By Kira Stokes
I was in my zone, high on endorphins, taking in the beauty that the landscape of Aspen, CO offers. Unaffected by the altitude, I was running faster and harder than on the streets of New York, conquering mountains as though they were molehills. Seemingly out of nowhere, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back, so sharp I jolted forward. It felt as though someone took a stun gun to my back. I reacted as any type A, highly driven athlete would – I kept going. The trainer in me knew better, the athlete in me chose to persevere. After all, it was my last day in Aspen – time to push the envelope.
Post run, I did my usual express stretch, neglected to foam roll as the hotel did not have one, grabbed my bags and sprinted to the airport. Despite my efforts to get up and move every hour while in flight, sitting on the plane, my hip flexors tightened and my low back sent me painful shocks every few minutes. It was clear this was not a typical low back ache.
Real talk: My history of practicing what I preach in terms of recovery is sub-par. As a trainer, I coach clients to foam roll, perform prescribed stretches, spend time on mobility work, and incorporate rest days into their regime. As an athlete, I always choose running an extra mile, performing one more circuit, or lifting one more set, over a few extra minutes of foam rolling and stretching. Years of neglecting this integral part of my regime had taken its toll in the form of multiple lumbar herniations (L1-L3).
Unable to stand upright, I shuffled (literally) into Bespoke Treatments seeking help from its co-founder and brilliant physical therapist Dan Giordano. Full disclosure – I was scared. My livelihood revolves around being able to move, set an example, and inspire. All nearly impossible in the state (both physical and mental) in which I walked into Dan's office.
Without going into all the details of my personal injury and treatment, suffice to say Dan worked his magic and signature method of healing (a mix of manual therapy techniques: trigger point release, soft tissue mobilization, Graston muscle energy techniques, and modalities) to put me back together again and better than ever — pain free. But, not without prescribing what in my mind was truly a four-letter word: REST. I had to "shut it down." And not just for a day, but a solid 10 days to two weeks. Mind you, I hadn't taken more than one day off (every few weeks) in years. So I did what every type A, highly driven athlete, and trainer would do: I nailed the hardest workout I've ever done — REST.
And by rest I mean rest and recovery: creating a balance between mobility and stability. I worked to elongate the tissue and create stability by incorporating small movement exercises. I focused on the basics of glute and core activation. On the bright side, throughout this process Dan and I were able to identify areas of weakness that had previously gone unnoticed. We are all works in progress.
So what did I learn from this ordeal? A few things that everyone who lives a LIFE of SWEAT should take to heart:
1. Listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Do not ignore the warning signals.
2. Recovery time is of the utmost importance. No one is invincible, no body is invincible. Equal effort should go into recovery as what you put into your actual workout.
3. Be proactive with your treatment. I may be pain-free, but that doesn't mean Dan has gotten rid of me! I see him once a week for a "tune-up." As Dan says, I train as hard as some professional athletes who get treatment every day. My body deserves weekly TLC. For some people it may be a massage, for me it's PT.
4. Rest days are a must. Man, I love to sweat. I love the actual ACT of working out. So, rest days are the hardest for me. I found it helps to actually visualize your body getting stronger and healing on rest days. And the day after a rest day? Watch out world... pure fire!
Last, I learned to put more stock and heart into the words I've used to close out every Stoked Series workout I have coached since partnering with BFX Studio — "take a moment to be grateful and thankful for the ability to move your body as you did today, for it's truly a gift. Leave here with an open mind, fully STOKED." Truth.
I now not only have the endurance to run for miles and the strength to lift to failure, but I have the discipline to embrace rest. I am FULLY STOKED!
Kira Stokes, a graduate of Boston College with a BS in psychology and a minor in health science, has excelled in the personal training and fitness industry for over 18 years.
Kira's personal training clients include professional athletes, celebrities, television journalists and dignitaries. She has trained co-hosts of the television show “The View,” including Sherri Shepherd. She currently works with former "The View" co-host and TV personality Jenny McCarthy. She also trains co-anchors of “CBS This Morning” and the “Today Show.”
Kira's focus is on innovative training, concentrating on transforming the body and mind. She has developed a signature training technique, The Stoked Method, which combines functional and traditional methods of working the body. Her personal training methods have evolved to include a unique combination of strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, sports specific drills, yoga, and Pilates.
In November 2014 Kira was chosen as the celebrity brand partner for BFX Studio. Her signature "Stoked Series" classes are exclusively offered at the Chelsea location.