I’d been trim but sedentary. Two years ago, at age 64, this physician decided to follow the advice he’d been giving his patients and begin exercising. The cardio part progressed. The strength, posture, and back issues not so much. Two months ago, I had the good fortune to begin consulting Carolyn Appel, and have already seen dramatically more progress in all areas than in the preceding two years of Cybex circuits at the gym. Ms. Appel, who holds a Masters from Columbia University, has a keen eye, great diagnostic skills, and is able to communicate the subtle but critical adjustments needed to insure an exercise is done productively and safely. I am tremendously grateful to have the benefit of her instruction and guidance.
-Dr. Martin Frankel
Carolyn had entered my life at a very difficult time. I had just finished chemotherapy and had the shiniest, prettiest bald head you would ever see. I was diagnosed eight years ago with a sarcoma on my upper left leg. After surgery the doctors had to remove 3 of the 4 quads leaving my poor leg with just 1 working quad muscle. I did not regain full function of the leg and I knew walking again would be a challenge. And here’s the kicker…I was getting married within three months of finishing chemo and had to walk down the aisle into my husband’s arms.
It was the beginning of a very long road but we had to get started at some point. So, Carolyn asked me to sit on a bench and try to get up without using my cane. Let me tell you it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly because my left leg was a bit gun-shy and did nothing. We spent the first session basically assessing what we already knew: it SUCKED! Carolyn then gave me a lecture that, to this day, I will never forget. It went something like this: ‘So, this is not going to be easy and I’ll only do this if you are committed and take it seriously. When we do all our exercises I won’t count the reps, I won’t sugar coat how hard it’s going to be, and I will not stand for anything less than perfect.’
This is why I was thinking: ‘Who the hell do you think you are talking to? I just finished chemo, I have no hair, I am not pretty, I am getting married in 3 months and I really don’t like you.’
This is what I said: ‘I’m ready.’
And so it began. We met 4 times a week for three months, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night. We worked really hard, we laughed, we cried (or at least I did) and a friendship began that would stand the test of time. Years later people marvel at the fact that I can walk, climb stairs and dance (albeit badly). I always reply the same way: ‘I did it all on my own.’
My husband and I are writing from China. We climbed the Great Wall in Beijing and yesterday hiked for hours in the terraced rice paddies of southern China. With each step that we took we kept saying to each other, “We couldn’t have done this without Carolyn!” I am 65 and my husband is 72 and the weekly training that we have done with her had real life pay off for us on this trip. Thank you Carolyn. Thanks to you we have climbed great heights and seen wonderful things without having to turn back!
I met Carolyn by chance on the sidewalk, where I was waiting for the sound of cars to stop, but she happened to be nice enough to tell me when the light turned green. We began chatting as she guided me across the street and I discovered that she was a trainer. Even though I had already tried working with 7 others before her, I decided to set up an appointment.
From the get-go, I probably seemed like a trainer’s nightmare. I told her that I wasn’t about to do 100 squats in 15 minutes or stand on a balance ball, that I wasn’t going to change my eating habits, and that I couldn’t possibly workout more than once a week. Well, that was 5 years ago and I’m still with her. Not only that, but she managed to get me to change my diet and to work out three times a week.
So, the first unique trait for Carolyn is her ability to work with the most stubborn of clients and slowly and carefully get them to improve their lives. Because of Carolyn, I not only care about doing exercise but also the holistic improvement in my body. I feel stronger and healthier and I have more energy every day. Carolyn has also pointed out some other exercises that I could do as a blind person, to improve my posture while standing, sitting, and picking up things (which is very rare amongst blind people). Not only is she patient, not only has she managed to turn one of the least willing people into a health-conscious, exercise-loving person, she is a great friend. I can’t imagine life without Carolyn.
I began working with Carolyn about 16 months ago but doubted I would continue past the first few weeks. I had tried a nearby gym twice, and though they had my yearly membership money, I would almost never go in. I also had a fantasy that I was in good shape despite having difficulty getting out of a chair, bending down, keeping my balance while walking, or climbing up the stairs in the subway. I continued to have this delusional self-image that I was 48 and could still rebound effectively on a basketball court, though I had not been on one for over a half-century.
Carolyn, despite her charm and sense of humor, proved from the beginning to be a hard taskmaster. Though she took notice of my sorry condition at the start (and kept this to herself until I was ready to assimilate it), she would not stint on creating a rigorous personal training regimen that was appropriate to where I was—in body and mind. And she would include herself in the instruction, helpfully (!!!) saying with no sense of irony, ‘WE are going to do 15 of these,’ while she stood guard silently as I huffed and puffed. I wanted to give up at 11 but was determined not to disappoint her or myself as I strained to reach 15. WE indeed!!
As the weeks went on we both started to see improvement; I learned to get up from a prone position, I gained more rhythm in walking, had increased stamina, and got strong enough to start using weights. And when I say improvement, I do not mean some outsized ‘personal best.’ I mean what Carolyn believes in and teaches: focused exercise and training for what we might call the ‘outside’ or real world: walking up and down subway stairs, keeping one’s balance when getting jostled on a bus, making walking in the park a part of my daily life.
And two other things: Carolyn is meticulous in keeping moment-by-moment written records of our work together in each session, and, though I still approach each session with the feeling that I’d rather be having coffee and two doughnuts in a diner, I am always invigorated and happy when the sessions end (and even for moments while they are in progress). I may be past 70, but with Carolyn’s intelligence, philosophy, and expertise, I am keeping aging and gravity at bay. Newton be damned!
As a trainer, Carolyn is very creative and inspiring. Her understanding of the body’s movement patterns are unparalleled. She seems to have a gift in determining how to train people who have limitations due to trauma or self-neglect. As a chiropractor who specializes in A.R.T. I have no reservations in referring my patients to her.
-Dr. Louis Angulo, Back Together Again