Andrea Vitz In December 2010, just a couple weeks removed from my neck surgery, life decided to throw me one huge curve ball. One of our members had told me that he was going to have his boss come check out the gym. She had been dealing with a severe back injury and was somewhat desperate as what to do. Being that she was a well respected chiropractor she wasn't unaware of conventional treatment, it's just that none of it had worked. Hearing that I specialized in the unconventional this was seemingly the last stop. I remember the day she came in. We were setting up for an in house meet. Not really feeling myself from the surgery and having a ton of things to do to get ready for the meet I really wasn't into speaking to someone new. Our exchange was pleasant and brief and we set a follow up time. I had no way of knowing in that moment that the new Diablo prospect so desperately seeking a solution to her injury would become my wife!
I tell this story to everyone who comes through our doors for Exercise Therapy so I will tell it here. Andrea Vitz came to Diablo with the worst Radiology report and MRI that I have ever seen. A massive 3 level herniation was only part of the problem. A bigger issue was somehow a significant amount of disc material had worked its way past the lumbar ligament and was laying directly on the spinal cord. "So you are going to get surgery right?" That was my question. She told me surgery was not an option for her. I took the report to two 25+ year practicing Chiros (both very much anti surgery docs) and both looked at the report and said, "yeah, surgery is the only way to fix this." So I go with her to an Orthopedic consult. About 10 minutes in I have a feeling that the two Doctors don't know that she is the patient. I get the vibe that they think she is the referring Doctor seeking a consult for a patient. I get clarification on this by asking them and they share a startled look together. Not exactly what you want to see in this situation so I ask about the look. One of them says, "in our experience when someone's report presents this way they are no longer ambulatory." So, of course they recommend surgery and the sooner the better.
On the way to the car I ask my question again. Andrea responds with the same answer of "no surgery", punctuating it with, "you are supposed to be the rehab expert. You figure it out." Perfect. There is really no blueprint for this type of thing from a rehabilitation standpoint. Every expert we have spoken with has said surgery was the only option. So I say, "If you are not going to have surgery your problem is simple. You are going to have to get as strong as one of my National Champion lifters. Elite Powerlifter strong. A little stronger isn't going to do anything other than make your problem worse. So, conceptually it's simple. It's not going to be easy." And that is how we started the rehab process.
I don't want this to become a blow by blow on what we did in rehab. That is another story for another time and place. Suffice to say it was slow going and some days this didn't seem possible. The pressure on the spinal cord had rendered I Andrea's left calf almost useless, her left glute was atrophied, her left leg had motorical shut down and atrophy and she was in about 10/10 pain the majority of the time. Many nights she wasn't able to sleep. The starting point was essentially whatever we could do. Sometimes it was just laying on the inversion table with me holding about a 10-20% grade. After a time we were able to do things like assisted squats, bodyweight partial reverse hypers and band leg curls. Whatever was there that day we would do. Saving all the training and rehab story lets fast forward about 4 years. Andrea comes out of the rehab process completely realizing my vision for her by winning UPA Nationals with lifts of 524 squat, 319 Bench and 402 deadlift. In a gym that is full of amazing turn arounds and transformations her story stands as the model for others to follow.
On the training floor she is determined and the most fiery and focused lifter we have had on a tremendous team of female competitors. Having lived it, she knows the system and how to coach it. Her technique and execution is right there with the best of them. In the nearly 8 years she has been here she has been a catalyst of change for many. As our Team Doctor she has allowed many to extend their careers or make lifts that they otherwise would not have been in position to make. For me she is my perfect partner in every way. Not only another great Diablo story but the most fitting end to this series of Diablo biographies as she embodies everything I wanted this gym to be about.