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January 2006 Member of the Month
Nicolette L.
Q: How did you find your way to Marunde-Muscle Physical Advancement forum?
Nicolette L.: I met Jesse at the Mr. Olympia competition. My mother and I had a great conversation with him. He was very down to earth. I have always appreciated the sport. Jesse brought a whole new level of respect to it.

Q: For those that do not know your story, could you tell us about your injury?
Nicolette L.: (short version) I was a Military police officer and K9 Handler. I was out on a mission. I had a lot of different responsibilities. I Went to secure a building we were watching before my guys headed in to get someone. We came down on small arms fire. Our attention was diverted and then the IED detonated. I don’t remember a lot of it. I remember being carried. Then my next memory is hearing the helicopter I was on and getting a morphine shot. Then waking up two months later with a priest standing over me. That freaked me out. I have chemical exposure, shrapnel, torn cartilage in both shoulders, Torn rotator cuff, contusions, nerve damage, lung damage, lot's of fractures, hearing loss, severe muscle damage, minor loss of eyesight and neurological problems. The scar tissue (mostly in my throat) has also caused me some problems.

Q: How long have you been training? Were you always interested in fitness and weight training or did this come from your rehabilitation from your injuries?
Nicolette L.: I have always been interested in being strong. I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. I was one of the only white girls in my school. I found out early on that there were advantages to being strong. That attitude carried on to my military career because I was doing a very physically demanding job. I was the only female K9 handler in the south region of the US. I wanted to do more than just keep up with the boys, I wanted to leave them in my dust! Sorry guys! I never really understood weight training until after my injuries. I would have someone write out a schedule for me and I would follow it. Now I am understanding the logic behind it. The way the muscle grows, etc.

Q: What was your first workouts in rehab like? Did you feel totally overwhelmed or were you psyched to be finally able to move again?
Nicolette L.: Well when I was told I would not walk again it really put me through a lot. I went through a lot of different emotions. I was not sure what I could do. I was more fed up with sitting in a wheelchair then I was psyched about anything. I started using my towels. I would put my foot in the middle holding both sides and trying to move my muscles. I eventually (six months later) was able to go to rehab. I could not even use my legs. It really was hard for me. I would use the hand rails and just walk with my hands. It was depressing. I would get so fed up. Once I started getting feeling in my feet I would go twice a day. Just really dragging my feet behind me. I fell on my face numerous times. I started getting on the bike (one with a bucket seat) and would push/pull my legs. Those are some of my first workouts.

Q: What was the turning point? Did you hit rock bottom and have the "moment of clarity" in which you decided you would turn it around?
Nicolette L. : One time the doctor came in and sat down to talk to me. I knew it was bad when he sat down. He told me I would never walk again. Everyone started treating me like a two year old. I had already been in the hospital for 7 months. I had either been in bed or in a wheelchair. I never really thought about walking before that. I was so tired all the time. Hooked up to machines and stuff. I never even really noticed that I had not walked in months. Except when I would try to get out of bed and fell on my face. When my physical therapist and doctors told me I needed to just learn how to deal with it and accept it. I realized I couldn't. I felt that if I accepted it then it would be. I couldn't. It gave me strength to fight, to find something to fight for. A way to channel all of my aggression, frustration, depression and heartbreak.

Q: How did you plan your attack? Obviously you needed to start with small goals and make each one fit into the bigger puzzle. Could you describe the "road map" you used to achieve your goals? For example: Were you trying to improve endurance first then increase strength when you got to a certain goal or did you just play it by ear?
Nicolette L. : Well, I started trying to keep muscle memory, moved into trying to walk, then endurance and strength.
Lots and lots of little steps. I would take over the whole forum to go over each step/goal.

Q: What were some of the setbacks you encountered in your training once you got things moving and how did you overcome them?
Nicolette L. : Medication-Always too drowsy, dizzy and tired. Would try to cut back on meds long enough to get a good workout, then double up to deal with the pain.
Medication reaction- the fentanyl patch made me very sick when I would work out. It works with your blood stream. It would be pumped into my blood faster and make me sick. I started to stick to the fentanyl pops. Less reaction.
Nausea- I love grabbing the bar. It seems that since my exposure the bar makes me sick. I mean really sick. I had to go get gloves. I would also take medication for nausea.
Shoulder injuries- My shoulders have slowed down my progress a lot. Suck it up, be smarter about my workouts.
Legs- I seem to push myself. I would have one good day and try to get everything I could out of it. I would have 7 to 8 bad days after that. Some not being able to get out of bed. Slow and steady is the key.
Shrapnel- Hitting nerves. Just be aware of where they move.
Breathing- I found the spin class seems to really help in my breathing. Having a chemical exposure and hearing loss really has messed up my internal rhythm. I have learned how to regulate my breathing, I am slowly gaining more lung capacity. I also try to stay aware of each breath when I work out.
Attitude- Attitude helps a lot, I get really discouraged some times. I have learned to really reflect how far I have come and Make sure I keep positive thoughts in my mind. I defeat my self by being negative. I try to approach every rep with a positive attitude and visualize both me doing the rep effortlessly and with perfect form. I also visualize the growth I want in my muscles. I know it sounds silly. It has worked for me.

Q: What is your strategy to progress beyond what you have accomplished so far. Do you have a plan? What are your training goals now?
Nicolette L. : Well first of all my biggest strategy is to keep positive people around me. People that keep me going. People that encourage my growth. I guess that means I will be staying on this site for a long time.
- I am working on endurance right now
- I want more definition mostly in shoulders and Abs Separation in my legs and arms.
- I will go back to gaining stage in a couple of months.

Q: From reading your journal, you seem to have a broad interest in fitness - spinning, weights, etc. What does your current program look like?
Nicolette L. : I really do not like cardio. I add it because it is good for me and my immediate goals.
My new program is as follows:
M- 1 hr self defense class, 1 hr spin, arm curls, donkey calf, abs. Come back late afternoon for shoulder workout- abs
T- ARMS, Leg extensions, abs
W- 2 hrs spin, arm curls, donkey calf, abs. come back late afternoon chest workout , salsa dance.
Th-1 hr self defense , back workout
F- 2 hrs spin, come back late afternoon salsa dance.
S- salsa dance, LEGS!!!!!!
S- off
I will keep this schedule for two months or so. Then will start doing every muscle everyday.

Q: Do you want to compete? If so, in what arena - strength sport, fitness comp., women's tri-fitness?
Nicolette L. : I would love to. I have had a lot of people ask me if I am training for a comp. Especially when I am doing squats. They are not very popular with the females at my gym. I am not sure at all in what arena. I have a lot of different interests. I would have to say strength would probably be my first pick.

Tell us a little about your military background. For example...

Q: What was your interest in joining the military?
Nicolette L. : I was living in Europe at the time. I was working as a program assistant for local schools. September 11th happened. I felt so helpless. I did not know what I could do. I wanted to take control of the situation. I decided to join the military. I joined the next working day. I am not sure I really realized what I was doing until I graduated from boot camp. I decided to be a cop. I thought that sounded pretty good.

Q: What was it like being in a K-9 unit?
Nicolette L. : It was awesome. I smelled like dog all the time though. I learned so much. I thought I knew a lot about dogs before hand. LOL. I was wrong. It is one of the best jobs in the military. I was able to go on a lot of really cool missions. It was great. It was hard work. I mean you are running through a field with a piece of cloth on your arm (sleeve) waiting for dogs to come and attack you, And that is just training. I really had a great time. One of the down falls was I was normally the only female around. When I first went on any mission the first few days were me proving myself. I understand the hesitation. I truly enjoyed my job though.

Q: What was the biggest life lesson you learned from all you've been through?
Nicolette L. : I learned a lot. I think one of the biggest things I have learned is that we all have more control in our lives than we want to take responsibility for. Have you ever gone to a store and the cashier was totally rude. It can put you in a bad mood. On the other hand if someone is nice and pleasant it can just perk you up. I think we get into our own little world and don’t realize how much we can influence someone’s day, including our own. As Gandhi said- be the change in the world you wish to see.

Q: In your recovery from your injury, you have been an inspiration to many of us on the board. How do you feel about that role?
Nicolette L. : Although I am honored I feel that their are a lot of amazing people on this board. They have all had their own battles. I think we should not discount what anyone has been through. It is like when you go to a crime scene. Every witness has a different experience. Each one takes a different approach. Some can't stop talking, some sit quietly, some cry, yell or scream. It all depends on what they have seen in their life. What they have been through. Each person on this board brings their own experiences. We all can be inspired by everyone here. We just need to really listen to their story. Not everyone gets the same intro I did by Jesse. I have learned a lot from the board. This board is a constant source of inspiration to me.

Q: Who or what inspired you during your recovery and in life - what is your motivation?
Nicolette L. : My guys that did not make it, first and foremost. My comrades I met while in the hospital and on missions. My great grandmother has always inspired me. She was Armenian. She was in Armenia when the Turkish war broke out. At 8 she hid in a trash can while her family was slaughtered in front of her. After three days she escaped. As she was running away she was shot in the back. She escaped by getting false documents to come to America. It is pretty incredible. I mean at 8 I was riding a bike. My biggest worry was getting home before the streetlights came on. I actually am inspired by many people. I am blessed to have known or known about many amazing people.

Q: Who supported and/or guided your training/rehab and what was it about them that made you trust them enough to accept their guidance?
Nicolette L. : I have actually gone through many different physical therapists. I have not been the best patient! My comrades have been my strongest supporters and source of strength. Honestly the guidance for my workouts has come from books and the internet mostly. So that is where the board comes in! I have more motivation than I do support or guidance. I am taking on some risks by walking and working out. Most people in the medical profession do not approve of this. Ihave had to evaluate my own decisions on this numerous times. It is a constant concern. I am willing to take the risk.

Thank you so much for sharing this with everyone Nicolette. It was a pleasure to interview you, and we couldn’t have asked for a better first Member of the Month at Marunde-Muscle Physical Advancement Forum!
Nicolette L. : Thanks for letting me tell my story. Remember, there are no limits and anything is possible!

Editers Note: If you enjoyed this interview, stop by the Marunde Muscle Discussion Forum and let Nicolette know!


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