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March 2021 Client Rockstar - Abby "Best Breather" Grosslein

I’m starting a new tradition to lift up the folks I work with because they are the best humans - a Client of the Month!! Abby is the first ieFitness Client Rockstar. Why? Abby is a warrior. She shows up to train each week even though she struggles with chronic pain. My thoughts and questions for Abby in bold.

How would you describe your relationship with your body, Abby? And how do persevere so well on the really tough days?

My relationship with my body is in progress and process, always… I give it things, and some days it gives me energy, and other days it seems like all it gives me is pain and sadness. It’s a give and take. On the really tough days, I huddle. I try not to beat myself up for not being able to do all the things I think I “should” be doing, and give in to the fetal position urges I get. That means electric blankets and streaming shows, drinking my nutrition shakes and water and passing time. I try to find joy on Instagram and through the community of other chronic illness warriors, and crafters, I’ve nurtured. And I make it through.

Abby’s also an incredible crafter. What have you made recently that you’re most proud of, Abby? Why is it so special?

Thank you, love! I am most proud right now of my WIPs -- works in progress -- because they really play with color and texture and are easy to pick up and put down. I’m working on the Burst into Bloom Shawl by Tina Tse and the Hue Shift Afghan by KnitPicks. Both of them give a series of suggestions for color and play, and I’m just going wild. I love to watch how they are turning out as I put them together, stitch by stitch.

I’ve built you a Delorean time machine...where are you heading?

Phew… to August 2016 when I was so excited about starting my Master’s, falling in love

with Alastair, and when I wasn’t in pain all the time. I’d like to go back to that month and just savor the feeling of no pain in my legs. Or maybe there was some sensation in my legs, then… but I can’t remember. All I remember was that specific pain starting in May 2017, and just… not going away.

You must tell everyone about Herbert.

Once upon a time, Abby was going to a physical therapy spot in Sheepshead Bay. Afterwards, she liked to wander and go to a little cafe, and check out CVS. She LOVES pharmacies; Rite Aid is her favorite where she has a Gold rewards card and gets 20% off e v e r y t h i n g but CVS and Walgreens are cool too. Browsing the aisles just makes her calm, and she’s always keeping an eye out for new pain management and self-care things. So when she looked down on the bottom shelf and saw a furry sloth of all critters, she had to pick him up! She picked him up and that was the end of that. He hasn’t really left her arms since that August day in 2019.

Some people have “fur babies,” some people have human babies, some people have stuffed animals. They last one is usually frowned upon, but fuck it. I can’t hide how I feel about Herbert. He came with me to the ER last August. He’s my little furry rock, and I’ll add that he brings quite a bit of joy to about 220 other folks around the world too. That’s how many followers we have on Instagram, and some of our Reels have been public and had over 2500 views. Our average viewership per Reel is over 500. And I LOVE that Sam loves my Herbert and calls him “Herbie” when I steal a cuddle break during our workouts. It means so much to me that she loves what I love. It’s really emblematic of her encouraging, inclusive ideals.

Between aqua physical therapy, ieFitness personal training, and living in Brooklyn you move your body a lot! What’s your advice for someone who wants to start bringing more movement into their life (for the first time or the first time in a while)?

Start small! I recently started with a new rheumatologist who recommended I try to do 30 minutes of cardio 5 days out of a week. That feels like a lot, and he knows it. He also knows how asinine it can be to ask someone in constant pain to exercise, and I cannot praise him enough for having that awareness and empathy. In a reality so full of medical trauma, what should be the norm is an exceptional breath of fresh air. So he and I both recommend you start small with just five minutes of cardio a day. When I’m working out with Sam I keep that in mind. She says, “You can do anything for a minute!” So if it’s jumping jacks, or planks, I focus on that one minute. “I can do anything for a minute,” and then I do another exercise, and another, and before I know it I’ve done 12 minutes of cardio (with breaks, of course).

My other piece of advice is to try to find something that brings you joy. If it’s walking outside to look at the flowers, do that. If it’s plugging along to a kickboxing video online and imagining it’s that jerk co-worker that always gets on your last nerve, then do that! And don’t be afraid to switch it up. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. There are so many ways to move your body, and no one can tell you what feels good to you except you. So keep trying to find joy in movement.

Abby and I always end up laughing or crying during our sessions. She’s an accomplished woman with a big ole heart. If I were give Abby an award it would be the Best Breather Award - this gal pairs her inhales and exhales perfectly with each movement bringing more strength and intention to each exercise!! I’m so grateful that Abby’s part of the ieFitness team and the March Client of the month.

I love you Sam <3 <3 <3

If I may, I learned how to breathe taking karate as a child and doing yoga as a teenager. I continued yoga into my adulthood, and also explored meditation and qigong. The breath is so essential to movement, especially in the martial arts. I can envision my dad, who is a black belt, and was my sensei’s assistant when I was small, moving through his forms pairing each breath with his movements, the hiss of his exhale powering his arm through the air. All your power comes from the gut, the diaphragm, and your breath is the fuel that moves the body. So that’s why I’m so good at that!

And ooh boy there’s so much more fun with breath… Kundalini is a fast yoga practice with short, quick breaths and supine spinal movements. I also have a friend (ChronicallyMindfulMatt) who practices a special type of breathing - sumo breathing - he’s a great resource for breathing techniques!

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