Gorilla Gym and a life lesson

In Early August I had the opportunity to film and infomercial in Sacramento for a product that two entrepreneurs from Boston had designed called the Gorilla Gym. The Gym is best described as a TRX on crack. It is a pull up bar that attaches to your door not only on top but at the sides with industrial sized clamps, allowing you to swing in the air. had the pleasure to work with some absolutely amazing and inspiring people and to swing around like a little gorilla.

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Yes that is me.

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Yes that it TJ Hoban. He was the host of the infomercial. If you haven’t heard of him, google him. Total babe and awesome guy!

We filmed for two days for about 6-7 hours each day. As I have stated in previous posts, I used to workout a lot and I used to workout hard. Filming for the Gorilla Gym was probably one of the more grueling things I have done. We filmed 9 workouts. 11 exercises. 1 minute for each exercise. Some of the exercises were a breeze, especially the ones in the earlier workouts in the series, but most of them were (insert a bad word here that I can’t write) HARD and I remember thinking, “You expect me to do that for 1 minute and then go right into the next exercise with no rest WHILE filming??? Right.”

But I did it. And I did it along side my partners in crime, Jason and Joel. Joel was the trainer in the series. He did an amazing job keeping the dialogue going and keeping us motivated. Although I must say there were moments when I was doing pushups that he would say something like, “Are we having fun?!” and I mumbled some mean words to myself and seriously considered slapping him in the face.

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Good thing I was looking down because I was not a happy camper here. Push ups for 1 minute with feet suspended. To say it was hard is an understatement not only because push ups for a minute are just simply hard but because all the blood was rushing to my face, which meant I got a little loopy.

Now we were supposed to smile…the.whole.time. After I would mumble these words I cannot repeat, I would hop up with a disgustingly huge smile on my face because it was what was stressed for the entire weekend. We had to look like we were having a lot of fun, which ironically enough, I was! With all that smiling, I am not sure what got worked more, my body or my cheeks…the ones on my face of course. But that smile wasn’t entirely fake. It was the best weekend I had experienced in longer than I could remember. There was something about that weekend that changed my thinking. Maybe it was the fact that I was having a personal issue that I was able to put aside and focus on the task at hand or maybe it was the amazing crew I got to work with…or both. Either way, I was on a high. Most likely the most incredible endorphin high I will ever experience.

I have never been so inspired by people I had merely just met. They inspired me and I inspired them even though I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was because I worked my little tush off and did it with that cheeky smile, who knows. Regardless, I became a new person. A person who suddenly knew what she wanted to do. Inspire and motivate. I wanted and still want people, especially women, to be proud of who they are and all that they can accomplish. To work towards their goals even if they may seem lofty to someone else. To be independent and to proud.

“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.” Tobias Wolf

This picture was taken when I was thinking to myself how happy I was and it was at this moment that I made a conscious decision to turn my life around. It was in this moment that I started to realize who I was and what I stood for.

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Leading up to this moment, I never realized how negative I was until a kind friend pointed it out to me right before I left for Sacramento. I thank that person for inspiring me to think and speak positively. Since then I have been the happiest I’ve ever been. Yes there are sad moments in life, bumps in the road – I am experiencing some right now – and lapses in positive thought but as long as we hold something true to our heart that no one can take away, we will always be okay. Which is why I created 11 promises to myself that have been my saving grace through a lot of difficult moments since I wrote them in August.

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I was sad to leave Sacramento but was excited to re-start my more positive and hopeful attitude towards life. Sacramento was like a breath of fresh air. It was just the push I needed. I smile every time I think about it…and it’s a disgustingly huge REAL smile.

Thank you to the inventors of Gorilla Gym and to the entire crew for choosing me to represent this little contraption that allows you to swing around and have fun like you did as a young child…or gorilla. Your choice.

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The inventors Kiril and Peter, the host TJ, the male model Jason and I above….and then the entire crew below. You were all amazing.

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Until next time!

Ps. The infomercial will be airing in Boston at 6 am this Saturday 11/16 on WLVI!

Schedule in other cities…if you’ve been out drinking late or get up early on the weekend like me because you hate to waste any day, check it out! It’s probably going to be funnier if you’ve had a few cocktails. 

Station Market Date Day Time
KUTP PHOENIX,AZ 11/15/2013 Friday 12:00 AM
WLVI BOSTON,MA 11/16/2013 Saturday 6:00 AM
KUTP PHOENIX,AZ 11/16/2013 Saturday 6:30 AM
WCWN ALBANY,NY 11/17/2013 Sunday 10:30 AM
WWJ DETROIT,MI 11/17/2013 Sunday 4:00 AM
WDCW WASHINGTON, DC 11/17/2013 Sunday 5:00 AM
WTVH SYRACUSE,NY 11/20/2013 Wednesday 10:30 AM
WDCW WASHINGTON, DC 11/23/2013 Saturday 6:00 AM
WMYT CHARLOTTE,NC 11/24/2013 Sunday 7:30 AM
WPLG MIAMI/FTLAUD,FL 11/24/2013 Sunday 4:00 AM

“Sting like a bee”

What exactly does this even mean?! Every bee sting I have ever had was a quick prick that really didn’t have much of an effect on my comfort level. Except that one time I got stung twice by a cute, yet evil devil of a bee that should have been bothering a bee hive, not me. Yes, twice. I guess a bee can’t sting you twice so maybe at 10 years old I just made up the extra “prick”. Damn devil bee died real quick after that thanks to my dad and to the fact that I guess they die after they sting you, which is why people tell me there is no way I got stung twice. Tell that to the two welts on my 10 year old body.

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Fast forward to my late 20s…

I was blessed with a spine that did not hold up to the rigors of my athletic life. Degenerative disc disease, arthritis, herniation, bulge and finally tear – all words I have continued to hear over the last 4 weeks in regards to the cause of the pain in my low back that has, like my hips, been keeping me from exercising and doing fun things like jumping around during a photo shoot.

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The three times I have now had a big needle injected into my body – 2 hip arthrograms and now 1 cortisone injection into my low back – the doctor’s have said, “Alright, it is going to sting like a bee.” My first thought brought me back to my childhood. My second thought, “What is this crap?!?!” So I am going to assume that there MUST be some sort of universal jargon to prepare the patient for the pain of gracing a needle deep within the confines of my already inflamed and therefore sore joint…and then shove it in further to be sure it’s where it is needed! Thank god this experience only took 5 minutes, unlike the arthrograms. I now have a steroid in my body to reduce inflammation and allow the tear to heal. And BONUS was that I got a pink bandaid on my back! They must have known pink is my favorite color!

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So I leave in a little bit of pain, thinking that it will wear off shortly and I will be pain free. Wrong. At least for the last 5 hours. I can’t even bend over without shooting pain in my low back. I tried to show a client a lunge and my left hip cramped up causing me to almost eat the floor – trust me, you don’t want to eat the floor at a gym. Then I tried to grab the cable machine to adjust the level for my client and I got an electric shock in both of my shoulders. And no, there was no electrical current in that cable machine although sometimes I wish there were. Then maybe the people who hog the cables during prime time would be deterred from doing so which would ultimately mean a much happier Kara. Happy trainer, happy life…right? Just ask my clients. 🙂

At this point I almost start crying mid session because I couldn’t bend over to pick things up and I couldn’t use my arms. I felt totally useless! Tears welling up, I realize where I am and that there is NO WAY I am allowed to cry on the floor of Equinox, not to mention I had another client in 5 minutes. So I took a few deep breaths and laughed it off. I can do nothing but laugh at my body and accept what is going on. I get a little smile thinking about it all and I just go with it. I was told the steroid could take a few days to a week to really “settle in.” I suppose I should trust my spine physiatrist that treats me like a number and not a patient but all I care is that it works so that I can stand without pain.

A few of my friends made a very valid point that helps bring me to accept my current situation. Since I finished ski racing almost 4 years ago, I have never really given my body a break. I went immediately into personal training which requires you to be able to stand for hours on end, count and talk at the same time (which trust me, is very challenging for the brain, unless you use your fingers to keep track), pick up heavy weights for your clients and have the ability to be nauseatingly happy the whole time. Then I decided to train for a body building show that I never competed in (another story all together), trained for a marathon and got hurt, trained for 2 half marathons which I completed in my goal time, started to model, dieted non stop, joined Crossfit and completely over exercised.

For the first time, I am forced to take a break and there is nothing wrong with that…or at least this is what I keep telling myself and what others reinforce with their amazingly supportive words and actions.

To be honest, I am in a way quite thankful for this forced break because it gave me the time and energy to learn how to cook, to start journaling on a daily basis again, to read and to start this blog. Losing something else important to me, or rather I will say someone important to me, which saddens me deeply, has allowed me to dedicate more of myself to my family, to my friends and to myself which was something I was neglecting. I wanted to spend all my time with this person I lost and I am trying to find the positive so that I can be okay with it. The last couple of months has forced me to take a step back and evaluate what and who is important in my life, what needed to change and what needed to stay the same.

It comes down to the realization that I am fortunate in ways I didn’t even realize and am blessed and excited for my future. I am 27 years old living in an amazing city full of opportunity. I am confident and independent. I am sassy and brutally honest, sometimes to a fault. I am difficult to deal with at times but let’s be honest, who isn’t? That would just be boring and lame and no one wants that. But ultimately I know I have a good heart and a lot to offer. I know I have some of the best days ahead of me. I have an amazing present and future. I am and will be happy in ways I have yet to experience.

So into the 10th hour of enjoying Equinox today, I go into my last two sessions of the day with a smile on my face and a thumbs up! I love my job and I love my life. 🙂

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Difficult times turned happiest days of my life

I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I have not stopped moving since I was born. I was a swimmer, a soccer player, lacrosse player, tennis player, a horse back rider but ultimately ended up as a ski racer. I’ve never been side lined with an injury other than multiple concussions but it was temporary.

Athletics and working out has been my release for as long as I can remember so when I realized I could no longer do the workouts I was in love with (heavy lifting, Crossfit, olympic lifting, plyometrics) I knew it was going to be rough. Sure I can do light weight lower body exercises – body weight squats, lunges, clam shells, leg raises, band walks, step ups on a small step, RDL’s – and upper body workouts but I cannot workout at the intensity I am used to and it’s having a serious impact on my happiness. My hip joint is always swollen and my ankles and knees are beginning to hurt because of compensations to protect my hip. A few weeks of anger and negativity at the realization that I have to wait 2 months for my hip surgery and another 4-6 months for full recovery and I became aware that I needed something else. I needed something that brought me peace, something that brought joy to my life, something I was in control of doing, something for me. 

I thought to myself, “What am I not great at but have always wanted to do?” Learn to COOK and BAKE! I used to have a very bad relationship with food and because I was modeling for a while, I ate only chicken, veggies, quinoa, sweet potato, oatmeal, egg whites and almonds, LITERALLY all I ate for months on end. When I found out about my surgery, I put modeling and dieting on the back burner and decided to re-evaluate my relationship with food and with myself. 

Welcome to Pinterest, Kara. I am constantly scouring Pinterest for new recipes. I am slow with how I cook but I am learning that I don’t need to measure everything out exactly as it says. Half the fun is coming up with new combinations! So I started with cookies, muffins, breads, brownies, ice cream cookie sandwiches and then once I got some courage and set aside time to cook, I dedicated myself to cooking fun and tasty dinners. I don’t care how much work I have or how little time, I cook a healthy meal every night and as it happens, I have TONS of leftovers for lunches all week! I cook things I normally wouldn’t even eat, from pizza, to homemade pasta (I live in the North End of Boston so it’s so fresh that I cannot resist!), salmon, steak, sweet potato fries, cauliflower mashed potatoes, bruschetta…you get the point. 

Monday nights are salmon night. Given that it is Tuesday, I will recap what I made last night…Panko pesto salmon with roasted grape tomatoes over a toasted quinoa salad w/eggplant, caramelized onions, summer squash and zucchini with a side of spinach of course. Oh and my Malbec, which I learned to love while dining next to my…well I am not sure what he is to me anymore. Regardless I can’t have salmon for 1 without my wine.

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It was AMAZING. Not only had I never cooked salmon in my life until a few Monday’s ago, but I never drink red wine, especially not on a nightly basis. I am learning to have a healthy relationship with food, to enjoy preparing and sitting down to a tasty meal, even if that means alone…which I am still getting used to. 

Tonight was turkey cutlet night…marinated in olive oil, chopped garlic, rosemary, dijon mustard, salt and pepper then pan seared. Side dishes are roasted crimini mushrooms marinated in olive oil, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper and topped with balsamic vinegar post roast. Next up is mashed cauliflower over spinach. I boiled the cauliflower with water, milk and chopped garlic. I added garlic powder, scallions, salt and pepper after boiling. Theme of the evening – rosemary and garlic. My kitchen smells AMAZING!

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Oh and then there is the crustless quiche that I made so that I don’t have to spend much effort making breakfast at 4 am anymore. I made it with 2 eggs, a lot of egg whites, sauteed summer squash, zucchini and eggplant (from Monday night!) topped with spinach and cheddar cheese. 

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The change of direction my life has taken was hard to swallow. I know that once I get the surgery and after I recover that I can go back to my pursuit of modeling and my normal workouts and I will get my body back…not that I have really “lost” it but it definitely is not what it was and that was very hard at first but I am learning to accept the changes and ultimately love them.

So needless to say I am loving the new direction in my life. I felt as though everything was uprooted all at once but I have redirected my thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions so that these days are becoming some of the happiest days of my life. Starting to feel at peace with myself, my body and where I am headed.  

Life is good. 🙂

Girls got hips…broken hips

So my PT was right when he told me he thought I had a labral tear in my right hip but it took me over a year to actually see a doctor for it, which I regret. It was only after I joined CrossFit that I decided to get it looked at. Within the first week of my CrossFit adventure, my hips started to deteriorate faster than they ever had. I wasn’t able to squat without pain in my right hip flexor and it was starting to feel like someone was taking a baseball bat to my shin and smashing it to bits, so I decided to visit my doctor. He did the classic hip impingement test which I had already tested positive for, and ordered X-rays which showed that I had Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) and disc degeneration between L5-S1. FAI is a long way of saying I had a bony deformity on my acetabulum that was “banging” into my hip bone and scraping at the labrum, which is fibrous cartilage that is supposed to protect the hip joint.

He tells me to take anti-inflammatories and lay off the exercise for a month and come back to see him if it didn’t get better. Yeah, right. I took 3 days off and was antsy to get back to CrossFit, especially as I was realizing there was NO WAY I was taking a month off. So I worked within my pain level which meant no squatting and only dead lifting and power snatching…

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This worked for a little while until one fateful day I deadlifted quite heavy and was out of commission for 5 days. I finally made an appointment with sports medicine at MGH.

“I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do for you as this is purely an orthopedic issue. Here are the names of a hip specialist and a spine physiatrist that you need to see. Chances are you have a labral tear and the degeneration in your back is pretty extreme so it’s no wonder you are in pain.” This was not exactly what I wanted to hear.

Two weeks later I finally see the hip specialist at Children’s Hospital who orders an arthrogram MRI. An arthrogram is a procedure in which you lie under an x-ray machine, get stuck with a needle that goes into your hip joint to inject anesthesia to supposedly numb you up (not so much in my right hip) followed by dye that will illuminate the hip joint to allow a more accurate MRI. I read horror stories about how painful it is so I went in to the procedure sort of freaking out. It was a Tuesday that I had the procedure on my left hip. I changed into these hideously large hospital linens and laid down under the X-ray machine.

The doctor then lubed up my hip with betadine (looks like blood. Ugh) and stuck a needle in the front to inject the anesthesia. He proceeded to inject 4 more vials of anesthesia (I started to feel a little naseous at this point) then move it around to find the perfect location to inject the dye. THAT was when it got real bad. I couldn’t feel it but the thought of a needle taking a stroll in my hip joint almost caused me to up chuck my chicken and kale (a staple in my diet).

Then he injected the dye. To say my hip joint felt like it was going to explode is an understatement. The cool part was that I got to see a live X-ray of my hip as he rotated it. I saw the bone deformity and I wanted to jump through that screen to rip it off. That little extra piece of bone is what was causing all this pain! WTF? It’s so small!

Next I get wheeled to the MRI machine so the dye stays in the joint, the nurse tapes my toes together and puts headphones over my ears. Normally I have to listen to the annoying clicking that an MRI machine makes but this place gave me music to jam out to. I fell asleep of course. 30 minutes later and I’m good to go!

Pre and post MRI

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Next step was my right hip which was done 2 days later. The right hip is the more painful hip so I was expecting it to be a little more painful than the right…oh boy was I wrong…

It was TERRIBLE. Not only did the right hip injection that was supposed to be a “prick that will just sting like a bee”, NOT sting like a bee, it felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife!! The left hip injection was nothing compared to that! It’s like the anesthesia did nothing! Not only did it look like a war zone on the X-ray after he injected the dye, it also stimulated the same intense pain down my leg!! Not to mention the blood that spurted out of my hip on two separate occasions!!! I was half traumatized once the procedure was over. He did tell me that I most likely had a labral tear due to how the dye spread through my joint…enough of this probably or most likely crap. Let’s get some answers!!!

Those answers were given this past Tuesday. I have a labral tear in my right hip and need to have surgery but unfortunately have to wait until January 7th. As I sat in his office listening to him tell me about post-op – crutches for 3 weeks and 4-6 months to full recovery – my main concern was how I was going to not only get to work but simply work. I am a personal trainer, I pick things up and put them down with two hands standing on two feet for at least 6 hours every day. I live on the fourth floor of my apartment building with no elevator. I live 1 mile from work and usually walk to work. As these questions flooded my mind, I began to tear up. I almost let myself go enough to fully cry. I got so teary eyed and emotional to the point where when he asked me if I had any questions, I was only able to get a meager peep out of my mouth of “No” as I held back my emotional distress.

I left the hospital feeling defeated. But then the “F THAT” attitude came back. I called in the reinforcements – my parents of course – and worked out a plan. Recovery week will either be in Vermont or at my boyfriend’s house (poor him) and I will take a cab to work while I am on crutches. Expensive, yes. But thankfully I have very supportive parents. 🙂

Hip surgery, HERE I COME!