Fitness / Yoga

How My Injury Got Me to Appreciate Stretching

Aaptiv trainer Jennifer Giamo opens up about stretching her way to recovery post-injury.

As a personal trainer who ran marathons and half marathons and taught regular high-intensity boot camp classes, getting sidelined with an injury wasn’t exactly part of the plan. I remember exactly where I was when I felt the excruciating, stabbing pain in my lower back. It was my first session with a new client and I was—ironically enough—stretching her on the mat. As I was bent over, lifting and pulling her legs toward me, I suddenly fell to the floor. Barely able to stand because of the pain, I somehow made my way home and immediately called my orthopedist. I felt defeated and even a bit betrayed by my own body.

The Diagnosis

The following day, I received an MRI that showed bulging disks in L3, L4, and L5 (the lowest vertebrae) of my lumbar spine. From there, it would take a mix of physical therapy, chiropractic care, and deep tissue massages to alleviate the pain and aid recovery. Getting injured not only affects you physically, but it also takes a toll mentally. My mind raced with questions like ‘how will I teach classes?’ and ‘what about running and spinning?’ My mind wanted to run through the pain, but I knew physically that wasn’t the safest option for me. I needed to slow down and re-group. I needed to find another passion—something that would satisfy both the mental and physical high I got from running.

The New Workout

So, I turned to yoga. At first, it was too slow and very frustrating. But I stuck it out and gradually I became hooked. I’m not going to lie, for me, it never felt like the same euphoric feeling you get after a long run. But there was something about it—it made me feel good. It proved to be a new and different kind of challenge for me and I liked it. My body was becoming more flexible and my injury felt less and less noticeable. Still, I was careful to avoid any poses that would compromise my lower back and cause further damage.

The Benefits

The combination of physical therapy, chiropractic care, and stretching techniques allowed me to gain the flexibility and improved range of motion I needed to incorporate more intense exercise again. In addition to yoga, I used a foam roller and therapy balls for myofascial release. I also learned how to use trigger-point therapy to directly target stubborn painful or tight areas. As long as I stayed consistent, it worked.

My injury gave me a fresh perspective on stretching. I’ll admit I was a person who didn’t take the time after a workout to stretch. But once I was injured—and stretching became the only thing I could do for awhile—I learned how important it is to incorporate into an active life. Today, I am studying for my Corrective Exercise Certification so that I can help those suffering from an injury (or prevent future injuries) and teach others the importance of flexibility, a solid stretching routine, and proper exercise form.

Fitness Yoga

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