With a growing personal training business and personal injuries, I was caught in a conundrum. Do I continue on the path I am on and risk severe physical burn out? I thought long and hard and committed myself to going to University of Western States Chiropractic School starting in the Winter of 2014. We were living in Sandy at the time, so we moved closer to town in Fairview and I took some time off to take an online course in order to fulfill the required prerequisites. Chiropractic was appealing to me for many reasons. I wanted the knowledge, skills, and authority that came from being a primary care physician. Physical therapy school was extremely competitive to gain admittance and chances are I would have had to move my family out-of-state. Chiropractic school was local, I was admitted quickly, and I had good experiences shadowing several sports chiropractors in the area who practiced holistically. Chiro school was also appealing at the time over massage school because I was still young. I felt that I would have the rest of my career to pay off the student loans, which were outrageous!
I had some personal experience with chiropractic at the time. Renee and I had taken Chloe to a family friend chiro once when she hadn’t gone to the bathroom for almost a full week. We had tried everything we could think of including homeopathics, nutritionals, and massage. Nothing worked. So we visited Dr. Larry and he did a very subtle gentle cervical manipulation while Chloe was resting in my arms. She was around 6 months old. Immediately, her face went flush and she went poo right in my arms! Now, this was cool! A natural non-invasive method to helping people versus using drugs or surgery.
I also had the opportunity to work closely with a local chiro in downtown Gresham who had a family practice. Her specialty was family health, but she had a strong sports background. I had taken a fall one day while mountain biking at SkiBowl. I landed directly on a rock on the lateral side of my left knee. It immediately hurt and became swollen and difficult to move. I continued riding hoping some circulation would help, but this was another injury that would last awhile. It took months of icing, resting, stretching, and starting to strengthen it again for the pain to completely go away. Anyways, this chiro noticed I had limited range-of-motion in the left knee so she applied 2-3 adjustments to my fibular head. The adjustments didn’t help. Actually, it made my knee hurt worse. So, we halted treatment and I progressed my strengthening from light bodyweight movements to more weighted lifts such as back squats and calf raises. Within a week my knee pain was gone. My theory is that the impact to my knee created too much mobility at my fibular head and was actually leading to an instability issue with both my knee and left ankle. The strengthening added stability to the joint while still functioning at full range-of-motion.
I began the 40+ hour week of class in January 2014 and was immersed in books, labs, and lecture halls. I really enjoyed the anatomy lecture and cadaver lab which took us head and hands-first into learning intense detail about the human body. The cadaver lab was a life-changing experience that is ingrained deep within my memory banks, probably because the smell was so strong! There were 8 cadavers in our cohort, all of which had their own distinct scent. On the first day, a fellow classmate fainted and fell to the floor after seeing and smelling her cadaver which was embalmed in a newer chemical that preserved its blood-rich color and sadly the smell too.
The time, energy, mental space, stress, and sedentary lifestyle started to get to me about halfway through the quarter. Chloe wasn’t sleeping more than 5 hours straight every night so I would typically be up until 11 pm walking her around to sleep and wake up around 4-5 am to walk her back to sleep. The amount of time spent sitting in lectures, labs, and the car ride home to then sit at my desk in my room and study was REALLY getting to me. With all of the time sitting I was making sure to use my short breaks in between classes to walk on the treadmill or lift some heavy weights to feel like I was doing something physical. My nutrition wasn’t the healthiest either. I was eating anything I could to power my brain and to keep me awake during class. I was intentionally eating an extra PB & J sandwich and chocolate almond milk after dinner to try to gain weight and recover from my lifting workouts. I wanted to see how strong my Olympic lifts could get. But as the quarter progressed, I became more sick, more tired, and gained more weight than I thought I would.
A classmate of mine, Tim, who also happened to be my neighbor, asked if I wanted to carpool to save on gas and parking. We started getting to know each other and he was also a personal trainer based out of Las Vegas. He had recently taken a course called Fascial Stretch Therapy and asked if I wanted a session. He needed to stay current on the techniques so he didn’t lose what he had learned. I quickly agreed and was interested but skeptical. You never know nowadays when there is a new technique. Most of them spawn from techniques that have been used for thousands of years developed by the Chinese. I also had been working on my mobility extensively with regular yoga classes and MobilityWOD work. Before I had started the chiro program, I had found Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett and fell in love! It was the library of self-release moves I was looking for and opened me up to a whole new world of self-care. I had also been finishing my 200-hour yoga certification through YogaWorks at the time, so the combination of asana practice and self-rolling techniques pushed me passed my flexibility plateaus. I was unsure of how much additional stretching I would benefit from.
Tim blew my mind and body! I mean, I had been practicing yoga for two years now and had made huge mobility gains with the Supple Leopard. Tim found corners of my hips that were stuck, adhered, and glued like they hadn’t been touched since infancy. He opened up areas of my fascial network that hadn’t been reached in my yoga asana practice. And he did it all with pain-free assisted-stretching called Fascial Stretch Therapy. This was a game-changer. I loved helping people with their bodies. I loved movement. I wanted to help people enhance their movement capabilities with a hands-on modality. This was it! I took the next few weeks to think long and hard about my life and the direction each path could take. Continue on the path of chiro school, sleep deprivation, long days and nights studying away from family or take a risk with FST and go to massage school? I was getting A’s and B’s in all of my classes and I had the yearning for more knowledge. There were several factors that weighed in on the decision such as talking with other students who had continued further into the program and hearing about their experiences, the workload, the endless testing, and the inability to even attend class in order to study for other classes. I didn’t like the idea of paying such a huge sum of money and putting in a lot of energy to be rushed through a program and not be able to retain half of it. I appreciated slower work and slower learning. Don’t get me wrong I learned more about anatomy and physiology in that three months than I had ever thought possible. But I sensed that there was a better fit for me somewhere else. I had the foresight to see that finishing the chiro program would only be the start. Then came working for someone else to get experience followed by taking out a loan to open a practice. Learning and using the insurance system scared me knowing that the American Medical Association and the chiro field have a history of battling. I didn’t want to go into a specific career that almost forced me into a position of not seeing patients long enough, having insurance companies telling me how to practice, and being limited with my time and money even though the education was solid.
Then there were the horror stories students spoke of when getting to the adjustment labs. Class after class of new students practicing adjustments on your body and messing things up. Having my hard-earned alignment and mobility progress jarred-around did not sound like fun to me, especially while I was paying for it! I heard about ribs coming out, sacrums getting crooked, and students experiencing frequent headaches. This was definitely not the place for me or the approach I wanted to take. There were so many strong points for the program, it was still an extremely difficult decision to make.
I had the realization that I liked moving with people. I value spending time and getting to know my clients. Overall I don’t like insurance, student loan debt, a sedentary lifestyle, too much stress, and too intense of learning that is crammed into a short period of time and not necessarily understood but memorized. With my background in training and yoga, I could really help people and not need the doctor status that many of my classmates were seeking. Maybe it was the thought of running a successful practice and making more money that was appealing to many of us. But again, I was at a crossroads between my health and lifestyle and that of the system, money, success, status, and higher education.
So, I made the hard decision to leave. I gave the school and my classmates who I had bonded with over those intense three months a heads-up, took my finals, and left the most relieved person ever! That day the sun was out, the birds were singing, and I swear that whole week and onward my daughter slept full nights without waking up. She could sense the stress in the household during those previous three months while in school.
I quickly returned to my self-studies, reached out to my previous personal training clients, and signed up for the first level of the FST course in May. I created a new website and business name here at restore2perform.com. One night while lying in bed, Pacific Crest Performance came to mind. I’ve always loved the wilderness and have a great appreciation for the Pacific Crest Trail and what it represents. I knew that no matter where I was in the city of Portland, or working in Bend, Mt. Hood, or Hood River, that the name would still be a good fit for me and my clientele.
And guess what? Tim dropped out too! He knew that for him, moving with clients, educating them on lifestyle, and his combination of corrective exercise and FST was a powerful combination of techniques to satisfy his desire for helping others in a profound way. We both knew that in the health field, it’s truly a path of life-long learning. That’s the great thing about this field whether you’re a PT, Chiro, Osteo, LMT, ATC, or MD it comes down to what end of the spectrum do you want to help people on. For me, it was functional movement, yoga, FST, lifestyle change, breathing, posture, and manual therapy. The prevention aspect of healing and working with people really appealed to me and I felt that a combination of styles would work best for my personality and strengths.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I sustained one more injury while in the program. I was stressed and dehydrated early one Saturday morning at the local athletic club bench pressing. I was on my first heavy set using 175 pounds and on my first rep while lowering the weight I heard my past pec tear with additional fascia tearing apart. I racked the weight and stood up in disbelief and despair. Again? Now! Why?! I visited the student clinic at school to get care where upper quarter students work on other students. He pinned and stretched the torn fibers, trying to straighten them out like a comb moving through bunched-up spaghetti. He also performed a full-body neuromusculoskeletal evaluation which was really cool to experience. Then he practiced cervical adjustments. I had never experienced a headache like this in my life other than headaches due to dehydration (those college and firefighting days). I returned another 2 or 3 times and knew that if my body didn’t respond well to high-velocity adjustments, there were probably other folks who didn’t either.
While preparing for the level 1 FST course, I re-opened Anatomy Trains by Thomas Meyers. If you’re interested in learning detailed anatomy and manual therapy in regards to how the fascial network is designed, this is a must-read. Especially if you’re a movement therapist of any kind or massage therapist. What really made sense to me was how Fascial Stretch Therapy used the knowledge of how the body is put together fascially from head-to-toe. Fascial lines and Supple-Leopard self-rolling and mobilizations really resonated with me. It was empowering to know that there was an abundance of effective ways to change and maintain your own body without needing expensive appointments or procedures. It made sense to improve movement patterns first by using our functional movements as assessment and re-assessment benchmarks.
Without changing and refining the way we move, our symptoms will continue to signal us that something is wrong. The pain is not the problem in itself, but often the victim crying out in distress.
I spent the rest of Spring and Summer in 2014 reading, launching this website, personal training, and helping the family with house projects.
In May, the three of us traveled to Phoenix Arizona for FST level 1 training. The course is one week long Monday-Friday and is 99% hands-on learning in a partner, small group, and large group setting. Upon arrival, I noticed a mixture of professionals including trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists, yoga practitioners, and chiropractors. The owners, Ann and Chris Frederick were a terrific match and team who lead us through their unique way of unwinding fascial restrictions throughout the major joints of the body. They taught us how to use our own body to leverage the client’s in order to mobilize joints and soft tissue in a way that is pain-free and enhances our natural range-of-motion.
Being a part of an active like-minded group diverse with varying practitioners was very beneficial. I learned more about massage therapy styles and how those styles can differ from the person using them. It ignited my timeline for getting enrolled in the massage therapy program when I returned home.
I arrived in Gresham ready to use this new skillset of Fascial Stretch Therapy on my training clients. The very first session on one my long-term clients was a success. She was suffering from knee osteoarthritis and hip pain and had a difficult time letting go on the table. Following the hour treatment, she got off of the table with no pain! She was so excited and a raving fan from day one! I continued to use FST with any client and family member who I thought would benefit from the work. I had the opportunity to work with trail-ultra-runners, clients in chronic pain, as well as those with hypermobility issues. The hypermobile clients were a challenge for me and were the start of the realization that I must trust my instincts and use my knowledge of strengthening with a deeper anatomical focus to ensure safety and effectiveness for my clients. Being active in the yoga world, I had several yogis who wanted to experience FST. All of them were mothers and were not only flexible but hypermobile. Most had slight imbalances in their SI joints and needed strengthening. This is where I began to see the value in my role as both a trainer and hands-on practitioner. I began blending my sessions in order to better serve my clients. I used simple body weight and Kettlebell exercises for strengthening hypermobile areas and to teach solid movement mechanics so these hypermobile clients could stay pain-free.
I was at an interesting point in my life. Coming out of chiro school without having a training studio anymore was difficult. I was traveling to client’s homes or using the fitness room at my apartment complex. I enrolled in the massage therapy program at East West College of the Healing Arts in downtown Portland and started classes that July of 2014. My schedule was a little chaotic and I had a hard time building repeat business. I tried ramping up my social media content and even offered my stretching services at a local triathlon to try to get some exposure. The event went well and I was booked out within the first 30 minutes. 3 hours of sample stretching was exhausting!
In late July 2014, I experienced the most knee pain I have ever felt. I was positive I had torn a ligament in my outer knee. It was a Friday before I was seeing multiple FST clients. I did a short workout which included lunges, BOSU squats, planks, and other lifts. I felt a subtle twinge through my right outer knee that felt like IT Band tightness pulling on my lateral patella, but it also felt deeper. It must have been the extra stabilization required on the BOSU lunges that overworked the knee tissue. I grabbed my massage table and took the first step down the stairs to go outside. I felt a more noticeable pull and it continued to occur with each step of knee flexion. I made it through those sessions but continued to experience the knee pain. The bad news was that I had planned a 25-mile trail run/hike on the Pacific Crest Trail that same Sunday! Renee was going to shuttle me to Lolo Pass in the morning and I was going to trek North on the PCT all the way down through Eagle Creek where she would pick me up about 7 hours later. I was too stubborn at the time to postpone the trip. Looking back now, I should have. Hiking felt alright and even running on flat or uphill terrain felt okay. It was the consistent steep downhill that took a toll on my knee. Once the descent down into Eagle Creek started, there was no break. My knee pain increased drastically and I knew it would be even worse by the time I finished the 25 miles. Surprisingly, I ended the 25-mile trek running and speed hiking. Once I made it through the steep descents I was fine. The next day was a whole-different story.
Foam rolling the IT Band helped decrease the pulling sensation by about 90%, but every time I flexed my knee running or hiking downhill, or especially going down stairs, I would feel it again. And it wasn’t very painful until I had a heavy backpack on and was going downhill. I learned that the hard way the following month on an overnight backpack trip in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. I carried Chloe into Russell Lake from the North end of the Jefferson Wilderness. Again, the uphill was fine, but downhill was extremely painful. So painful, Renee had to carry the pack the rest of the way out. She thought she was done carrying our daughter Chloe after nine months, but I guess not!
I sought out students in the massage clinic to help me with the now chronic right knee pain. One student, in particular, helped me with the pain a lot. He used some deep tissue techniques around my lateral quadricep and IT Band, but then he asked if I was open to trying some Tuina (pronounced Tway-Nah) Chinese massage. He said he was taking the course from a very informative and influential teacher that would be a great fit for me when I came to take my electives in the final quarter. He used subtle pressure points with jostling techniques I had never experienced before, but could immediately feel the change. I felt warm fluid and energy flow down to my foot and a lightness to my entire right leg. He didn’t have time to finish balancing out my left side, but I could really feel the change he made right to left, and I had no knee pain! I asked him how Tuina worked and he said he did some Stomach, Gallbladder, and Bladder points to increase the water flow down my right side which seemed stagnate and dehydrated to the touch during his assessment. How cool was that?! I logged the name of the teacher back in my memory banks for later as my curiosity was spiked after that experience.
Not having a dedicated space for seeing clients was proving to be bad for business. I decided to take a full-time maintenance job at my apartment complex to pay the bills and take classes one day a week. I also continued to see clients before and after work and on the weekends. It was very challenging for me to learn what I was studying in school without implementing it with my job. My days instead consisted of painting walls, fixing toilets, sinks, and appliances, driving around in a golf cart and picking up trash. It was manual labor I had spent time doing in the past and was a means to an end. It also allowed me to take another week off and travel to FST level 2 in October of 2014. Level 2 was a whole new ballgame of hip and shoulder girdle mobilizations that I knew would help me understand issues at a deeper level and help my clients further their mobility.
Upon returning to maintenance work in Gresham, I really had a difficult time. Coming into rainy Fall weather after sunny Phoenix was miserable, especially since I was out in it with my work. I had just learned a lot of really cool techniques and wasn’t using my skills as much as I’d desired too. Looking back, my soul was not happy. I’ve realized that it takes a toll on many deep levels of a person to not do what they were created to do. Whether it’s helping people with finance, landscaping, or their bodies, we have gifts and can touch people’s lives with our skills and passion. Take my word for it. If you’re doing something right now that doesn’t ignite a fire within you then create a plan to change it! And if you feel trapped, there is a way out. Trust me. Find the positive in what you’re doing now and be patient. Slow down and open up to the creative spirit in you. Even though the maintenance work became a grind really quickly, I used that time to listen to podcasts. Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss gave me perspective on time management, investing, attitude, daily routines, and habits that are still having a positive impact on my life today. I highly recommend both of them as a place to start. Podcasts, such as The Four Hour Workweek, are widely available now to plug in a listen to on your drive to work, walking on a lunch break, or while working (as long it’s safe). Surround yourself with people, content, and energy that is motivating for you and will help you grow into a better version of yourself.
The end of November came and I knew only going to school once per week was going to drag the massage program out to put me finishing in 2 years! I had to come up with a way to change my situation. Renee and I both started browsing Craigslist for personal training opportunities and came across Hyatt Training. Located in NW Portland, Jeremy Hyatt was growing his team of personal trainers. I took an early morning trip downtown to meet with him before my work started and it seemed like a great fit. An active, upbeat, and professional facility in the Pearl accessible for most of the Portland surrounding area. I already had 2 or 3 clients who would be interested in using the space with me as their trainer. And I was really excited to bring FST to the active community popular with runners, cyclists, and triathletes.
Renee and I agreed that working in downtown Portland was the next step for me and I gave my notice to my work that next week. Renee’s family had planned a trip for us to all go to Kona, Hawaii for Christmas that year, so it was the perfect time to make a transition in life. We took two weeks to chill out, spend time as a family, and re-group for the next phase of our lives.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of My Health Story as I learn more about massage, what stress can do to the body and mind, and the outer and inner growth in Portland.