Back Injury in Switzerland – Part Two: Personal Trainer – Lorraine Jenkins – English speaking

(This is part of a 3-post series regarding a back and neck injury I had in Switzerland from 2014-2015. I have been asked by many people how I got “better” so quickly and miraculously. I hope my information is helpful.)

Lorraine works at Booster Pilates with the Lagree Fitness Method (http://www.lagreefitness.com/about/) and has a great deal of expertise in physical fitness, overall health, and nutrition. She speaks English (from the UK), Italian, and a bit of German.

Today, we joke about my first day in May of 2014 with Lorraine. My shoulders were completely caved in, I looked like a turtle. I had major balance problems because there was no core anymore, no real center of gravity – only mental fear and physical pain in my neck and back. But, I could walk and that’s what she worked with. My legs were strong…and that was it.

Lorraine is an excellent diagnostician. She knows the body so well. Lorraine’s trinity is that she intrinsically knows how much is too much, how much is reparative, and how much is therapeutic. Finding a trainer who will quickly discern what keeps you plateaued on days when your body is aching (especially during the first few months of physical therapy), what gets you loose on days when your muscles are tight, and what builds your strength and endurance. That’s her special recipe and here are specific examples of how she does it, using Lagree terminology.

The Catfish- This is an exercise that Lorraine used to build my confidence. She told me from the second week, “you’re The Catfish Queen.” This has variations and the “normal” version is all we did for three months. Why? Because I simply could not handle more and she knew it. The first time we tried the 2nd variation, she said, “this will be easy for The Catfish Queen” and it was.

The Wheelbarrow- Lorraine almost always starts with this and reminds me to feel in my abs. But, I couldn’t at first. I felt it in my back because I didn’t really have “an ab.” I could only do it for about 30 seconds. I think she used The Wheelbarrow as a litmus test to know, each workout, how my body was doing that day. It is the best way to start a Lagree workout (in my opinion) because of that reason. If something is off, somewhere in the body, you know it when you do The Wheelbarrow.

Plank to Pike- Both of us felt it the day I did this. This is a freaking tough thing to do. In March, I was told I would probably be in a wheelchair by June. One morning in October, Lorraine and I attempted The Plank to Pike. It’s December now and we do 4 of the 5 variations. Truly a miracle.

Lorraine Jenkins “Lo-J”. Wherever she is in Switzerland, find her. Lorraine has the patience of a saint. Twice, I came into the studio crying and I cried during the entire workout. Once, I was so frustrated with myself, I screamed (I never scream) at her. As I said, there is something inherent in her that just “gets” it. The woman works with pregnant women, injured women, other Pilates instructors, anyone. She “gets” it.

Apples and faith

How very Swiss the sermon was on Christmas eve/day. “Brothers and sisters in Christ, faith is like an apple.”

Father Luzzatto’s sermon was powerful, as is usually the case when someone stands at the pulpit at Franziskanerkirche. Apples and candles adorned our Christmas trees in my loving, liberal, Luzern church.

Ah, the apple. We love our apples here: raw, cinnamon-dusted, on a train, in a car, while walking. We love apples. There are well over 7,000 varieties of apples. Some are sweet and others are almost sour.  Certain “perfect” apples appear absolutely blemish-less, whilst others are picked from a tree and might have not only bruises, but possibly a plump worm hiding within. Apples used to be a sign of wealth. Countries have their own national favorites. It’s easily one of the top 3 most consumed fruits. Even Switzerland’s hero Wilhelm Tell was linked with the apple, which demonstrated his bravery, accuracy, and resilience under pressure (three rather important universal strengths).

But, the apple’s also an apt metaphor for faith.

There’s a small layer of a “shell” protecting it as it grows, matures, and thrives. Once past the fragile, but firm, exterior, one reaches the sought-after flesh. Interestingly enough, the true legacy each apple holds is far from that which is immediately seen or tasted. Buried underneath the peel, past the yummy inside, there it is: the core. We say, “das Kernhaus eines Apfels” in German. The core of each apple has the potential to bring literal life.

Even the proportions are similar. The outer layer is thin, but sturdy. The inner flesh definitely contains the majority of what makes an apple have its well-known taste. The core is similar to the outer layer because it is limited in size (and circumference, by nature).

There we have our proportions (those of us who are faith seekers). Our “faith” or outer armor is not so thick, but it is substantial. The inner stuff makes us who we are. The core (a purity of heart I believe we are all born with) is small, but drives everything from birth to death and then the next step…if it is protected.

Today I did a bit of research. There is a group in Asia trying to create an apple without a peel. Why? Because people don’t like the taste of the peel. “It’s bitter,” they say, “I just want the inside part.” There are hundreds of products created to help us get rid of our apple peel, including one of my favorite products, which is apple juice. We wish it was easier to get directly to and enjoy the delicious flavors of the apple. Who cares about that pesky peel layer, I want the good stuff!

Hell, we all do.

News Flash: the good stuff isn’t in the flesh – it’s in the peel. In particular, that area just between the peel and the flesh. You get a healthy dose of potassium, Vitamins A, C, & K, fiber, not to mention possible cancer-fighting elements and antioxidants. Eat only the flesh? You don’t.

It’s trendy now to eliminate that “armor.” But, when we eliminate the armor of “faith,” we lose a lot.  Not everything, we still get a delicious, wonderful, beautiful apple. But, picture an apple without a peel. How that would really be? It would be exposed to every storm, susceptible to every pest. The peel, the armor – they protect the flesh. Both the outer layer and the inner layer do something extremely important. They both protect the core. The inner layer cannot do it alone, that’s why the outer layer is crucial. Get it?

I struggle to imagine myself with the armor that has protected me. The armor I choose willingly and happily to wear fully aware of what makes it my faith and my armor. No one told me, “put this on just because.” No. I made the decision. Certainly, it would have been a lovely life without some of the doubts and anger that come with wearing the “armor.” The many times I felt my strong faith did not protect me or the ones I loved…or even the ones I saw who needed protection.

The church services on Christmas eve and day ended with everyone taking home an apple for him or herself. I am still thinking about this comparison and loving it more and more. Before we left, Father Luzzatto joked about our favorite apple.

Mine is definitely the Pink Lady apple. I loved them when I lived in Manhattan (my grocer carried them). They are a bit tart, but mainly sweet. The peel is tough, rugged.

Apples and faith. Such a beautiful pairing.

Amen.

.Apples and ChristmasApple and Advent candles