The Dream To Run Again: Lisa’s Clubfoot Journey

We’ve all experienced that dreaded injury that puts our workouts and, sometimes, our lives on hold. Whether it’s a sprain, broken bone, or surgery it can be so frustrating to suddenly not be able to do the things you used to do. Now, imagine being told that injury you experienced will be permanent. To say you feel defeated is an understatement. Many people face this news every day after a serious injury or, in my case, when a serious birth defect causes issues in adulthood. How do we accept this? Or do we find a way to beat the odds? I have chosen to find a way to beat the odds and am fundraising my way to a brighter, active, and hopefully pain-free future…  

the IDEO device and my foot (xray and photo) today.

My name is Lisa Kramer and I was born in 1986 with a severe unilateral clubfoot (talipes equinovarus for you medically-advanced readers out there) on my right foot. Although it is the most common foot deformity that a baby can be born with (1 in 1000 births), it is not well known outside of the clubfoot community and a specialist is required for proper treatment. In summary: the foot is born with shortened tendons that cause it to turn down and inwards. Although there is no “cure” for clubfoot, there are treatment options including the Ponseti Method’s boots and bars (non-surgical) and surgical methods. When I was born my parents and family were given the prognosis that “she will never walk”. Lucky for me, I have a stubborn Hungarian mother who sought out a second opinion.

  My treatment started with casts and boots… and it failed. While most clubfeet can be “corrected” using this method, mine was too severe and did not respond. At just 8 months old I had reconstructive surgery. Although I’m not 100% sure the medical terminology of what was done, I do know this: tendons were released, reconfigured, and some were moved from my leg to my toes. My subtalar joint (just below the ankle) was also fused to keep my foot straight. Now that my foot was facing in the right direction, I forever lost the ability to point my foot or wiggle my toes. Unlike many doctors who treat clubfoot, mine did not focus on the foot’s appearance. He was concerned with the functionality of my foot and I truly believe that because of his approach I was able to have a fantastic and active childhood and stuff it in the face of the doctor who said I’d never walk!

             I grew up playing every sport I could possibly try. I was always the girl trying to out-play everybody and was even a competitive dancer thanks to an instructor who gave me the chance to compete without judges docking points for my un-pointed foot (think Dance Moms, but without all the crazy). I was most successful in Softball, an all-conference Fastpitch player in high school and even considered playing in College (but chose a way-too-time-consuming major instead). I could fool anyone into thinking there was nothing different about me… as long as I had shoes on. My right foot and leg had developed noticeably smaller than my left side. At 14 years old I had to have surgery on my left knee to stunt the growth plates and allow my right leg to try and “catch up”. Before the surgery I had a 2+ inch difference in leg lengths and now only have a 1 inch difference causing much less strain on my lower back. I could stand longer and even run better now that my back/posture was improved. Although I was never a long distance runner, or the fastest runner, I grew to love it. I started running 1-3 miles a few days a week and ran my first 5K in college.

It was only within the last 5 years that my birth defect started causing me pain. It was not a shock to me. Growing up my doctor was brutally honest about the troubles I may face as I got older: arthritis, pain, more surgeries, etc. In my 20s I first started to experience pain when on my feet for several hours at work. As I got older, I could spend less and less time on my feet before facing unbearable pain. I haven't gone for a run in over 2 years. My current diagnosis: “only run if you are about to get hit by a car”. Great… maybe a car can chase me for 1 mile so I can get that wind in my face again and the adrenaline will mask the pain? Not likely. More and more frequently, I have to cut activities out of my life that I love because the pain is too much. 

Now the pain persists even when I'm not active. Some mornings require a foot massage before even attempting to step on the ground, and other mornings I’m hopping around on my good leg and not even bothering to step on the clubfoot. The realization that I needed to find a solution came when I had to consider giving up the sport I love most: softball. I’ve been playing in women’s and co-ed leagues since college. I currently have somebody run for me after I slowly make it to first base, but fear that I won't be able to participate at all soon.  

I struggled to find a doctor in my adult years that could understand my condition, my love for an active lifestyle, and my stubbornness to not accept the "just don't run or walk for exercise" response that I kept getting. I finally met with Dr. Stephen Benirschke in Seattle, WA who not only knew my childhood doctor, but he and his colleague went above and beyond to help me find a solution to reach my long-term goal to run again. My immediate goal was to reduce my pain. I got a custom insole, did some physical therapy and tried stretching techniques, but it just wasn't enough. Finally, at one of my check-ups he and his colleague told me about a revolutionary device that until about 2 weeks earlier had only been available to military personnel. It was called "IDEO" and stood for "Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis". I watched a brief video about the device and knew this was it: I was about to get my life back (insert tears of joy here). 

The Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO) was created by prosthetist Ryan Blanck in an effort to help injured military personnel avoid amputation after leg trauma. It is a cross between a prosthetic and an orthotic that, in summary, stores energy to deflect injury and minimize pain allowing users to walk, run, jump, etc. The results are mind-blowing. People that can hardly put pressure on their leg are running full speed with this device on. The IDEO was only recently made available to civilians through the Hanger Clinic. I met with Ryan in the Fall of 2013 after he moved back to the Tacoma area and, after a consultation and recommendation from my doctor, qualified as a candidate for the device. Unfortunately, my insurance at the time denied any coverage. The custom-made carbon fiber device costs approximately $9,000 out of pocket. This includes leg casting, prototype testing, device cost, and device use training. I appealed their decision. I argued that if the decision was made to amputate my leg (a difficult choice that some adults with severe clubfoot pain make after multiple surgeries and years of suffering) they would cover my surgery and prosthetic devices, so why can’t they cover something that will prevent this? Still no luck. Clubfoot is not seen as a “disability” since research does not go far beyond childhood treatment for some reason despite many adults facing issues related to their birth defect. 

After much consideration for such a large expense, I decided to begin my efforts to pay for the IDEO out of pocket. There is no price tag on quality of life and like I said, I’m choosing to beat the odds. As of today (4/21/14), after 6 weeks of fundraising, I have raised $2,510 and am at 27.8% of my goal! The amount of generosity has been incredible and I may or may not cry every time I get a donation notification (clearly, I cry…). I can’t wait to go for that first run, even though it will probably only be a few steps as I adjust to the device. I am so grateful for the support I have received (both emotional and financial). I have been inspired by other stories of incredible individuals overcoming their obstacles in life. Maybe I can inspire someone facing physical limitations to not take “no” for an answer: you never know what medical advances are out there unless you are that annoying patient that refuses to give up and constantly seeks a solution!


Interested in donating? Click Here. 

Want to watch a video about how the IDEO has changed others' lives? Click here. 


Check out our GROUPON deal!

For the month of April, we have partnered with Groupon to offer some of our best deals yet:

  1. 11 classes for $29
  2. 1 month of UNLIMITED classes for $39
  3. 3 months of unlimited clases for $99

It has been so exciting to see new faces around the gym, taking classes and working hard. They already feel like family! These Groupon options are great deals to pass along to your friends and families that might be interested in trying something fun, new, and active. To see our deals, visit the Groupon page here.


Springtime in Seattle


                         10 SPRINGTIME IN SEATTLE ACTIVITIES

     1. HIT THE TRAILS. Morgan recommends hiking up to Poo Poo Point where you can take in the gorgeous scenery and giggle at the ridiculous name of Poo Poo Point.

2.   2. WALK TO A FARMER’S MARKET. It is a great way to buy farm fresh, organic produce while supporting local businesses. Look into the University District Farmers Capitol Hill Broadway, West Seattle, Columbia. You can find their locations and dates/times available here and what fruits/vegetables they currently carry here. Buy ingredients at the marker in the morning and use them to make dinner the same night!

3.   3. DO SOME SPRING CLEANING. And feel good about it. Log your calories on MyFitnessPal and be impressed with yourself. 30 minutes of vacuuming burns about 90 calories! Turn on some fast-paced music and get your heart pumping!

4.   4. GO TO THE WASHINGTON PARK ARBORETUM. The arboretum is a lush, gorgeous, green haven tucked away near the University of Washington campus. The azaleas are in full bloom during springtime and are sure to take your breath away. Bring a friend along and rent a canoe! Bring a camera along and take lots of photos! Just don’t drop your camera in the water J

5.   5. GASWORKS PARK. Circle Gasworks Park a couple of times. Bonus points if you jog/run up the hill. The park is particularly great in the evening, around dusk, when people’s silhouettes atop the hills look pretty cool. Take a few photos of the gorgeous view of Seattle and post them on Instagram! We also love Cowen Park, Discovery Park, Greenlake Park,

6.   6. GOLDEN GARDENS. Take a bike ride with your best friend or significant hour at Golden Gardens. Bonus points if you take a bike ride during the “golden hour” of sunset.

7.   7. CONQUER THE BURKE GILMAN TRAIL. Or maybe just part of it. The Burke Gilman is a trail that extends for 27 miles. That is longer than the length of a marathon! It can be conquered with walking, jogging, running, bicycling, or anything else you can think up. Conquer part or all of it and let us know. We will be impressed and will give you a very enthusiastic high five.

8.   8. TOP POT 5K Work for your sweets by running this 5K and being welcomed with a Top Pot doughnut at the finish line. Hey, if you're going to have a doughnut, you might as earn it! There is a shorter route designed for kids as well. Click the link below for more information and to register. 

9.   9. GO TO THE SKAGIT VALLEY TULIP FESTIVAL. Make the drive up to Skagit Valley to see the bright, beautiful tulips that will remind you of a giant Crayola crayon box growing out of the earth. 

10. 10. FREE PARK DAY. Entry is free at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks on April 19th and 20th! Take a hike, pack a picnic, take a drive, do whatever you have to do to enjoy the beautiful nature that national parks have to offer.




Should Cardio be an Entrée or a Side Dish?

"Are you tell me I don't have to do cardiovascular exersice?" is a question I get a lot. No. You do. But cardio is only a side dish. The magic happens in your lifting or resistance training. Your muscle dictates your metabolism.

Don't get me wrong, I still do cardio, but it is never more than 45 minutes a day at most, and typically this is when I'm getting ready for a show.  I eat clean and consistently. I lift weights and work on my muscle imbalances so that my body is muscularly efficient all the time.

Today I met with a gal for the first time who pointed out that there weren't any people on the cardio peices of equipment when she came in to Fuerte. She had been killing herself on the Howe St./Eastlake stairs, for an hour a day 4 days a week for a year and a half and not getting results. Her calves were killing her but she wasn't getting any leaner. It's always great to meet someone who is self-motivated, but just needs a little help on the educational side of fitness. Learning about 'your' body is the best thing you can do for it. When you know which one of your muscles are tight, you can stretch those muscles out so you can get to the muscles that are weak because they are never touched.

If you sit for the majority of the day, then you are more likely to have tight hamstrings, tight hip flexors, and a weak core.  The best thing you can do is get your butt moving... literally! Learn to engage your glutes: you butt is the biggest body part you have!  Use you core (muscles around your spine) and stop using your lower back. Once that happens you will stand up straight let alone use proper muscle. So let's get our asses moving:)

Sometimes it's just that neurological communication you need so that your body starts working properly.



Shanti Shares

One of our lovely clients, Shanti, shared with us her experiences with the Winter 8 week semi-private program she recently finished. If you have been considering trying out semi-private personal training, take a moment to read the feedback that Shanti shares.



The 8-week session of semi-private training was just what I needed to kick myself into gear.  The best part was setting up healthy new habits of regular exercise and smarter eating.  The structure of the 3 early morning workouts a week helped create a new "normal" and making it through 24 sessions of waking up before dawn taught me that I really can do it regularly.  I never thought I would be able to wake up and work out so early, but it really does work for my schedule (I'm a working mom with young kids, and it's been hard to find time during the day/week).
I enjoyed the variety and toughness of the workouts, and I am amazed at how much muscle I gained in just 8 weeks!  Tracking workouts and food in the journal was helpful, though it was sometimes hard to stay on top of it.  Paying attention to food was a great piece for me; I knew what I should/shouldn't eat already, but the accountability of writing it down throughout the session helped me make better choices.  Adriana also offered good snack ideas so I could spread my calories out across more meals.  
Doing this as part of a group made it really fun; I felt more motivated and committed, as well as inspired by the awesome things the other folks were accomplishing.  It also set a faster pace than I would probably have done on my own, so I got more out of the hour-long workouts than I would have otherwise.  I highly recommend these sessions and would do this again!