Transformer of the Month: Cristina Jackson

When a nagging knee injury and a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis threatened to keep this warrior down, she made a change—and hasn’t looked back. Check out her transformation here.

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What inspired you to check out The Studio (MDR)?

Before age 25, I had four knee surgeries on my left knee for meniscus tears and a juvenile rheumatoid arthritis beginning at age 12. I had honestly given up on exercising or being active, as my last knee injury happened during my first month of trying yoga—a practice I was hoping would be a solution for my joint pain and stress. I was having lots of pain all over my body. Some days it was hard to get out of bed, and my knee was still weak. I had seen The Studio (MDR) many times while walking to the beach, but always thought I wouldn’t be able to do the workout. I thought I just wasn’t strong enough. In May of 2013 I was in Lima, Peru for work, and I was so exhausted and couldn’t keep up. I finally became tired of feeling much older than I was and decided that the day I got back to the U.S. I would take the Beginner’s Class at the studio. In fact, I signed up for the 7- day package while I was in Peru! After my first week of classes, I signed up for the 3-month package. Now over a year later I’m not looking back. Trying that first class was one of the best choices I have made.

How tough was that first class—and what were you thinking when it was over?

My first class was “The Enlighten Me” beginner class with Mary and Lisa. I really loved how they sat down with us and explained the machines so they didn’t seem so scary, and talked to us about the studio and how it was more than just a place to exercise. I remember my first class was tough—especially getting used to the right positions to avoid injuries or aggravating my knee—but I left the class exhilarated. I remember being more sore the next day than I have ever felt in my life, but I was excited about this soreness. I had earned it. After my first week I was sore all over, but my normal knee and joint pain was already gone. I had never felt better.

What’s been a big challenge in your life that you’ve found The Studio (MDR) has helped you overcome?

Over the years I have become accustomed to being in pain and not being as active as my peers. I just figured this is how it was going to be. Going the studio has completely changed how I feel about myself. I feel so much stronger than I ever thought I could feel. I still have my limits with my knee, but I’ve accepted that as a part of me and now I focus on what I can do and not what I can’t. I am also the kind of person that physically feels stress, and my workouts have helped me deal with my stress in a productive way. I leave class feeling great—so much more relaxed and confident that I can handle whatever life brings.

What’s the one move that still makes you curse inside because it’s so hard?!

Bungee. It’s not the most difficult move, but it kills me every time. Also, hamstring curls where we lay down on the machine. I still haven’t mastered those.

How far have you come—and where are you going? 

When I started taking classes at the studio, I really just wanted to see if I could feel better. I wanted to wake up feeling energized. I really hadn’t thought about the other physical changes I might see (but I took a “before” picture anyway, so I could determine if my hard work was doing anything!).

I’ve been the same size since college, but now the love handles are gone, my stomach is flat and I have muscle definition in my arms and back. I can feel it in my face, too. I just feel so much better all around and love feeling strong.

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