When Lisa Lehman was diagnosed with a rare condition that meant she was unable to continue teaching, she was devastated. She shares her story, and how she finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dear Les Mills,

I wasn’t sure who to send this to, or if anyone would even care to hear it, but I find it important (and personally cathartic), to share my Les Mills journey over the last few years.

I began teaching group exercise in 1992. I loved doing it as a participant, and loved it even more as an Instructor. In 2010, I got my BODYPUMP™ certification. Despite many years of teaching experience, it was the most challenging certification I had ever participated in. I learned a lot about myself... what I still needed to do better, and what growth in fitness I was capable of despite already being in my 40s. I continued to teach BODYPUMP over the next 8 years, feeling stronger than ever as I crossed into my 50s. I had been teaching 25 years and had no plans of stopping anytime soon. Then my plans abruptly changed.

On January 1st, 2018, I had taught my regular BODYPUMP class in the morning at my club. I felt a bit under the weather, like I had the flu coming on, and went straight home to bed. I spent the next two days feeling worse than I have ever felt. On the third day, I started having numbness in my groin and it began traveling down to my hips, legs and finally my feet. On the advice of my physician neighbor, who feared it was something much worse than flu when he heard my symptoms, I went to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with viral meningitis which had caused a rare condition called transverse myelitis… nerve damage from the inflammation of your spinal column. I spent five days hospitalized while they gave me strong intravenous anti-viral medication to arrest further nerve damage.

My doctors said that there was only a 30% chance of regaining my normal sensory nerve function, but it was possible. I immediately took a 6-month leave of absence from my classes and prayed for healing. Unfortunately, it did not come. While I could still walk unaided, I now had some weakness in my joints and hip flexor muscles from the reduced nerve response, and intense and heavier load bearing exercise was no longer possible. I was unable to be an effective Instructor, and I did not want to teach unless I was at least as capable as my students. I resigned from my group exercise career when my leave of absence came to an end.

The sudden and extreme change in my ability and lifestyle caused me to go through a period of feeling low. I was not exercising at all and compensating with comfort eating. Naturally, that all led to reversing the fitness I had worked so hard all my adult life to attain. My family and friends had been nothing but loving and supportive through this difficult time for me, but sometimes you just have to work through the lows yourself despite the care others show you.

Finally, earlier this year, I decided to accept that my old self wasn’t going to come back and I needed to embrace my new physical abilities and move forward. Since I was no longer teaching, and, therefore, no longer having my Les Mills releases covered by my club, I decided to cancel autoship. I felt self-conscious exercising in my former classes with my greatly reduced abilities, so I didn’t feel comfortable becoming a student in the same classes I used to teach. I needed another source of exercise classes. Then I discovered Les Mills on Demand! That has been a game changer for me!

I already had all the equipment, so it was just a matter of signing-up and turning it on. I had access not only to my BODYPUMP, but every other workout by Les Mills in every combination you could think of… it was amazing!

I am now working on losing the weight I had gained, getting my stamina back, and feeling confident again thanks to the LMOD. Though I know my exercise teaching career is over, I finally feel light at the end of my “meningitis” tunnel.

Thanks for a great product and a great opportunity. I will always be proud that I was a BODYPUMP Instructor. I will continue to be a happy Les Mills participant. I hope you are there for many years yet to come!

Kia Ora,
Lisa Lehman

Lisa Lehman is based in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, USA. Her home club was PV/Torrance 24 Hour Fitness, where she taught her first and last class over 25 years in group fitness.