinn: It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when I decided that my priorities needed to change; but I think that seeing one of my close friends head off to bootcamp was really eye-opening. I watched him do PT for weeks, drinking lots of water, doing pushups, and running miles every day to get in shape for perhaps the most brutal training of his life. He shipped out at the end of September in 2014. He challenged me to better myself while he was gone. He asked me to put all of the energy and effort that I would have missing him into bettering myself instead. My goal was and still is to make my daily life easier, I struggled every night at UPS, loading containers for airplanes and was completely exhausted when I was done. I was having issues with my knees from excess weight, and often limped out of work. I wanted more energy and stronger, more defined muscles. (Having a leaner physique wouldn’t hurt either.)
LAC: How did you get started and what did you do to improve your health?
Erinn: The first thing I did was sign up for a kickboxing class. Ever since I was little, I would jump on my trampoline and pretend I was the world’s best kickboxer (or a kangaroo sometimes). I started attending class 3 times a week, switched to drinking mostly water while cutting out all soft drinks and processed carbohydrates. My dietary change didn’t completely stick and when the Christmas Peak season came, I stopped going to class just because I wasn’t making it fit into my schedule. I put my fitness journey on pause, and finally started going back to class in mid-January. I continued to build muscle and slim down. It made it much easier to stick to a healthier diet when I was working out consistently. Even though I was steadily getting healthier, accidents do happen. One night at class I was in the middle of our squat routine, and when I came up I heard (and felt) a loud pop and was in the most excruciating pain. I later found out that a bone had broken off, and lodged itself under my kneecap, causing irritation and inflammation. My journey then went on pause again in mid-March.
LAC: How did you stay motivated and what was the biggest challenge?
Erinn: Staying motivated after that first injury was so hard. For weeks, I didn’t know what actually was causing the pain. One trip to the orthopedic doctor and an MRI later, we saw the damage. But that wasn’t the only thing. Some popping and grinding that had been going on was getting worse. I asked about low impact exercise, and that’s how I ended up at LAC. I had read about spinning and my doctor said it would be an excellent choice for me. I had my very first class with Dixie, and started spinning 5 days a week. Every instructor knew my name and that I was ready to improve myself. At the end of every class they would each ask me how it was and if they could help. My biggest challenge came in August; I needed major orthopedic surgery to correct my knee pain. Post surgery, I was unable to bear weight for six weeks; I needed a walker and then had to learn how to walk again. I had physical therapy 2 to 3 time a week, rebuilding my leg muscles and learning to bend my knee again. I was unable to workout in my normal capacity, and the weeks I wasn’t moving much made me unable to fit into my clothes. I was intensely depressed.
LAC: What positive changes did you see in your life and what did you learn throughout this process?
Erinn: When my journey first started, I watched myself grow stronger and leaner. I had more energy and felt much better. I would get compliments daily on my body, attitude, everything. After the first injury, I had to learn that setbacks do happen, I still have a difficult time accepting that idea. My major surgery was delayed and I spent weeks sulking about it. I was ready for it to just be over. When it was finally done, I let my mental limitations keep holding me down. But as the weeks wore on, I truly noticed how much I missed my gym time. As I progressed in PT, I got the chance to ride a stationary bike, and it brought back my craving for spin class, 11 1/2 weeks after surgery, not even a full 3 months. I came back to the gym, and put everything I had back into it. I’ve been back now for 6 weeks, coming 3 to 5 times each week; I do barre, spin, group power, piyo and the occasional Butts’n’Guts class. I am my biggest critic, and I get frustrated not making the progress that I want. I am constantly reminded by my instructors that I am doing my best, and they see me progressing. I am learning (slowly) that not everyone could (or would) come back into this lifestyle in the manner that I have. I have learned that I have much more drive than I previously thought. I think I am stronger now, mentally and physically, than I have been in a long time.
LAC: Final Thoughts? Is there anything else you would like share about your story?
Erinn: When I come to the gym, it’s my “me time.” It’s dedicated time for me to get stronger, and make myself better. I don’t do it for anyone else now, just me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to motivate others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled my capris up over my surgical scar to illustrate that your brain is your biggest oppressor. When doing back-to-back classes, I hear the instructors trying to coax new people into trying a class, and I hear them say “I’m not sure if I can handle it” over and over. I love being able to walk over and explain to them briefly about my recent surgery, and show them my scar and watch their faces in semi-horror. They usually start to feel sorry for me, but I remind them that if I can come back after this kind of surgery and do a double, they can too. Your body can only limit you so much, the rest is your head. You have to be willing to say “I can,” even when you’re tempted to say “I can’t.” I had a femoral distal osteotomy done on my right femur, which is a fancy way of saying we cut my thigh bone in half, separated it, and reset it with plates and screws to grow differently. I have grown about 1/2 inch of bone in the lower portion of my femur since October 29, and I have a 6 inch scar on my outer right thigh. I still have to have my cartilage replaced under my kneecap where it was worn away due to a misalignment in my legs (that’s part of the reason I was having knee pain; My leg wasn’t properly aligned which caused my kneecap to unevenly wear down my cartilage). My knee still hurts, and I have to be careful with what I do. My left side (the non-surgical side) is noticeably stronger, so I am working to even it out though I’ll lose some of my progress after my next surgery. Like I said, setbacks do happen, but you just have to put your mind into it, and your body will follow.
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