How did you find your way to Marunde-Muscle Physical Advancement
: 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
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
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.
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
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
- 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
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!!!!!!
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
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.
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
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
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!