by Kiki Maples
Hello 212ers! My name is Kiki, aka Keeks, and I'm the new kid around town. Some of you may have seen me last summer when I interned at 212, and some may have seen me more recently attending classes. I fell in love with 212 from the moment I walked in the door last year, with the positive energy that radiates from the space. I love the sense of pride and community that I feel here. I'm motivated by everyone that has chosen to make this place a part of their lives.
There are many reasons I got into the fitness industry. I like helping people and wanted to be in a serving profession, but didn't want a "traditional" career. I want to help empower people, and for them to feel awesome about themselves. But let's start at the beginning and I'll tell you probably more than you ever wanted to know about me and my background...
I grew up in Michigan, in a toxic household. I was a chubby kid, and I grew up learning to eat my feelings. I was criticized for being overweight. I was shamed for not being able to control my eating, and by the time I was 14, I was bulimic. It was a shameful, humiliating secret I carried with me. I felt disgusted with myself for not being able to exercise any self-control, and felt ashamed and exhausted about what I was doing to myself, both physically and mentally.
When I was 17, I joined the Navy, and was eventually able to get a hold on my eating disorder. My weight was still a struggle, and I still dreamed about being skinny. I moved on to counting calories, and would manage to lose some weight, but I wasn't eating quality food. I'd think nothing of starving myself all day and gorging on brownies at night, as long as I didn't go over 1200 calories. I didn't even consider food as nourishment for my body. It was still the enemy.
While I was in the service, I completed my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and started working on a Master's Degree in Holistic Nutrition. I started contemplating what I was putting into my body, and how my body reacted to it. I started thinking about the handling of food, and how we as a society went from eating a very natural diet, to one that is so processed. You'd think that concludes the diet portion of the speech, right? For now, but we'll revisit that...they all go hand-in-hand!
During this same period of time, I started experiencing back pain. Not your everyday aches and pains, but something so indescribable, no amount of codine could touch it, not to mention that I don't like the side effects of pharmaceuticals. There were days that I could not sit, for any period of time, without excruciating pain, and there were times when I was completely unable to use my upper extremities. I'm talking about not being able to brush my own hair. Physical therapy helped somewhat to alleviate it, but only temporarily, and I baffled doctors, becaues they couldn't figure out what was causing it. They sent me to physical therapy, I had never-ending X-rays, went to the chiropractor, etc., etc. It wasn't until I finally was sent in for an MRI that we discovered I have a conditioned called syringomyelia. Even the general practitioners had to do research on it, because they'd never even heard of it. It's a spinal cavity, or cyst, that affects 8 in every 100,000 people. It's not curable; pain management is the only way to alleviate any of the symptoms. Or is it?
I started with steroid injections, into the cervical spine, then the thoracic spine. Those made the pain worse. Then we tried radio-frequency ablation (RFA). During RFA, needles are placed along the sides of the spine, and along the scapula. When all needles are in, they are attached to a machine that sends out waves that temporarily paralyze the nerves that the needles are injected into. While effective, it was quite the process to go through, not to mention the recovery time involved. I'd have this procedure done about every 6 months. Until I started resistance training.
Ahhh, Resistance Training...I'm never going to be a body builder. I'm never going to be able to load up for a back squat. I'm never going to be stellar at overhead presses. And that's okay. I do resistance training to maintain my functional movement. Since adding resistance training to my workout routine, instead of having RFA procedures every 6 months, it's been almost 4 years. That's not to say that my condition never affects me, or that I never hurt; I'm just pointing out that there is a potential correlation to moving the body, having strong, functional muscles, and pain management.
(Cue the music for the reprise of nutrition here). Along with strength training, I've implemented a more intuitive nutrition approach, as well. I'm no longer soley focused on being skinny. I'm focused now on how my body feels, and how it is moving. I don't eat like a rabbit. I like sugar as much as the next person, and I like booze. But I recognize that when I eat a bunch of sugar, I feel like crap, my back flares up, and I want to take an immediate nap. Who wants to feel like that? Nobody. I generally try and eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as I can, and look toward natural means of relief, instead of the plethora of opioids and Vitamin M (that's a Motrin 800, for non-military types), that the VA would like me to ingest. I want to be healthy, but I prefer that the body correct and heal itself.
Anxiety and depression have played a role in my foray into the gym as well. There are some days that my mind whirls at a thousand miles per hour and I can't get it to stop no matter how hard I try. There are days when I can't get it to turn on at all in the morning. This is partly what got me into yoga, although I confess, I was largely motivated by the thought of "yoga arms." Although I was initially tempted by yoga being a low-impact way to exercise, I was seduced even more by it when I delved into the mental aspects it has taught me. Never before beginning my practice would I have ever dreamed about sitting in my own discomfort, or acknowledging the worries filed away in the subconscious (kind of funny to think of a Psych major not willing to do that, right?); to acknowledge and say hello to areas that I might have rather ignored. To dig deep, and not only see what was there physically, but emotionally. To decide that it was okay to be my authentic and honest self, instead of what society has dictated that it's okay to be.
Emotions have memories, I've learned, that are frequently stored in muscles. What do you think happens to them when those emotions get trapped? All that anxiety has nowhere to go when you are just sitting in it. There have been many, many occasions in the gym, when I've just had to sit down afterwards and have a nice cry.
Through motion comes emotion.
My point here being that I get it. We all have different reasons for having walked in the door; for starting our fitness journey. I love training. The best feeling is when someone leaves the gym after a workout saying that they feel better than they did when they came in. That's what I strive for. And what an awesome community here at 212 to help keep you motivated to do it. I'm honored to be joining this team, and am here to aid you in any way I can, to help you be your best self.
Some random tidbits about me beyond the fitness realm: I live in Pawtucket. My best friend is my Great Dane, Donky (yes, that's different from Donkey). I am an artist. I love to travel, and my favorite place (so far) has been Ireland, but I'm dying to go to Africa. I love hot air balloons. I love to hike, bike, and jog. You can occasionally see me onstage in community theater productions. I love the fall. I love the 80's. I've enjoyed board games ever since my grandma introduced me to Candyland at age 3. I love, love, love weird-looking animals with long necks...flamingoes, camels, and above all, GIRAFFES. Seriously, I am nutty about giraffes- just ask me about the first time I ever fed one...well, maybe not. I don't want to cry at work.