“She’s got a date with Alejandro!” my office mates joke about my bi-weekly training sessions. Training with Alex Figueroa is not just working out, although his expertise and ability to translate my specific physical issues into true understanding – and progress – is amazing. In fact, Alex had me wearing orange glasses in the gym during my first few weeks. Talk about embarrassing. After two years away from any type of exercise, I was not keen on being seen in the gym at all, and he was asking me to wear ORANGE glasses?
Alex has been a personal trainer for over 20 years, and the certifications after his name I didn’t even try to comprehend. That’s because, once you know Alex, it doesn’t matter. Once you know Alex, you show up, not only for the progress you’re making but for the fun — and for the interesting things you are going to learn about yourself and your specific body, things that really help you understand your specific triggers and what prevents you from making true progress. In fact, I probably would have given up trying to get in shape again if it weren’t for training sessions.
The first few weeks with Alex, I would follow him around the gym like a puppy. The tools of his trade were always in his backpack ready to be used. Some of these tools are ones you would expect in the gym, like tension bands that we would work with to improve joint mobility. For the first few weeks, joint mobility was key to my progress. I felt pretty old when we would talk joints, but I would grit my teeth and try to ignore my feelings of inadequacy. In truth, this was the first time in my life I had felt that I was seriously out of shape. I knew I had weight to lose, but what I didn’t realize was how weak I had become. That’s what really scared me. As a nurse, I know weakness can be a slippery slope for aging.
Right before I met Alex, I had started doing spin classes twice a week and reading the book “Younger Next Year,” a humorous but very accurate portrayal on getting in shape and the reasons to do it. In the book the motto is: Grow or Decay! If we don’t continue to work our muscles, bones and joints, then we will slowly decay. That’s where I was in June of this year when I met Alex. I felt weak, old, and at the top of the slippery slope – and I had better get moving!
To say Alex has changed my life would not be inaccurate.
I started training with him twice a week while I continued my twice weekly spin classes. In the beginning, I was nauseous and dizzy; and the lights, noise and activity in the gym would make it worse. That’s where the orange glasses came in. One day, Alex pulled colored glasses out of his bag, trying out different colors until we found one that improved my nausea. Through a series of neuro and eye tests, Alex was able to determine that it was my visual/vestibular reflexes that needed exercising, and we slowly but surely were able to eliminate the nausea and dizziness. I now can work out without the glasses. Alex is keenly tuned in to what makes us feel the way we do. If I’m doing an exercise and get nausea now, we stop immediately and work with a specific muscle innervation point to see if it improves. Prior to training, I would cancel working out for back pain. I know now that going to the gym is the best thing for it, even if we have to modify what we do that day. Invariably, the back pain is gone before I leave. We laugh a lot while getting a lot of work done, and the hour usually flies by.
Alex’s consistency, patience, and ability to target the training to my specific issues was key to my progress. His mantra is: “Always moving the needle a little bit towards better.” Because I’m pretty impatient when it comes to my own progress, I’ve had to accept the small little wins along the way – like taking off the glasses, or improving my back pain, or feeling a lot stronger and wanting to get back in the gym and do it again. I also have accepted that being in shape isn’t about how we look; it’s about how easy it is to move and do the things we want to do as we grow older – like running a 5K with my grandson, and being able to ski every mountain in Vermont.
But feeling better because I can now lift weights, don’t have back pain, and can climb five flights of stairs at work without getting breathless – that’s growth! I am lucky to have RVC and Alex as partners in my wellness journey.
Jane Eaton, member since 2019.
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