You know those people you sweat next to you, and who we share time with in classes? They are in these stories. We are all in these stories in one way or another. When we read them, we find out that we are more alike than we are different. And yet, the thought, "Be Kind. For everyone is fighting a hard battle" is one that we can all learn from. Every year I invite our Energy Lab community to share their story.
Many people tell me they have started to write their story.
Some finish their story. And never share it.
And then there are a few who open themselves up - here is a peek inside the lives of some pretty special people.
The best part is that they are people just like you and me. Their struggles are real. Their triumphs are real. They speak from the heart and they like who they are becoming. We are all, after all, always in the process of becoming.
My Energy Lab Journey ~ Germaine
Let’s start with a little history. I had pretty much been a lifelong smoker. I did quit for 10 years but had started up again and been smoking for about 10 years. When my first granddaughter was born in September of 2013, I quit one more time. And of course, quickly came the added pounds; 30 to be exact. UG. I have never liked gyms as I believe they are places where girls with perfect bodies went to socialize and more. I had heard of Planet Fitness and their focus on being a ‘no judgment zone’. I went in to my local one in San Bernardino and I liked it. I met with a trainer who showed me how to use some of the equipment and recommended a 30 minute workout plan. I joined. I was there religiously every day of the week doing a minimum of 45 minutes on the treadmill walking. I didn’t run because running is my least favorite activity and I was sure I would end up on a YouTube video if I did try to run on the treadmill. I pushed myself every day to increase the incline on my walks and was doing well. I also did some of the weight machines, bikes and when time was short I did their 30 minute workout zone. I felt like I was really doing something good which I guess I was since I wasn’t sitting on the couch right? Unfortunately, that 30 pounds was still hanging on tight. After 18 months doing this at Planet Fitness, I was walking around enjoying the Redlands Bicycle Classic as I did every year. I happened to notice a booth for a place called The Energy Lab. I wandered by a few times slowing to see what I could without someone noticing me. I did this for quite some time that day. Finally, I said to my daughter I am going to go check this out. Beer in hand, I walked up to the table. I was greeted with a smile and asked if I had any questions. I did not start with questions, instead I shared my story….former smoker, quit for grandbaby, gained weight, have high blood pressure, joined Planet Fitness but here I am. She asked me what I was looking for and I said I wanted to feel good, I wanted to be healthy, I was ready to make a change. I didn’t like gyms and all the pressure that brought. I needed someone to help me, to guide me, to support me. Accountability she said. Yes. She could do that, this was the place. She introduced herself, Jill the owner of Energy Lab. Beer still in hand, I filled out the info form and gave her my email and phone number.
I didn’t wait for a call; I walked in one morning on my way to work. I met a nice guy at the desk and shared some of the same info I had at the booth. He talked about what they offer, shared the calendar and class info sheets. I told him I needed some personal assistance, classes were a bit intimidating to me as I still have this notion of what all ‘gyms’ are about. I observed a class going on in the next room with a male trainer and what looked like a few ladies who looked to be 5 or more years older than me and they were doing things on some straps. I thought that to be intriguing. In a nut shell, I didn’t know what I needed. The guy at the desk suggested a free meeting with Jill who I had met at the Bicycle Classic. She was his wife. He made some funny remarks and I loved his sense of humor. Yes, funny man Sean. We booked the meeting.
I met with Jill and again shared what I was needing and wanting. I will always remember what she said to me after we talked for a while……’you seem like a touchy-feely kind of person. While XXXXX is a good trainer, I think you would be best with Paul.’ OK. And there I was, booked for personal training.
On May 26, 2015 I had my first training session with Paul. I was soooooo nervous and excited. I told him some of my history and that ‘I wasn’t in completely bad shape’ because I had been “working out” at Planet Fitness. HA! Paul had me working on the TRX which I then knew was what I had observed him teaching when I met Sean. In my mind, I did pretty well that day. Two days later and yes, I did pretty well, every muscle in my body hurt and especially my left side. My next session with Paul and I told him how sore I was and that clearly I was weaker on my left side as that hurt more. I remember him saying ‘it was only 30 minutes.’ This still makes me smile.
Paul and I quickly discovered we were kindred spirits in many ways but especially when it came to music. Thus started the tradition of Metallica workouts. One of my favorite stories is the morning Erin Dally walked in during our workout where we were blasting Metallica. With a completely shocked look on her face she said ‘PAUL! I can’t believe you have this music on!!’ and she began to change it. Paul responded by pointing to me saying ‘She requested it!!’ I was laughing when I saw Erin’s face as she looked at me very doubtingly and said ‘she did not’. Much to her surprise, I said ‘yes I did.’ I don’t think she believed it at the time, but I assured her it was what I wanted.
I worked out twice a week for 30 minutes each with Paul. He told me I really needed to work in more cardio. A class???? I worked out with Paul on Tuesday mornings and I witnessed that class. I also worked out on Friday mornings and I saw the class he taught before my sessions. Nope. I was definitely not physically ready for classes. How about cycling, that sounded good, I did the bikes at Planet Fitness. I was introduced to the instructor, she was such a tiny gal; couldn’t be that bad could it? Let’s just say I was pretty clueless. So we go up and down, standing. I can do that right? I did that as a kid on my bike. Not the same. Just a couple of spins and that was it. Try again. Nope, just a couple of spins and down I go. This is harder than I thought but I can do this class. Check the clock I am sure we are just about finished. Ten minutes??? That’s all?? I have fifty minutes to go? Oh good grief. After an hour I was congratulated by everyone and praised for having not thrown up. My first indication of the Energy Lab family.
I emailed Paul that I had done this class but I was not able to stand on the bike. Jill answered me back very quickly and assured me this was normal and it might take a few weeks but I would get there. Paul continued to work with me and helped me on the bike. I attended a few more classes. But I was miserable; this was an hour of complete torture. The instructors, the little gal, Mighty Mouse Natalie was great and David was very supportive of me in his classes. It wasn’t just the workout part (although that was rough) but doing virtually the same thing for an hour was a complete turn-off for me. I stopped going. Paul was disappointed again telling me I needed to add more cardio. I told Paul that I need to do things that motivate me, if I keep doing something that makes me miserable, I will quit everything. He understood completely and suggested Tabata. Ta-What? That class I saw on Friday mornings. OK I will try. Loved it and started doing it two days a week.
During my training sessions I told Paul about my family. I really wanted my girls who live with me, to come in for training. He would train us together; I just need to get them in there. I talked to them over and over about this place and how great it was. I think after a while they just heard ‘blah, blah, blah.’
I had started more and more to feel and understand this “Energy Lab Family” I would hear about and see referenced on Facebook. Everyone genuinely cared about each other. Everyone encouraged and supported each other. I joined the team for the Believe Walk in October 2015. I still really didn’t know anyone. Even though I was the only one to do the 10K walk, I started with the team and was encouraged on my journey. As I was coming down Olive for the last couple of miles, I was greeted by Erin Dally who was on her way home. Hugs and more encouragement. This really is a family.
I continued to work on getting Cassie to a training session with me. It finally happened. We were doing a 30 minute session with Paul. Half way through, I am on the Bosu when Cassie goes out the front door and Paul follows. Wait, what? Your 60 year old Mom is still working out while you are outside throwing up in the gutter? Oh that felt good! When she came back with me again, Sean greeted her saying ‘it was just a little bit of vomit right?’ And thus started the brother-sister teasing- torturing relationship between Cassie and Sean.
Thanksgiving 2015, Energy Lab Turkey Trot. I convinced the girls, Cassie and La Donna, to join me. You could feel the energy in the group which included family and friends. This was going to be fun. Part way through the warm-up I notice La Donna appears to not be feeling well. Cassie says she isn’t so she is going to hang out while Cassie and I do the workout. A fun day for sure despite La Donna not making it through the warm-up. What I learned some time later was that La Donna was very honest with Sean when he asked if she was OK. She provided him a bit too much information; you know, girl stuff. He still teases her about this.
My workouts continued to progress. It seemed that every couple of weeks I found something I hadn’t been able to do before, I could now do. I was incredibly excited and proud each time that happened. I had now done TRX classes on Sundays with Jill. Paul had trained me well on TRX in our training sessions. I was also doing the new Strength Training program with Paul. I was up to 2 training sessions per week, one Tabata class per week and one TRX class per week. I was still not ready for that Tuesday or Thursday class known as Breakthrough.
For our personal training, one day Paul decided to have me do some boxing. Now that was FUN! Paul would joke he could see I had faces passing in front of me as I hit the bag. It was incredibly cathartic to box. Boxing with kettlebell swings in between became our Thursday workout. I started with the silver kettlebell, 16 pounds. I continued to move up in weight and was up to 100 swings per week. Boxing plus 100 swings each session. My personal record is 150 swings with the blue Kettlebell. We took pictures when I moved up to the yellow kettlebell. I now do the orange kettlebell for 100 swings too.
When Paul was in England for a month in December 2015, I had a new trainer. This was scary. I didn’t know her. Did she like my music? What was she like? Let’s just say she has become a great friend. I had told Christy about my breakthrough phobia. You know, that scary looking class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No way was I ready to go to that class. I can hear her now; WHAAAT??? You are SO ready and capable. With Christy by my side, in January 2016 I faced my fear and did Tuesday morning breakthrough. And I survived!! I did it!! And now I am addicted; must have my breakthrough fix at least once per week.
May 7, 2016 my 61st birthday. It was the Energy Lab’s 5th Anniversary party. Cassie now fully understood the Energy Lab family as she wanted to go to the party with me. I was surprised, humbled and honored to be recognized as an Everyday Hero. This means the world to me.
Throughout 2016 I continued to add times and days to my weekly workouts. When Ruben joined the coach team, we found our way to get La Donna to Energy Lab. She was the last holdout. We knew they would click, which they did. La Donna was now doing some classes. She has ventured into doing more classes and loves when she can do cardio-kickboxing and TRX flow with Paul.
I was feeling very strong and had found an added family; my Energy Lab family. I participated in both PMA’s in 2016 and had both Cassie and La Donna with me in the fall PMA. Our family was now part of the Energy Lab family. So much so that when Cassie injured her back and was unable to work-out for almost two months, if I so much as said Energy Lab in her presence, she responded ‘Don’t talk about it! I miss my Energy Lab family so much!’
My nearly two year journey has been amazing. I lost a total of 32 pounds but much more than that, I have become strong. I feel fabulous and I am in better shape than I was 30+ years ago. I work out with Cassie (and she can keep up with me), La Donna and one of the most incredible groups of people I have ever been around.
Thank you Jill for your vision. Thank you Jill and Sean for creating such a wonderful place where we all call it our family.
Trina Brown’s Story
My story is one of transformation. I am driven by connection. I chose a career that is geared toward helping people connect to their world through communication. I have a family that I love and few close friends, and a great dog. What is my story? I have sacrificed who I am to help others. I have stood at the forefront of conflict trying to save the world while the people I tried to save hid in the bushes. I have been extremely disappointed and I have been extremely blessed. I like to take pictures, I have since I was a teenager with real film and real lighting, no photo shop. I like to write. I love to write. I see myself more clearly when I can get my thoughts down and can see them in front of me. I love deeply and I expect the same from those I am close to. I have learned to let people be who they are instead of whom I expect them to be. I have learned to forgive. I have learned to trust. I have learned to love. But all of this I am still learning. Life is about transformation…becoming who you were meant to be without barriers, without fear, without doubt. Life is about becoming. That’s where I’m at. I’m becoming. What? Who I was meant to be… It’s a journey. I’m on it. I’m enjoying the ride. Sometimes it gets bumpy, sometimes it gets scary, sometimes it gets downright annoying, but I’m on it, and it’s where I’m meant to be. I am happiest when I am in the company of those that get me. There aren’t many of those people, but one is enough for me. I’m still trying to figure out what it is I was put here to do. I think it all comes down to learning how to love. I’m learning how to do that. I’d like to learn how to do it well.
I admire courage, I admire strength, I admire honesty and kindness. I admire people who aren’t afraid to be exactly who they are and act on that. I think we were all put here on earth to share our uniqueness and our gifts and it is a wonderful thing to discover what those are and spend your life using and sharing them. How does The Energy Lab fit into my life? Well, someone with enough courage to create something she saw in her mind’s eye, with encouragement from a good friend, has created a space that pays attention to the whole person, fitness of the mind, fitness of the body and fitness of the spirit. It jives with where I’m at in my life and I like it. I like the logo and the color orange. And I like the people who show up. Though I still can’t feel my belly button and don’t really get the string that connects the back to the front of your body, nor do I get the swirling energy patterns, I show up and I participate. Someday it may make sense to me. Someday it might click. Someday I may not dread sticking my feet in those TRX stirrups and doing all kinds of exercises relating to planking and strengthening the lower abs. Someday I may see a breakthrough of my own. For now, I show up. I’m present when I’m there. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the space. I enjoy the training. I feel encouraged and I always feel motivated to return. So thank you for creating this space to grow and learn, to become stronger, and to explore fitness as something that includes your mind, your body, and your spirit. Thank you having the courage to share your gifts with us and create an orange space with cool people and great training.
What is my story? It’s one of transformation and it’s still being written. We shall see where it leads...
If someone would’ve asked me where was I eight years ago, I would’ve told him/her I was in a dark place or in a tank full of dirty water, sinking and almost touching the bottom; I felt weak and vulnerable as I never imagined I could have felt. What was I thinking to let life and people bring me so low?
As a kid, I was always all about smiles; ready to go, the fastest runner in my entire school. I joined the school’s running club and participated in several competitions; I felt pretty cool, energetic and full of life, a social butterfly, a good student as well.
I had a boyfriend who was involved in sports and was the star of his team. It was a perfect life.
My mother, during a conversation we had recently, told me that back in the days, more than once, the running coach contacted her to ask permission to have me sign up with the professional running team and take this to the next level; but she turned him down, maybe she didn’t know better, she was afraid of the commitment that represented for both of us, maybe she didn’t think I was good enough or she didn’t want to see me fail.
Youngest of two kids, last chance for my mom to have a second child; I was “placenta previa” and almost died when I was born, my mom always worried for me and wanted to keep me in a crystal box. Overall, I had a happy and healthy childhood.
Dental school came along with my parent’s high expectations, so I decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and pursue a carrier with certain level of independence and lots of service to people….helping people was my call.
I really enjoy dentistry and in many ways I have the chance to connect with people while taking care of their dental needs.
When I got married and moved to California, it was a huge change in various ways; a new start indeed. In a different country, different language, new status, new name, new friends, miles and miles away from home….what a harsh feeling. But it was my decision and I fell in love and knew that starting a new life was not going to be easy….so, I sucked it up and kept going .
My goals were met; a good, working, lovable husband, got licensed as a dentist in the state in record time, bought a beautiful house in Loma Linda and five years later we had our first son. Everything was going nice and smooth, just as planned, so I thought.
Almost three years later our second son came along with more responsibilities and the levels of stress increased. Looking back in time, I believe I was trying to juggle a lot at the same time, keeping a life style and everybody happy…but I was not thinking about my own happiness and/or peace of mind.
I kept working in a very unhealthy and toxic environment just for the convenience of the schedule and also because I knew how the system at that office worked; regardless of the consequences on my health.
My marriage started shaking because I would be in a crabby mood all the time and I would bring all this negativity from work. My boys started becoming bitter and reflected that in our daily lives. I let circumstances and people break me. I was responsible for my own failures for letting it go that far.
My kids were attending a private school that didn’t match our moral and spiritual values, but once again I kept hanging onto all these nonsense to keep up with “the life style” I thought it was the right one!
My immune system went south and God sent me a straightforward message…..STOP! Reset your life or I’ll reset it for you….That’s when I was diagnosed with one of the most aggressive types of cancer, stage III Melanoma. And so, my journey to recovery began.
After two quite important scalp surgeries, Pet Scan, lymph node biopsy and biotherapy with Interferon, my life made a sharp turn.
Priorities changed, I started seeing things from a different perspective, life in front of my eyes was running in slow motion….What is happening to me? Why in the world would I get sick? Why me? This is not supposed to happen to a mother of two young kids… this is just a bad dream. So I thought! But ultimately, I realized I had no time to spare, no time for drama or negativity or nonsense anymore.
Six months after finishing my treatment, I found Jill Rooks; a sweet lady with a logo I’ll never forget “Stepping Stones”, offering personal training out at her garage, so I joined her on Friday mornings 5am. Little by little, step by step, I started transforming my mind, my soul and my body.
It took some time to make the big changes; but we did made them. The kids started attending a different school, where their minds, creativity and uniqueness wouldn’t be restricted or smashed. I also quit my job and found a small dental practice, where I started building my own pull of patients. My husband and my kids got their mama back….. I got a second chance in life.
Every day is a new fresh start, every day I give thanks to God for opening my eyes and showing me the right path. Even though I am not very good making big changes, because I tend to adapt to mostly every circumstance I am surrounded by, make it work or suck it up……I knew I couldn’t continue denying the imperative need for many transformations…..my family is now my number one priority, and I know I need to take care of myself so I can take care of my family.
Jill opened The Energy Lab in 2011 and since then I have been attending her classes and learning to balance my life. I am grateful for Jill and her amazing energetic way of teaching and challenging her clients. She finds new ways to motivate our community and somehow keep everybody engage; she is like a superwomen who sleeps little, works a lot, is a mom, mentor, wife, daughter, friend, health coach and advisor, instructor, writer and many more hats that she wears over and over, handles to make us all collapse in the middle of a Pilates class when right after doing 50 push up planks or crunches with the sand ball, she dearly tells us to do more…..always smiling, always with a positive attitude, non stop, no breaks, no big deal.
I will continue transforming my life and building my dreams and maybe run my first marathon late September.
“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Ian MacLaren
Heart pounding, head throbbing, feeling lightheaded and a bit dizzy. Those were the things I was experiencing on a regular basis, and I worried constantly that something life threatening was wrong with me. About five and half years ago, I developed postpartum depression (PPD) and pretty severe anxiety. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would suffer from PPD. I was the girl that couldn’t wait to have children and the mom that had already had two babies and loved being with them. It was by far the darkest time of my life and I felt completely broken. Dark thoughts and lies consumed me. Over time the PPD lifted, but the anxiety stuck around. The longer it stuck around, the more defeated I began to feel. I felt weak, insecure and my confidence in myself as a mom, wife and woman was gone. I was living in survival mode and in a constant state of fear. When I first joined The Energy Lab, I was still struggling with significant anxiety. I remember how difficult it was some days to get in my car and drive the 15 minutes to get there. I’d get there with a pretty bad headache and filled with fear. Because I feared that something was physically wrong with me, I was scared that something would happen to me during the classes. However, I found that after each class I completed, I always felt better. I continued to push myself to go and to try and not listen to the voices that wanted to keep me home. If you’ve struggled with anxiety, you know how difficult it is to push through it and how imprisoning it can be.
“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” Ernest Hemingway
Acceptance. Accepting that I was struggling with mental health issues was probably one of the biggest keys in my journey to healing. It was a difficult process to get there, but through time spent in prayer, in quiet and in reading truth filled books, feelings of shame and weakness were slowly replaced with acceptance. I started to open up and talk about my struggles with close loved ones. By voicing my struggles and fears, I realized how many lies were filling my head. Rather than being consumed by shame and feelings of defeat, I started to realize it’s okay to be broken. We’re all broken and it’s our struggles that make us stronger. “Take care of the soul that takes care of others.” Mary Davis Learning to take care of myself has been the other key to healing. I had lost myself in the long and difficult days of mothering my three babes. As a homeschooling mama of three kiddos, it is very easy to pour into everyone else and not fill my own cup. I knew that living a fear filled life and in survival mode was not the way to live and that I wasn’t created to live in such a way. I wanted to live the life that God intended me to live. I wanted to be the best me so that I could give others my best. I am so grateful that God put Jill and The Energy Lab in my path. Jill’s positive words and messages have been very inspiring. Her constant motivation to be the best version of ourselves has had an impact on me. Being around positive and like minded people who are trying to be their best is inspiring, and I’m so thankful for The Energy Lab community. I have learned and am still learning how to take better care of myself in mind, body and spirit. In learning to take care of myself and filling my cup I can be a better mother, wife, friend and serve others. “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Over the past year or so I have been very intentional about making the time and space to fill my soul with the things that set it on fire and further healing has taken place. It isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect and sometimes life gets overwhelming and I backslide a bit, but I’ve learned to get up and keep moving forward.
“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”
I think about the legacy I want to leave behind. I want to live bravely and to share God’s love with my family and others. I want to teach my children how to love well, how to serve well. I want to bring hope, encouragement and inspiration to others. This journey of PPD and anxiety has made me a more compassionate person. I am more aware that even when it doesn’t seem like it, others may be fighting a hard battle. I recently started to open up about my journey. There are many who never knew of my struggles, because although there was much weeping and sobbing in my house, I’d always put on a smile when I left my home. I see life differently now. When you’ve experienced such darkness you appreciate your God given light so much more. I want to share that light with others. I’ve learned that in sharing our stories we make each other stronger. I hope that my story can bring hope and encouragement to someone else. I’ve come a long way from those dark days and I’m so thankful for God’s faithfulness and for the people and experiences that He’s put in my path that have led to healing. I’m thankful for a husband that has always been supportive and encouraging. I still struggle with a bit of anxiety, but I now know how to manage it when it tries to rear its ugly head at me. It no longer consumes me and it occurs less and less frequently. I’m starting to find the girl that was brave, confident and strong. I like her, and I plan on taking care of her. The beauty of being completely broken and undone is that you get to rebuild yourself, and you get to decide which pieces you’ll be using to put yourself back together. ~ Naomi
Music has always been a part of my life.
I remember when I started taking piano lessons at four years of age, my piano teacher at the time, telling me to always take care of my "piano hands". Which meant I could go play, have fun, but BE careful not to break any fingers, wrists, or arms. Then in elementary school, I started playing flute. I remember enjoying this instrument so much and practicing every day. I also sang in the children's choir and small ensembles at church and in the school choirs, Honor choirs and community choirs. It was during my High School years, that I started to realize the importance of taking good care of my body, strength and cardio, in order to keep singing and playing the instruments that I loved.
But it wasn't until I was working on my degree in music, at UCLA, that I had an "Aha! Moment". My voice instructor, told me "Consider yourself to be a Vocal Athlete!" Ahhhhhhh, Yes!!! She told me to not only work on technique, repertoire, etc. but also to take care of myself - Body, Mind, and Spirit! I already had an established workout routine, so I decided to sing up for a meditation class and started practicing yoga. That was in 1991, and to this day, I continue to meditate and practice yoga every day.
In 1997, when we moved back to Redlands, I continued my routine at home. But I wanted and needed something more. So I looked into and started a gym membership at Bally's and that's when I met Jill Rooks. I took Jill's cycling class and absolutely loved it! I loved her teaching, her music, and her amazing energy! And she taught this class with her sweet baby in a carriage, right next to her cycle bike! It was then that I became a BIG fan of Jill Rooks! I continued to workout with her at Bally's, as often as my musician life allowed. And throughput the years, I worked out with Jill during the "Garage Days" and now, I'm so happy to workout with her, her staff, and my Energy Lab family at The Energy Lab in Redlands!
Due to my musician schedule - teaching music lessons in the afternoons, occasional late night rehearsals, recording sessions and performing for church services and special events - the 5:30a classes, at The Energy Lab, work well for me. It can be a challenge at times, but it is a wonderful way to start the day and "tune" my body "instrument".
I'm so grateful to have Jill in my life and to be with like-minded people who strive every day to build "well tuned" bodies.
Much love and gratitude to you, Jill!! Thank You!
Just like this beautiful instrument needs to be well tuned for its longevity and beauty and tone to produce beautiful music, my body "instrument" needs the same. I will continue my daily workouts, meditation, and yoga practice, because I know all these things will help me continue to be "well tuned" for the rest of my life.
~ Jennifer Sparks