The Journey from ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can’t Wait’ – by Laurel L.

I’m a bit surprised to find myself not just contemplating writing a success story about myself, but actually doing it. I’ve read many such stories over the years, and my story pales in comparison to many I’ve read. But I suppose the key is that it is MY story, and that, of course, makes it important to me.Mine is not a story with a beginning and an end as I consider myself to be on a successful journey as opposed to having done anything as wonderful as achieving full-out success. But here is my journey.

I have been working out consistently for over 20 years. I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer at the age of 23, and one of the things the doctor recommended was for me

to get more exercise as a way of stress relief. The next day I walked to the nearest discount store and purchased two videotaped exercise sessions. And thus began my journey as a video fitness enthusiast.

I started working out with Cathe in 1998. I remember previewing the first workout of Cathe’s I bought which was Power Max and thinking to myself ‘I’m going to die doing this!’ I didn’t die. Instead, I loved every minute of it, and I’ve been an enthusiastic purchaser and user of Cathe’s workouts ever since.

I’ve had some physical setbacks along the way. In November 2000, while talking on the phone, I sneezed. And with that sneeze, I managed to hurt my back so severely I couldn’t walk for days and wasn’t able to drive for nearly two months! I thought my Cathe days and high impact aerobics were over. I continued to do strength training, but the aerobics seemed impossible. But early in 2002, I felt able to start doing some of the aerobics, albeit without a step. Finally, after a couple of months at that level, I moved to a four-inch step, then a few months later was back to a six-inch step. By late 2003, I was adding impact back to my routines. I became the Queen of Modification for certain moves that I didn’t feel I could do, but I grew stronger nonetheless. I remember going for a long hike in the mountains of Switzerland in the summer of 2004 and thinking how that would have been impossible if I hadn’t enjoyed working out with Cathe so much and persisted in tryi ng to rehabilitate myself enough to do her workouts again. I felt triumphant in that moment.

But life is a roller coaster. I continued to work out over the next couple of years. But in February 2006, another tumble came, this time it was literally. I was running up the stairs in my home, tripped, fell, and dislocated my left shoulder. While I felt this was a tad more respectable way of injuring myself than sneezing, I still was somewhat embarrassed to be so incapacitated in such an innocuous kind of way. I remember laughing about it with the doctors and physical therapists.

But the laughter didn’t last for very long because my shoulder refused to heal. By late March, I was suffering spasms in the arm that were so painful, I literally could not move my arm away from my body. The doctors were baffled. The pain got so bad, I couldn’t even ride in a car because the bumping motion of the road sent me into the kind of spasmodic pain that made me want to cry.

So the doctors set me up with a complete course of pharmaceuticals-muscle relaxants, valium, anti-inflammatories, etc. And, finally, in early June, they diagnosed my condition as frozen shoulder. Of course, by this time, I had lost pretty much all movement in my left arm. I had been in constant pain for nearly four months. I hadn’t left the house except to go to the doctors and grocery store in four months. I was tired.

I wasn’t a candidate for the rather simple surgery that can be done to help alleviate frozen shoulder since I have never had full range of motion in my shoulders. So the only solution was to manage the pain, work with a physical therapist, and wait out how long it was going to take for the shoulder to decide it wanted to work again….if it decided it wanted to work again.

At the time, my husband and I were living in Germany. In August, six months after I dislocated my shoulder, we learned we were going to move to Alaska. Talk about culture shock! We moved in September. The result of the medicine cabinet full of drugs I was on, plus the complete lack of working out for six months had, predictably, added some pounds to my frame. But that had nothing on what happened during my first winter in Alaska!

I received my new Cathe DVDs of the 2006 series (Butts and Guts, Body Max 2, etc) shortly after arriving in Alaska, and I was determined to do what I could to work out. But it wasn’t easy. My arm was still painful. I was afraid of falling off my step bench. I couldn’t do any strength training. And then I was enduring the longest, coldest winter I’ve ever experienced. I had already been housebound for five months of 2006 due to my arm. I was housebound again for another five months due to the Alaskan winter. I didn’t have a car that first winter, and, trust me, venturing out much at -25 or, worse yet, -40, just wasn’t in the cards. So while I was attempting to work out as best I could, nothing I did working out was ever going to be effective at combating the amount of peanut butter, chocolate, and wine I consumed to-as I thought of it-get me through the winter.

In some ways, at least physically, I just kind of gave up. My arm wasn’t really showing any signs of improvement. I was overweight. And while I still enjoyed working out, that was countered with the constant fear of hurting myself. Even my physical therapist didn’t have any words of encouragement for me. And I told myself (pathetically) that all of this was all right because I was at that time 41/42 years old, and ‘these things happened to people my age’. I’d gotten myself through a bad back injury just a few years before, but this one seemed like something I was just going to have to live with as best I could.

I preordered STS when it was first announced. I lived with hope that, some day, my arm would get better. But when my husband and I learned in April 2008 that we would be leaving Alaska for California, I cancelled my preorder with no intention of purchasing again. I just didn’t think I’d ever be able to fully use the program as I still couldn’t do anything with my left arm with weights.

But I kept reading the Cathe message boards about STS and watching the video clips when provided. Maybe it was the warm weather of California, but shortly after we arrived, my mood improved, and I started saying to myself ‘It’s time to get back into the game of life’. I started doing some light weight work with my left arm-biceps and triceps only to protect the shoulder. And those STS clips looked so appealing to me. In the fall, I decided to preorder again. I can honestly say I’ve made many decisions in my life, but unknown to me at the time, the decision to preorder STS again turned into a life-changing event.

The effect of knowing that I spent that much money on an exercise program that I knew full well I wasn’t fully capable of doing at that time in my life was profound. I started working out harder, and testing my left arm to see what it could do. I started lifting much more with my right arm as well, pushing it for the first time in 2 ½ years.

As 2008 ended and the release date of STS started showing up on the nearer horizon, I decided that I was tired of living under the layers of fat. I was tired of living with the words ‘I can’t’ in my head. And I was tired of thinking of myself as a 43-year-old woman who had to settle for anything other than the best I could give.

So I decided I was going to give my life the best I could give once again. The impetus behind this was, without a doubt, STS . I, to put it simply, wanted to be able to see my results. I figured I had spent enough for the program that it would be a crying shame to not see something of an outcome at the end of it.

It started in January 2009 with weight loss. Some great posters on the Cathe message boards pointed me in the direction of another website (myfitnesspal.com) that would track my calories. I decided this was going to be my way of losing weight.

I am 5’2″ tall, and started out 2009 weighing 143 pounds. I had been about 155 at the end of my first winter in Alaska. I set my goal for 120 pounds because I figured this was reasonable…and the lowest weight I had been since I was about 26.

I lost the first ten pounds by the time STS arrived on my door step. I was amazed at how my body was responding to proper nutrition.

And then there was STS . Words cannot possibly describe what this program has done for me. I opted for the six month rotation because I hadn’t been lifting regularly for some time. And, again, this decision became life-altering.

It is very hard to put into words what has happened to me over the past five months since I started my weight loss journey, and over the past four months since I started STS . But I have been transformed, both inside and out. I remember thinking to myself after I lost those first ten pounds-poised to start STS as I was–that I ‘wanted to take this old body out for a spin to see what she had left in her’, and that’s what I’ve done. And what a ride it has been!

Regarding weight loss, I’ve gone from 143 and size 10 to 105 and purchased my first size 0 a week ago! And I have never felt healthier. I say this because I’m eating cleaner than I ever have in my life. I’ve read book upon book about proper nutrition and the food industry, and, for the first time in my life, feel totally and completely in charge of what I am eating. And I am loving the results, not just in my weight, but in my energy levels, how my stomach feels after a meal, and simply knowing that I’m not just blindly walking through life unaware of what I’m doing to my body.

Then there is my fitness journey. This part of my story literally brings tears to my eyes. When I started doing STS , I could barely do push-ups on my knees because my left arm was still felt so weak and tight. But I worked on it-boy, did I work on it during those eight weeks of Mesocycle 1! I am still limited in the number of push-ups I can do on my toes, but the key is…I can now do push-ups on my toes! And a double-digit number of them at that.

I couldn’t hold myself in a plank in February for more than a few seconds. Now I can get through most plank sessions on any Cathe DVD I try….and that includes my most recent triumph of being able to hold a side plank on my left side for about 30 seconds. Is it perfect? By other standards, no. But being able to push myself up on that arm and hold my body weight for that long feels absolutely perfect to me right now.

There are too many changes to detail. I am lifting nearly as much weight with my left arm as my right in biceps and triceps. I’m doing chest flies with my left arm, albeit light still. But I’m doing them. I’m even doing overhead presses with my left arm, something which amazes me to do. And my right arm just keeps getting stronger and stronger. There is muscle in these arms, and I can actually SEE it. That was my aim, and it is happening.


And then there is the lower body transformation. This is not something I focused on, but it is something that has happened without me looking. I have lost nearly 7 inches off my hips, which, for me, is unheard of. I am smaller through my hips right now than I have been since I was a young teen. Even when I weighed the same as I do now some 20 years ago, I was always big through my hips. No more. A combination of the cleaner diet and STS has completely changed the shape of my lower body. I never dreamed it would be possible.

But the better benefit is the strength I have gained. I never felt like I quite recovered fully from that 2000 back injury, so, as I said before, became the Queen of Modification. Well….no more modifications necessary. I’m back to doing all of my step aerobics on an eight-inch step. I’m jumping higher and further than I have in years. And it feels great. Thanks to STS , I have both the core strength and the leg strength to support it, and I don’t feel it at all in my back.

The physical transformation has, predictably, resulted in a complete mental transformation as well. I’m not afraid to workout anymore. I thrive on intensity. I love the challenge of a good workout again. As Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser puts it, ‘It isn’t about the push-up’, and he’s right.

Because while I’m fitter and stronger than I have been….ever….the way I feel about myself and my life has changed completely. I no longer feel like a woman in her 40s who has to settle for feeling pretty poorly (and looking pretty poorly too). I’m now a woman in my 40s who feels, once again, like no challenge is too big. Yes, it’s true, I can do push-ups again, and while that’s great for my chest and shoulders and triceps, it’s even better just knowing I had the strength and determination and the willingness to get back down on the floor and at least try to do another push-up again.

I have goals again. I’m planning on doing STS again early next year with STS Cardio. And by the time I get there, I plan on being able to do more with my left arm. My aim is to be able to complete at least one of the workouts in Mesocycle 1 doing all of the push-ups on my toes.

People have overcome so many more physical and mental obstacles than I can even possibly dream, and I have so much admiration for those who never give up that, even though my obstacle much less imposing than others, I am pleased that I didn’t allow myself to give up either. It would have been so easy to do just that….but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun as I’ve had over the past few months.

So there is no ‘the end’ to this story because I’m still working on improving. I’m still trying to get that left arm back where it will go. But whereas my mental dialogue for nearly three years when faced with a physical challenge was ‘I can’t’, now my mental dialogue is ‘I can’t wait’.

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