A Shattered Spirit Restored

#MyPTStory

The journey from a place of fear and dread to a place of optimism and excitement began for Olivia when she resolved to give herself a chance … a chance to achieve something she’d long thought of as impossible.

“I was defeated and in so much pain and agony. I didn’t think I could ever get back to feeling like me again. It’s scary when you have so much belief in the exteriors — I’m big … I’m fat. You start to think this is it for me.”

The mind is powerful. But so is the heart.

At just 29 years old, nearly three years into a toxic marriage plagued with domestic verbal abuse, and tipping the scales at 330 pounds, Olivia dug deep inside and found the courage to make a change.

After years of putting herself last — of prioritizing her husband’s needs, of dedicating herself to an unfulfilling job where she was bullied by her boss, of enduring sleepless nights and unbearable anxiety, of letting her love of weight lifting and martial arts fall wayside — Olivia packed her bags and set out for a new beginning.

Despite a debilitating back injury that had flattened her one morning while she was simply putting on her pants, the brave young woman began to face her fears.

“My back injury was so severe that I was turning it into a crutch. I was so worried about what could happen that I wouldn’t push myself. Weight loss is a scary journey and anything can go wrong.”

Restart, Refresh, and Rejuvenate

Olivia’s brother and sister-in-law graciously welcomed her into their Oregon home, offering her a supportive space where she could make a new start and embrace change with newfound optimism. With the help and support of her family, Olivia’s journey began.

“Before, I was eating fast food every day. They got me to eat homemade meals again and I learned about healthier options, how to enjoy good, healthy meals and to introduce your body to fresh foods.”

Persuaded by her sister-in-law, Olivia took up yoga and learned to get in tune with her body.

“It was a starting point and I knew then that I could reach my end point if I stuck to it. The journey for me is in overcoming so many things — emotional turmoil, physical pain, lack of confidence, etc. — and in embracing change. The food was a tough adjustment, and I was resistant to exercise at first. But, within the first three months I did a 10K walk! I thought I was going to die. I was out there for four or five hours.”

Though challenging, through that walk, Olivia stepped out of the mentality that she couldn’t do it and discovered that she could.

The path Olivia was passionately pursuing soon led her to West Coast Strength where she found more than just a gym, she found a welcoming community with a culture built on connections between staff and members. Her introduction to the gym came when Olivia fearlessly joined her brother for a HIIT class, though she admits having had no idea what that was at the time. While she struggled from the very start of the High Intensity Interval Training class, she didn’t give up … until it came time to do burpees.

“Line drawn!”

While she didn’t complete the class that day, Olivia did commit to coming back to work one-on-one with the woman who’d taught the class — Spencer Samuels.

“As a personal trainer, Spencer’s number-one overall trait is compassion. She sees you for you and helps you reach a level you never thought was possible.”

With Spencer and the West Coast Strength gym community behind her, along with chiropractor Khashayar Jafari and the staff at Team Rehab, Olivia felt continuously supported and inspired to never give up on pursuing her goals.

Overcoming Obstacles

Nine months into her transformation, Olivia faced a setback that brought her fear back to the surface. Both her primary care doctor and Spencer noticed a lot of noise coming from Olivia’s knee, raising concerns that it could be indicative of a risk factor for injury.

“My knee hurt, but I did not want to do physical therapy. But at the same time I was so motivated and wanted to keep going on this path I was on. I really love weight training and did not want to stop.”

Her doctor recommended she make an appointment with Gina Paine, physical therapist and clinic director at Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy – West Salem.

“She said it would change my life, and boy was she right.”

Based on previous experiences with PT, Olivia was anxious when she walked through Gina’s clinic doors. 

“I had little to no faith that I was going to recover. I was scared. But when I met Gina she acknowledged my pain, my fear and my goals. She was not there just because she was supposed to be. She was there because she cares about her patients and it really showed.”

With patience and compassion, Gina empowered Olivia to address her fears, guiding her with baby steps toward her goals and enabling her to continue working with Spencer along the way. Initially, Gina focused on creating a personalized plan of care to address Olivia’s noisy knee and the pain it was bringing her. However, her prior back injury proved to also be hindering Olivia’s progress, prompting Gina to implement additional treatment protocols.

Utilizing a whole-body approach to health and healing, Gina applied Astym and myofascial release treatments along with coaching Olivia through a specialized strengthening routine. She stood with Olivia, pushing her and cheering her on when she was scared.

“I could admit when I was terrified to try something and Gina would scale it back. She took the time to tell me the background, to teach me what the purpose was. She got me to exercise those little muscles. She gave me exercises I wasn’t good at to challenge me to work through them. The fear was on me. It’s hard to break that habit, to get out of that shell and learn to see what you’re truly capable of.”

Through her PT sessions, Olivia came to understand her body mechanics and also realized that self care and self love can carry a person a long way. She learned to celebrate her wins and to acknowledge that setbacks are okay, that you can leap forward despite them if you give yourself a chance. 

While she admits she feels frustrated at times, Olivia knows her journey is not a race. She’s forging on as a powerful 30-year old with a new home of her own, a new career and a new commitment to a healthy lifestyle. She has confidence now that with time, love and grace, she’ll reach her 200 pound goal.

“The fact that I lost 70 pounds in about 15 months … I am willing to work toward this slowly and safely and to be proud of myself along the way. Trial and error, triumph and failure – that is how you grow. It’s good to have ambition, but do it safely and know your boundaries. Work outside your comfort zone, but within reason.”

“I had little to no faith that I was going to recover. I was scared. But when I met Gina she acknowledged my pain, my fear and my goals. She was not there just because she was supposed to be. She was there because she cares about her patients and it really showed.”

Uplifted and Unstoppable

With her pain behind her and hope on the horizon, Olivia affectionately credits her “miracle team” with: helping her achieve the goal of riding a stationary bike for 15 miles in under 50 minutes (she did it with three seconds to spare); improving her leg press from pushing 400 pounds to pushing 700 pounds; decreasing her exercise-induced asthma; improving her weight lifting form, and bolstering her confidence.

“It takes one person like Gina, with so much passion for their career, to really make a difference in someone’s life. From tragedy and trauma to becoming more of me and less of that brokenness, it’s been an amazing journey. 

“I’ve felt so much inspiration in Gina and in Spencer and in my doctors, and then also in my coworkers … it takes one person to get that right turn going and once it’s going then it becomes this positive cycle of change. I am hopeful that my story will inspire people and keep them motivated. When you let your passion and determination flow through you, that is when so many beautiful things happen.”

Olivia two months into her journey, August 18, 2020.
Olivia, 15 months into her journey, September 7, 2021.

Patient Success is our Passion

If you are on your own health and fitness or weight-loss journey, physical therapy can help. Our PTs are experts in musculoskeletal health and will work with you to restore and improve mobility while removing barriers to your goals. Learn more and get started today.

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