Looking Back and Looking Forward to the New Year – By Maria

This week’s post is from a very special client of mine. Maria epitomizes everything I love about the work I do. Over the past six months, I have witnessed her move forward through severe, debilitating pain. Each step of the way she felt better and moved better. Now when she comes into my office, she absolutely sparkles, radiates and glows. I have learned so much from her courage and determination. Each week, she provides me with a big boost of loving energy. If her story resonates with you, as it does with me, please share your story.
Jesse James Retherford

Looking Back and Looking Forward to the New Year – By Maria

This is the time of year to think about resolutions for the New Year. Every year, right after Christmas, I begin to make my resolutions too. Yet by mid January, what was an exciting “wish list” has made its way to the very bottom of my “to do” list. No longer do I say… I’m starting a diet and an exercise program. (Dieting and exercising are no doubt the most popular – and the most broken – New Year’s Resolutions.) 

The resolutions disappear
When I think about it, I’ve never resolved to brush my teeth, hug my family, or sleep every day—I do these things because I like to do them and need to do them.  And now I feel this way about diet and exercise ever since working with Jesse James Retherford at The Art of Fitness.

I first met with Jesse in March 2011.  At the end of that meeting, he told me, “You will be amazed at what your body will be able to do this time next year.”  He was more right than I could have imagined.  In fact, I was amazed after just four sessions with him! I’m here to tell you my story, to give you a glimpse of my journey.  I hope you’ll share it with others, especially older females in your life that you love dearly.

At The End of Last Year 2010 . . .
I’d had a lovely Christmas with my family and dear friends, almost a year ago to the day. I went with my husband and three daughters for a walk around Lady Bird Lake.  I walked about two blocks when I started limping.  My family was worried about me. I urged them to keep walking while I sat on a bench.  They, of course, wouldn’t leave me.  It was a beautiful blue-sky day with great weather.  We had family in town from both the east and west coast, and I couldn’t walk without pain.  As a matter of fact, I couldn’t walk down our steep driveway to collect the mail without limping painfully.  “Well,” I thought, “the best year’s of my life are over.”

I am an Hispanic female, 59 at the time.  I was overweight, flabby, in chronic pain, and I slept poorly at night.  Three of my sisters had undergone stomach reduction surgery yet with each year their weight was slowly creeping back.  My younger brother had a heart attack and suffered from diabetes.  “Poor health runs in my family,” I reasoned.  On top of that, in my fifties I’d had three major surgeries: two right knee surgeries for torn meniscus on both the right and left side of the same knee; rotator cuff surgery for my shoulder, and a left hip replacement.  My knee injury came from a fall on an icy Washington DC street.  The hip problems resulted from a fall down narrow, steep stairs.  My shoulder injury came after twenty years of lugging suitcases and supplies for work as I traveled all over the country.  With the hip injury specifically, I struggled for five years with endless trips to doctors and therapists who told me that nothing was wrong with my hip.  They said it was only “mild arthritis” even though I was limping badly and in severe pain.

So, on that day in late December, when I couldn’t even walk two blocks, I found myself seriously depressed, defeated, and disillusioned.  I’d become this way because of family history, injury, and old-age.  Postmenopausal women have a much slower metabolism and a significant loss of muscle, as everyone knew.

It’s not that I hadn’t tried dieting and exercise.  I’d done it all: membership diet centers (two different ones, which worked temporarily); I bought treadmills, exercise bikes, exercise DVDs, and free weights. I paid for fancy gym memberships, trainers, therapeutic massage, even rolfing and acupuncture.  In fact, my expensive trainer at my expensive Austin gym once failed to spot me as I did a tricky exercise. I fell and broke my tailbone! I was lifting a bar bell with weights as I simultaneously sat and stood up from an exercise ball.  When I complained of severe pain, she assured me that I was fine and then she had me get on an exercise bike (sitting right where I was hurting). Not surprisingly, my husband and I were very leery of gyms and trainers after that.  Although this incident was the first broken bone I had in my life, there have been other experiences with gyms and trainers that have resulted in sprains and other setbacks.

In My Sixth Decade . . .
In February, I turned 60.  Family and friends from across the country humbled me with a surprise birthday party and it got me thinking.  What would I need to do to live a life without the constant aches and pains I felt with every movement?  I wanted strength and endurance.  I wanted to be able to pick up a future grand baby. I wanted to be able to go for a long walk with my husband.  I wanted to kneel at church without hurting. I wanted to be able to have a full night’s sleep where I wasn’t tossing and turning and waking up from pain every hour.

My Chiropractor, Dr. Daniel Gonzalez, recommended that I see Jesse James Retherford for deep tissue massage. I looked at Jesse’s web site, The Art of Fitness, and was impressed with his philosophy, especially the fitness for life aspect.  I’ve found that many massage therapists are geared for athletes, not women like me. I’d gone to massage therapists before, but women, not men. Yes, it’s true, as an older Hispanic female I didn’t feel comfortable having a male massage me. But, I made an appointment with Jesse anyway, just to try it out.

Well, I have to say that Jesse was a breath of fresh air.  With me he was polite, respectful and above all, he was simply interested in my good health, not in turning me into a super athlete. He listened carefully, he asked about my goals (no pain, being able to move, strength and stamina). He probed further and I confided that I’d love to be able to do squats and knee bends but that I didn’t think that was possible.  He explained myofascial massage, scar tissue formation, and that humans did in fact lose muscle as they aged, but that muscle can be regained. Family health history, past injuries and surgeries, and age were not as big of an issue as I had thought. If I put in the work I would realize my goals.  His confidence was infectious. “If you stay with it, you will be amazed what your body can do in one year,” he assured me. He also didn’t pull any punches. “You have to lose weight. “ And, “the massage will be painful, but it’ll be pain that you can tolerate.”

Where I am now
So began my journey to good health.  I learned to eat well and lost 25 lbs (20 inches of fat and two dress sizes).   I eat more fruits and vegetables, eat several small meals a day, drink lots of water and have greatly reduced the amount of “white” and fast food I eat.  Jesse has weighed me once a week to keep me honest and motivated.  I am still on this journey, and will be. I have not regained any weight over the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.

I have been seeing Jesse once a week throughout the course of our work. Yes, the massage is painful, but tolerable. He adjusts the pressure and helps me breathe through it (which helps so much, just like Lamaze in natural childbirth). I need to drink lots of water after a massage to flush out the toxins released by the massage.  I was shocked that after four sessions I was able to do a squat without pain.  It had been 25 years since I’d been able to do that.

Under his guidance I began walking.  He’d dictate the length, intensity, and setting (flat surface, hills, etc.).  I walked 5 – 6 times a week.  I could almost feel the fat melting away.  He showed me how to do self-massage using a foam roller.  He showed me how to stretch.  He introduced me to Casa de Luz, a fabulous, delicious, macro-biotic restaurant. I’d never had kale before, now I enjoy it several times a week. My family benefited as they began walking and eating better too.

I remember being overwhelmed as I was walking late last April, thinking, “I’ll have to be doing this in November!”  That mindset has changed from “I have to walk” to “I get to walk!”  Today, I love, love, love walking.  I feel so alive, right down to the cellular level.  Walking makes me very happy and I have absolutely no pain.  Twenty five years ago, when my daughters were small, I entered the Capitol 10,000, a 6.2 mile race. My goal then was to finish and not be the last person doing so.  I will enter the 2012 Capitol 10,000 with the same goals and I know I will achieve them.  Life is good.

So, if you have a older female in your family that you love, or know anyone that is unhappy with her/his fitness, I enthusiastically recommend Jesse. In fact, Jesse gave my 87 year-old father-in-law a massage over the Thanksgiving holiday.  My father-in-law had injured himself when his basement flooded months earlier. When my in-laws came to visit, my husband and I were alarmed at how badly he looked. He’d seemed to have aged dramatically since we’d seen him last. Turns out, the “aging” we’d seen was really the pain he was feeling.  He came back from his massage feeling and looking 100% better!  “I really like that guy, he’s fantastic! “ he said.

Looking Forward
As I look forward to the next year, I have no New Year’s Resolutions.  I will, however, continue to move. I think that this is the key to lifetime fitness. Yes, it’s difficult to move when you have debilitating pain. Especially if you don’t know if moving is making things better, or worse. Jesse has taught me that you have to go through the pain to get to the other side. Being Jesse’s client has been one of the best things that has happened to me. I’ve learned you don’t need a fancy gym, exercise equipment, lame excuses, etc. I no longer feel that my life is over. My life is just beginning.

Happy New Year!


3 Replies to “Looking Back and Looking Forward to the New Year – By Maria”

  1. Great post Jesse and congratulations Maria on your achievements so far! I sincerely wish you all the success in the future.

    I love how empowered Maria has become through slowly changing her mindset and her activity levels. We do the same thing with our own patients and it is amazing the results people can achieve with a little bit of education, instruction and accountability.

    Here’s to no “resolutions” but to lifestyle modification instead for the long term 🙂



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