Professionals help avid adventure-seeker balance a DIY lifestyle

My mom and dad raised a do-it-yourselfer. Car needs a headlight? Figure it out. Sink leaking? No problem. But what happens when your football-playing father teaches you to just suck it up when your body falls apart and that doesn’t work for you?

After 30-plus years of crazy adventures – scampering up and down steep cliff sides, trudging snow-capped mountains, and playing a lot of softball, lacrosse, and whatever else involved fun and friends, I was a wounded warrior. Two shoulder surgeries, weak knees that have been popping out since I was 17, and more than a couple pounds to shed as a result, all while working two very athletically-focused jobs constantly reminding me of my limitations motivated me to make a change.

Lots of people told me to just take it easy, saying this was just me getting older, but I wouldn’t have it. It all started after my second shoulder surgery to fix a laxity that was causing my arm to pop out at inopportune moments and hurt for days. Something just didn’t seem right in there and when I went to my surgeon, he just shrugged and told me it was a side effect of the healing. But that didn’t seem right to me – I was doomed to “crunchy” shoulder forever? That wasn’t part of the deal.

Enter Tara Kulikov, of Pinnacle Fitness and AcuEnergy, who had originally contacted me because she wanted to promote her work through the events I put on. At the time, I wasn’t yet ready to try her out, but after being told I had to accept my crunchy shoulder situation, I decided to give her “witch-doctoring” a try – she was the perfect bridge from Western medicine for me: an athlete herself and a trainer as well as Chinese medicine practitioner. In one session of cupping and acupuncture by Kulikov (with me extremely skeptical), the “crunchy” was gone – almost instantly – never to return.

Suddenly realizing that all those people that told me that alternative medicine had something to offer rang true and opened up a whole new world for me. I began regular sessions with Kulikov from everything to my weak knees, to upkeep on the shoulder and helping to heal various injuries from living a highly athletic life. I also found a great massage therapist that wasn’t just giving me a rub, but treating my soul with words and my body with essential oils. 

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t come cheap (and no, our self-paid insurance doesn’t cover it), but I realized I had gone so long in so much pain and if I was going to commit to a healthy and adventurous lifestyle beyond my thirties, I was going to have to learn how to take care of myself. The “Do-It-Yourself” mentality has its limitations, with all things, of course – but especially with my body. 

One winter day in 2012 on a trail run on San Luis Mountain, I realized that for all my self-work, I was still slow and running was still painful. Some friends had been encouraging me to join a running club in SLO, the San Luis Roadrunners. But, I’m slow, and I don’t like running with people. I don’t even like clubs! But still, perhaps a good community and a motivating coach could not only provide the accountability I needed to train, but also teach me what I was doing wrong.

So, despite a few weeks of being worried I couldn’t keep up with a “running club,” I showed up at the SLO High track and met Coach Roger Warnes. A year later, I’m not only far more confident with my form and ability, I’ve learned that my DIY fitness was way off – that I needed to go easier and rest more to get more out of life. I have friends to keep me accountable, and someone to bounce my fitness goals off of and come up with a solid, and realistic, plan to reach them.  Thanks to Coach Warnes’ advice, I ended up seeing a physical therapist and after a few months of relearning how to navigate elevation changes and hop around on one leg, working with Kulikov through acupuncture, fitness, and diet analysis and the Coach’s running program, I’m running pain free for the first time since my first knee dislocation in high school.

Thanks to what I affectionately call “my team” – I’ve since learned that when it comes to my body, it’s not always best to DIY at all. The key, however, is to ask the right questions of everyone that you engage: don’t just do what they say blindly, be willing to learn what it is they’re doing and get to a deeper understanding of what you can DIY and when you need to call in the professionals.

Kristin Tara Horowitz - executive director of SLO OP Climbing and event producer at All Out Events in San Luis Obispo.