In June, we held a Tattoo contest on Facebook. We reached out to the members of our community and asked them to share their Spinning® related tattoos with us. We wanted to reward our dedicated community with the recognition they deserve for the prominent display of their enthusiasm and commitment. We were extremely pleased with the incredible response to this contest, and one of the entrants had such a moving story that we were compelled to share it with all of you.
Jenifer Walsh, a Certified Spinning® Instructor from Cheshire CT was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As it is defined, MS is “a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.” Diagnosed in 1998, Jenifer was already a member of a gym that was just starting to introduce Spinning® classes to their schedule. With some trepidation, she took her first class. For the first time in a long time, Jenifer was the athlete she once was. Although challenged sometimes to even walk, Jenifer was a natural on the spin bike, and she felt confident, strong, and free.
After watching Jenifer embrace her Spinning classes and motivate her fellow students, her instructor encouraged Jenifer to think about becoming certified. Because Jenifer‘s MS affects the right side of her body, she walks with a limp. With her head held high, Jenifer went to orientation, got certified, and began her career as an instructor. She overcame her initial fear and focused on her personal goal. Jenifer has found amazing strength and support from her students, and is back on track in the exercise community. Although she is not as comfortable participating in other exercise venues- like running and swimming for example, she is a superstar when she clicks into the pedals of her Spinner® bike.
We did and interview with Jenifer and here is some of what she has to say.
“Spinning®: Has your life with MS changed since you’ve been taking Spinning® classes?
Jenifer: Multiple Sclerosis has its struggles, and I DO struggle everyday from the time I put my feet on the floor to walk. Outside the Spinning room you will see me walking with a cane to get around, but once I get up on that bike I become a different person! Spinning has made me stronger, it’s made me more confident in myself and when I’m teaching a class!
S: Sounds like mentally and emotionally it keeps you strong?
J: Yes, definitely. I’m not the type of person to sit in a corner and feel sorry for myself. I have a husband and two children at home that I stay strong for also! Spinning keeps me mentally and physically strong, I want to stay as active as I possibly can.
S: Would you recommend Spinning classes to others with MS?
Definitely, MS is so different for everybody, that’s why they call it ‘multiple’. There are so many different facets of the disease that you can have. Some people are affected cognitively, visually, or even physically. You could just walk by someone and never even know they have MS because they’re not physically showing it. I have issues with my balance, and because Spinning is on a stationary bike I don’t need to use my balance like I would if I were riding on the road. Spinning is just so powerful, rewarding and motivating to me, and I feel so energized from it!
S: How long have you been an instructor?
J: Since 2008.
S: How long before that were you taking classes?
I started taking classes when an instructor at my old gym encouraged me to give it a try, maybe it was a year or two before I actually got certified. She just noticed that I would always be taking classes and how much I loved it.
Once I got my certification, all the instructors at the gym would let me teach with them. I would just put an extra bike up next to them and they would do half the class or every other song until I got the groove of instructing on my own.
S: How long have you had the Spinning and HOPE tattoo?
J: The Spinning logo tattoo came first (3 yrs ago) Last year I wanted to do something a little different. I thought about using the MS Logo with a slash through the letters ~ then, I thought to myself that it’s all about my HOPE for a cure! The color ‘orange’ is the color that the National MS Society uses for MS. The tattoo artist said he could incorporate it so it looked like the word HOPE was under the Spinning logo. He did a great job! The word HOPE is everywhere in my world and in my home, it’s just a big word for me.
S: Any advice you could give to others with MS, or any other disease or overcoming obstacles?
J: I encourage anyone that is interested in becoming certified to definitely go out there and push for your dreams. I’m a very big on motivation, just with playing on words. I try to plug my classes and I always put motivational things out there. Everybody’s got something, whether it’s just a little issue in your family or whether you have something that there’s no cure for ~ EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING! I just try to stay positive; I think that’s what comes out of me the most when I’m on the bike. ‘I MAY HAVE MS, BUT I’M STILL IN THE GAME OF LIFE’
Today there is no cure for MS. But I wake up every morning dedicated and committed to finding a cure for this disease; a disease can never take away my will, my drive, or my passion. I go for an infusion treatment once a month which helps to slow the progress of my disease, but my daily medicine is spinning. My students response to me, the friendships I have with my fellow instructors, the way I feel as I motivate my classes….these are things that define me as an athlete and provide me with my daily remedy.”
Jenifer is a true inspiration to anyone that meets her. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her work ethic is motivational. You can’t help but raise your own personal work out goals when you are in her presence. She has been an inspiration here at Headquarters! She proves that the Spinning® Program really is for everyone. Anyone can take Spinning classes. As long as you possess the passion to try your hardest, and love to work out in an energetic environment, you can join a class. Let Jenifer’s personal story inspire you to find your own passion on the bike. We thank Jenifer for all she stands for and all that she does for the Spinning Program. We hope that you can find the same passion on the bike that Jenifer does! We thank Jenifer so much for sharing her story with us!