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Transforming Bodies

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to some extraordinary individuals with many stories worth applauding – all of them fueled through medical science, university research, and, most importantly, human determination.”

This is how Clinical Exercise Physiologist/Kinesiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, MS, often begins the many speeches he gives throughout the year.

“The message sent by the actions of these individuals emphasizes the power of possibility, and highlights how – through daily study, preparation and practice – one can achieve a personal victory.  Put another way, the process is the progress.”

There’s something amazing happening in Northridge, California.  All day long, 6 days a week, individuals who have disabilities, diseases or musculoskeletal injuries, as well as sedentary people and professional athletes, come to work with Isaacs, the 2002 IDEA Trainer of the Year.  For the past 3 years, Isaacs has been taking health care into health clubs.  He is currently working out of C.O.R.E. Center (Center of Restorative Exercise) in Northridge, where wheelchairs can be seen rolling in hour after hour.  Whether he is training an individual with a spinal-cord injury or working with a professional athlete, what make Isaacs and his work so extraordinary are his enthusiasm and industriousness.  When these are combined, says Isaacs, “a force of almost unimaginable power is created.  My work isn’t just about transforming bodies; it’s about transforming lives.”

Neural Highways
May 26, 1999, former professional motocross racer, Aaron Baker, crashed while practicing, breaking C4-5-6 vertebrae's, rendering him quadriplegic, completely paralyzed from the neck down. From the onset, with his mother Laquita, who retired her career to assist the process of recovery, they focused on maximizing his potential through consistent, long-term, restorative exercise lead by Taylor Isaacs. “Exercise is medicine in the sense that it benefits the physiology of every organ system in the body, right down to the cellular level, “ Isaacs says. “Restorative exercise turns neural pathways into super neural highways. Following injury, nerves are dazed and confused and you have to stimulate, stimulate, stimulate.” Building upon the flicker of a toe, to the contraction of multiple muscles, Aaron's recovery continues to evolve to this day. In the long journey of recovery, Aaron has accredited to his name numerous world's firsts including: multiple cycling marathons, 2 cross-country cycling tours, pedaling a total of 10,000 miles, multiple cycling National Championship events, with a current 2011 National Championship Title. Today, Aaron is training in pursuit of the 2012 Paralympic games in London, England... All for the purpose of showcasing the benefits of restorative exercise and promoting the power of possibility.

Body In Motion
Taylor uses the “Triple M” program to help Craig Horowitz (and his mom, Rhonda) get in shape: make up your mind, watch what you put in your mouth, and put your body into motion.  “My goal is to try out for baseball at the beginning of the school year,” says Horowitz.

Independent Action
“Being able to put on your own shoe on your own foot with your own hand is a physiological milestone,” says Isaacs.  Diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome at age 5, Andy Davis partially severed his spinal cord at 15 as a result of a head tic.  Now 20 years old, he lives independently and drives himself, with the help of hand controls.  After 5 months with Isaacs, Andy was walking solo.

Extreme Dedication
Almost 1 year after being paralyzed in the line of police duty, Kristina Ripatti participates in an honorary race that the Los Angeles Police Department sponsors for fallen officers.  Ripatti ran the event last year and was shot the next night.  During this year’s event, she wore standing braces and walked across the finish line.  Bystanders applauded loudly while she navigated the 40 paces Isaacs had determined she could handle.


Special Dynamics
“My practice is to do the extra special,” says Isaacs.  “The greatest compliment I ever received was that I do the extraordinary.” Marcia Schneirow, who suffered a stroke 11 years ago, has worked with Isaacs for 4 years.  “Taylor is very motivating and inspirational,” says Marcia’s caregiver husband, Bert.  “He understands nature, the dynamics of the human body, what works and how it works.”

Independent Strength
Everyone’s story is compelling, but one of the most courageous is Marc Richards’, who became paralyzed after overdosing on chemotherapy drugs in 1998.  “Let me try this next one on my own,” he tells Isaacs during back-strengthening exercises.  Marc’s courage and determination have led him to walk the finish line in a number of races, notable the City of Los Angeles Marathon in 2006 and 2007.  “They said I’d never be able to do this,” he says, about walking with braces.

Leaps and Bounds
When Mike McNamara, nicknamed “Jumping Jack,” was low-bridged in a basketball game in 2003 and fell on his back, he got up and finished the game.  A 6-inch blood clot formed on his spine, paralyzing him.  “I cried a lot in those first 3 weeks,” he says.  “I couldn’t move from my chest all the way down.  It was weird.”  Mike works out with his identical twin, Tom.  “I couldn’t do it without him,” says Mike, who now walks without a cane and can jump a foot off the floor.

A New Start
A victim of road rage, Windi Stevenson-Ghrist lost control of her car with her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat.  “That may have been what did it,” she says, referring to how she turned to see if her daughter was okay – and injured her spinal cord.  “But it was worth it.  I took her hand in mine, then I felt my body go numb.”  Both Windi and Sammy Sanic-Parra (left) live at New Start, an organization that provides temporary housing for the disabled.  Sammy, whose neck was broken when cabinets fell on him during installation, is taking a break from stretching to watch the World Cup.

Mission Possible
Tony Scott was walking down the street with his cockapoo, Twinkie, “minding my own business, when a tree fell out of nowhere and broke my back,” he says.  He is on a mission to do everything possible to achieve complete recovery, which includes making a trip to China for stem cell therapy.  “We convene at Tony’s for the “Triple S,” says Isaacs.  “Sit-down, slap-up supreme.”

Mindful Movement
“All I could do when Taylor first saw me was flop my right arm around, says Travis Taft, who suffered a spinal-cord injury in a surfing accident in 2005.  “The other one just hung down.” “You know when you walk, you just walk?  Well, I have to think, lift, forward, lower, lift, forward, lower.”

Passion and Perspective
After a 17-hour day, Isaacs spends time with Babak Lahijani, a mentally challenged man he mentors and is training for the Special Olympics.  “My work is my life, and my life is my work,” says Isaacs. “The soul can go on forever; however, the body does get tired.  Whenever I need a change in perspective, I think of one word, ‘Babak,’ the smiling festival of a man.”  Here Isaacs peruses wrestling magazines, Babak’s favorite.

Perfect Form
Walker Kehrer is a nationally ranked junior tennis player, and working with Isaacs for 8 years has helped him achieve peak performance.  “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Taylor,” says Kehrer.  Here, Isaacs checks his form.  “Perfect,” he says, “I could lecture on that form.”

Susan S.
Susan Sorenson’s gymnastics career ended at 21 when doctors removed the cartilage from her knee.  “I got to where I couldn’t walk,” she says.  After two years with Taylor, she’s going down the stairs.  “A month ago, I couldn’t do that.”  “I can’t describe him in a sentence,” Susan says, then after a moment she adds, “he’s a man on a mission.”

Sonia Mehta’s daughters like to be a part of her workout with Taylor.  “It’s always like this,” she laughs, as she strives to get back in pre-pregnancy shape.  Taylor keeps a record of her progress by measuring her body fat before he puts her through her paces.

Pioneering Concept
Isaac's goal was to have a facility where he could be the chief Clinical Exercise Physiologist/Kinesiolgist and teach his staff to do what he does. He envisioned a pioneering concept of intergenerational, integrated fitness.  In 2011, his goal was realized when the first C.O.R.E. (Center of Restorative Exercise) Center in Northridge, California opened.  It includes a melding of regular exercise equipment with unique, specialized equipment for individuals with disabilities.  “Can you imagine witnessing grandparents and grandchild, spinal-cord-injured person and professional athlete all training under the same roof, toiling toward the same goal – to improve the quality of their life?”


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