Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

OUCH ! Adapting to life changes

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This past Thursday, I felt some severe pain while doing zumba. For the last 5 weeks, I had been dealing with a very tight hamstring and IT band, and it was beginning to interfere with my own exercise regimen. I rolled, iced and got some massage, which temporarily helped. It turns out I may have a lateral meniscus tear, for which I started physical therapy on Friday- (why waste time?). I began to think of the changes in my schedule that would need to occur and thought of ways I could adapt.  Most of you know that I exercise daily and it’s an important part of my stress reduction and endorphin release. I knew that going on the exercise bike would be fine and even helpful for this injury, so I’ve been happily sweating while cycling to nowhere this weekend. I wondered how I would manage classes with a painful knee and concluded that Zumba, with its torquing and twisting, needs to be avoided for at least a few weeks. I also realized that I could lead my other exercise classes without doing the cardio part, i.e. no jumping, hopping or twisting my knee. After a quick analysis I realized I could run 5 of my 8 classes. I also feel lucky I’m still able to see my private clients, as I can demonstrate movements, as long as I do them more slowly. I’ll continue to run two of my weekly Zumba classes with a body double (read substitute teacher, my lovely assistant, Pia) so there’ll only be a minimal interruption in the class schedule.  Of course this begs the question – are there any possible benefits that may come out of my knee injury?  Time will tell but the fact is we are always dealing with change and being forced to adapt.

As we all know, change, whether mental, physical, or emotional is inevitable.  And change is triggered when people face a significant discrepancy between what they expected and what actually happens. People adjust to change, not by learning to like what is taking place, but by forming new expectations that can lead to success under the new conditions. At a personal level, three types of energy are required to make these adjustments in expectations:

  • Mental (to figure out what is happening and how to respond)
  • Emotional (to deal with various feelings like loss, anxiety, threat, relief, joy, optimism, etc.)
  • Physical (to accommodate the bodily implications of stress, excitement, etc.)

– See more at:

Mental: For me, knowledge is power, so it was helpful to see a Physical Therapist ASAP have a diagnostic evaluation. It was also calming to realize I could see clients because my pain is minimal. Maintaining the class schedule allowed me to feel less of a loss.

Emotional: A lot is wrapped up in our identities- an injured knee for a fitness trainer is quite a liability! However, I am more than just a fitness trainer, and my clients have told me that I’m more of a life coach- fitness is a part of what we do in individual sessions, but not all of it. It’s uplifting to think realize that, even when we are physically limited, we still have much to offer others. 

Physical: I iced immediately, put a compression wrap on to prevent swelling, and made a PT appointment for the next day. I also minimized the stress to the knee over the next few days, but rode the stationery bike to enhance blood flow and keep the swelling down.  Even without much medical expertise, we can all take simple steps to relieve pain and minimize risk of further injury.

The only constant in life is change- how do you adapt when major change strikes?



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