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From Cystic Fibrosis to Central Park Bootcamp

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Three years ago, a bootcamp would have been the death of me. The term ‘killer workout’ is thrown around a lot these days, but in 2009, a workout was impossible. I had been suffering from cystic fibrosis for nearly 14 years and my lungs were completely spent. I couldn’t even breathe on my own. Today, after a life-saving lung transplant, I’ve regained most of my health thanks to my doctors, advances in medical technology and the help of one woman and one bootcamp: Stacy Berman and Stacy’s Bootcamp.

In 1995, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes thick mucus to develop in the lungs, crippling respiratory function. Most people learn they have CF before their second birthday. I was in my late 30s. Although modern medicine today enables people with the disease to live into their 50s, when I was growing up, many diagnoses did not survive past kindergarten.

I was lucky, but I still had a lot ahead of me. My fast paced Manhattan lifestyle slowly fell apart. I had a high-profile job at an investment firm, I traveled, I skied and did yoga. Once a marathon runner, I found myself needing a break after walking a block. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t even go to work.

In June 2009, I was hospitalized after routine blood work showed that my oxygen levels were extremely low. I was placed on a ventilator, and eventually, on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a device that basically functions as an artificial lung where oxygenation takes place outside the body. After spending 18 days on ECMO and 13 months on the transplant list, I was granted a double lung transplant, curing me of cystic fibrosis. Thanks to my medical team and the transplant, my life was saved. However, it was up to me to regain my active lifestyle.
I left the hospital in 2009 wobbling unsteadily on a cane. I needed weeks of physical therapy. I was faced with a conundrum – I needed to get my heart pumping but gyms and indoor workouts were too germy for my fragile new lungs.

After some online research, I found Stacy’s Bootcamp. I’d done a few bootcamp-type classes in the early ‘90s and Stacy’s classes were outdoors and seemed promising. To tell the truth, I was terrified at first. Could I keep up?

To my amazement, Stacy had me under her wing within minutes. While I was futilely trying to keep up with the hardcore bootcampers, Stacy quickly accommodated me, catering group exercises for my own limitations. “Speed-walk instead of run,” she’d say.

Under Stacy’s guidance, I improved so quickly, I exceeded my own expectations. I was soon power-walking with ease. I eventually graduated to running and even entered a few four-mile races. Over the span of three months, I was able to shave four minutes from my mile time – a milestone I couldn’t have dreamed of achieving three years ago.

The great thing about Stacy’s classes is that you get the personal attention you would receive from a private trainer while in an outdoor class environment. Stacy has an amazing ability to push you to your limits without pushing you over the edge.

“When Lies first came to me, she could barely speak never mind exercise,” Stacy says. “The main thing I wanted to do was get her to move. So that’s what we did. She walked when others ran, she held a push up position instead of doing push ups. I mean, I didn’t even yell at her to go deeper in her squats for a good four months! Now, after more than two years of training with me, she takes a loving tongue lashing to try harder just like everyone else.”

Stacy also has a motto. All her instructions to me and the rest of the group ended in a resounding “do the best you can!” With Stacy’s motivation and her challenging workouts, I’ve regained my strength and endurance. My doctors are extremely happy with my progress and my oxygen levels have been consistently stable.

Two years after joining, I am still a regular at Stacy’s Bootcamp. When I came to Stacy, I could barely power-walk. I could barely do push-ups on my knees. Three weeks later, Stacy said “no more knee push-ups for you ever.” Now, about 20,000 push-ups later, Stacy’s Bootcamp is something my mind and body can no longer live without. Stacy taught me that there’s no such thing as “can’t.” Stacy’s Bootcamp enables you to measure your own progress and Stacy reminds the class constantly – it’s not a contest. Just do the best you can.

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