Let me start off by saying that I love The X-Project and trainer, Michael Gaines!

I am a 45 year old, full-time working mom, who is close to bench pressing 100 pounds, front squatting 125 pounds, doing double under, pull ups, box jumps, burpees and much more. At The X-Project, I currently hold the female record for the most consecutive handstand push ups (but others are closing in :)!

Now to share my story- I was always active during my youth and being outside was my outlet. It kept me focused, grounded, and out of trouble. I juggled many extra-curricular activities, as I played soccer, was a diver and a cheerleader. On the side, I loved to ski, hike and go biking and even most recently took up golf. However, up until now, I experienced many setbacks that often kept me from doing what I loved, and in turn, I began to struggle with weight issues and depression. I was on a constant roller coaster of continuous, unexplained injuries which included muscle tears, multiple hospitalizations, and ultimately six surgeries. It seemed like I would work hard to be active and get in shape and then an unexpected injury would occur or I would need surgery to fix another issue. As a result, I would put back on weight, feel down in the dumps and then have to pull myself out of it and start all over again. I am so happy to say that this vicious cycle has finally seemed to end.

My first surgery was when I was in the 10th grade. After several dislocations of my shoulder, my doctor recommended surgery was the only way to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the first time I went to throw a ball after completing Physical Therapy, my shoulder tore again, leaving me to ask myself why? As I became an active soccer player, I would suffer from torn ligaments in my ankles. As a matter of fact, all of the ligaments in one of my ankles are completely torn and don’t even cause me pain when I (unfortunately) sometimes roll it. As a competitive soccer player, I didn’t really think much of my many injuries- I just thought that was the consequence of being an athlete. After high school, my passion for playing soccer continued, however, I continued injuring myself, so I decided to take a break. I got married and gave birth to 2 children . The problem in my body that I had yet to figure out, that was causing me to have all of these connective tissue problems, also required me to have 3 post-childbirth surgeries. At this point in my life, I had given up sports, gained a ton of weight, and overall felt really bad about myself.

I reached the point where I decided to hire a personal trainer and I really wanted to begin working towards my goal of playing soccer again. It wasn’t too long into my training that I tore my quad and both of my calves. The injuries were so severe that I ended up needing significant therapy, in fact I probably should have had surgery. I actually still have a hole in one of my quads, which never healed itself. Needless to say, I physically and mentally gave up.

Over the next few years, I tried out some gyms or used workout tapes in my basement, but the end result was always the same- suffer from a new injury and be unable to workout for a prolonged period of time. I continued to become repeatedly frustrated, but

I refused to allow myself to be inactive. I couldn’t imagine a life not doing things I loved, and I certainly did not like gaining weight.

That’s about the time I was introduced to The X-Project and Michael Gaines. It was Michael who saw my situation as something different and was able to look at all of the pieces of the puzzle. He taught me that I needed to be more proactive about my health.

After a few sessions at The X-Project, I began to experience some discomforts in the muscles where I had prior injuries. This caused me to begin holding back in my workouts and feeling very frustrated. At this point, Michael was becoming curious as to why I became more timid and hesitant to push myself like I had before. I decided I needed to sit down with him and explain my problem. I have to admit, up until that time, I hadn’t elaborated on my issues because I was optimistic that muscle tearing was in the past. I also didn’t want him to think I was making poor excuses for not pushing my limits. However, once I felt those pains, I knew I needed to sit him down and share my concerns. Michael patiently listened to me as I explained my history of complications, giving me his undivided attention and time. This conversation with Michael was a huge turning point for me at The X-Project.

One day during class, Michael asked members to tell him one major goal they wanted to work on. As it got to be my turn, I stated that I wanted to be able to do one pull-up. Without hesitation, he said “NO, your goal is to see a doctor and find out the underlying cause of your problems.” I meekly insisted “but I want to do a pull up!”

I really thought about what Michael said and he was persistent asking my status. I finally relented and decided to go to the doctor and start investigating this. I had not considered there was an underlying reason, I just thought I was injury prone and each issue I had I didn’t connect to another. Because of Michael’s continuous push, I was able to become my own advocate.

In the end I learned that the reason for all of my injuries is that I don’t absorb vitamin K, an essential vitamin for healthy connective tissue. I had to undergo blood tests and biopsies and I was also diagnosed as having Celiac disease. I did experience another set-back, as I ended up having to be hospitalized 3 times within a 6 month period for diverticulitis (which resulted in weeks at a time not training and ultimately a surgery where I had 18 inches of my colon removed). I had been training hard for 6 months at that point and was extremely disappointed to have to take another break. Knowing about my vitamin K deficiency was so important prior to having surgery. Had I not known, had I not been pushed and listened to Michael, surgery could have been very dangerous for me.

I recovered from surgery and came back to The X-Project after 4 weeks. Michael took things very slow with me at first and one day at a time, I began working towards my fitness goals again. If it weren’t for Michael, I would still be on a roller coaster, not knowing what was causing my set backs and why every time I became healthy and active, something would happen. I am now living gluten free and recent blood tests indicate I am able to absorb vitamin K!

Michael has a patience and awareness with his clients, as shown by my personal experience, that is truly special and has enabled me to become stronger and stronger. I actually think I am on a record breaking streak for giving it my “all” and not injuring myself (knock on wood). And I have to say, I am rocking pull ups-many of them! Because of Michael and his guidance, I am now the strongest I have ever been and I am in the best shape of my life. Outside of the gym, I am also back to doing the activities that I love again.

The X-Project not only helps with the body, but also the mind. It encourages positive thinking, being able to look at things differently and teaches you to work through your struggles. I am not perfect with this yet, but I am definitely trying. I know I can rely on my X-Project family to support me, which also just happens to include my mom, niece, daughter, son, and husband. It doesnʼt get much better than that!