FB Update: Our story, chronic pain, self care & moving forward

Hello FB Family! First - I have so missed talking to you all. Truly, I really have. As you might have noticed, we have been quiet on public platforms lately, and I have not been filming new workouts much at all this year. We have a lot going on, personally, professionally, and otherwise. If you love our workouts and aren't interested in our personal lives; feel free to hit the back button now, knowing that we will be back and there will be new workout videos, new workout programs, new free 5 Day Challenges, more website features, and of course, eventually Workout Complete (our ongoing mystery project) will finally launch, among other things. Everything that's free is staying free and with time, all will return to normal in the Fitness Blender world. 

If you're curious about what's happening in our lives and our business story, read on.

For 9 years now - Fitness Blender just had a birthday, by the way! - we have worked ourselves to the bone for this company. Not complaining at all - we love & enjoy our work. It is so incredibly fulfilling. We have poured our hearts and resources into something we love, believe in, and care passionately about. We are a very small team, with an enormous worldwide audience of tens of millions of people on our content each month. It takes an immense amount of work to keep up with everything. It makes for an interesting balance (maybe I should say lack of balance?). We get the same traffic as some of the biggest companies in the world, and so face the same technical and business problems that they do, and are held to the same high legal and security standards that they are, but because we do everything for as free as possible, we don't have the enormous budget of those larger companies. Again, makes for an interesting balance. It's challenging but all works out. Fitness Blender supports us, as well as a number of other families and individuals that we contract with and have recently hired (more on that below). And we get to provide a service that people all over the world benefit from. And we have the opportunity to give back to local, national and global charities. We have always considered it a win-win-win situation. We have been pushing ourselves hard for nearly a decade, and we are very proud of our work and most of all, our community and the people who make up the Fitness Blender Family. 

Along with the exciting stuff, there have been challenges. That's not unnatural; that's life. Our lives have always been crazy together. For example, right around the time we got married in 2008; we purchased our first house on a Friday, got married that Sunday, and found out we were both laid off that Monday. Talk about a life shakeup! We both found other work quickly but in the meantime, started Fitness Blender. We wanted to help people and knew we could reach a larger audience if we took our passion and knowledge to the web. Side note: we honestly never even dreamed our audience would grow as large as it has! 

We would work 40+ hours at our "real" jobs, and squeeze in probably another 40 for Fitness Blender, before and after our regular work. It was a serious grind to get FB off the ground, with a small amount of startup cash - the whole thing actually started off of $5000 that I had painstakingly saved to use towards grad school tuition. It took us around 3 years of moonlighting and balancing multiple jobs before we were able to push off to FB full time. We worked hard, and we grew - quickly, and purely from word of mouth. There's no way we would have been able to afford advertising; you guys really are what makes this company possible. But it worked. Then we hit speed bumps and growing pains; you guys may remember us sharing that we were recently the target of a con job, which took up 18 months of our time and focus, along with nearly half a million dollars (it takes a lot to keep this website & all of the features up, running, & secure). That hurt. There was a lot of anger and stress. Especially considering the web dev company we had gone with before that incident had actually done something similar to us. Business is crazy! But that's another story. All in all, and in spite of the setbacks, Fitness Blender is thriving, and still growing, and what we're able to offer is still expanding. We are still just getting started and so much more is in the works, even now as I type. It's very exciting and we are so grateful.

Now we are facing a new hurdle, a more personal one this time. We are private people, but we genuinely care about our audience - "our People", as we often call you guys (hope that's okay). I am protective of my personal life but I'm also an open book to those close to me, to those I care about. I have struggled with leaving the FB Community in the dark about why I haven't been filming new workouts or why I might seem different lately. I enjoy our open conversations and it felt selfish keeping my struggles to myself, especially considering the nature of our community. With that said...here's a rundown on what's going on. 

I am struggling, hard. My life is not at all normal right now and it hasn't been for at least the last 7 months. Late last year, I developed a rare and severe form of neuralgia that has completely turned my life upside down. I have been in a lot of pain. I went from feeling fit, healthy, strong, and capable, to having trouble walking, sitting, standing, even lying down, without pain. I have already made a lot of progress but there are still some everyday-life things that I cannot do right now. In the interest of transparency & total honesty; it has been very difficult and, at times, completely devastating. I have been very depressed. I have felt like a stranger in my own body. And it has obviously been a huge hurdle to pouring myself into my life & the business that Daniel and I have built together, the work that we love. 

Despite my current situation, I’m also very grateful and optimistic. I’m learning how strong I am. The situation is grim, and difficult, but I am already 6 months into physical therapy, and with time, I can and will heal from this. Also, let's keep things in perspective; I am very fortunate. I can afford health care. I was able to travel across the country to see a specialist, who was tremendously helpful to me and has given me information that I feel will be crucial to my healing.  If I didn't own my own company, I would absolutely have lost my job and be on disability by now. I have family and friends that love me and lift me up. I am knowledgeable in both exercise and nutrition science, which are both imperative to healing. I am disciplined and determined and I will do what I need to to heal. I can't wait to get back to my full-swing workouts; I have never craved a jump squat or burpee so badly in my entire life. I have already made great strides towards healing but I still have a ways to go.

In terms of cause, there's a multitude of variables but I will just say this; if you don't have healthy stress management in your life, set it up, NOW. I'm not kidding. Think about that for a second and if you can, please take something from my situation and use it to treat yourself more kindly & create more downtime & quiet in your own life. If you’ve ever said the words “it’s just stress”, know that there is nothing “just” about stress. Take it seriously. This sounds like a scare tactic but it's not; stress is incredibly toxic and very hard on the body.

I apologize for being vague about specifically what I’m struggling with, but I need to be for now, for myself, until I am in a better place. I'm going to have a lot to say when I make it through this. Once I am healed, or have made more progress, I will share anything I can that might be helpful to anyone else who might be dealing with my specific situation or with chronic pain in general. 

So what happens now? After 9 years of designing, filming, editing, writing, and publishing a new workout video every single week (on average), along with juggling all of our business responsibilities (which is the bulk of our work) we're focusing on the sustainability of Fitness Blender. Even though we've been seemingly quiet, we have been hard at work and aside from some scheduled upcoming downtime, will continue to be. We are building a very capable team that we trust, as well as infrastructure around ourselves so that ultimately we can focus more on creating content and new workouts. Up until this point, Daniel and I, aside from our trusty customer service guru & website development go-to guy, have done literally all of the work for this company; we do all of the things and wear all of the hats. But that's just far too much pressure to be healthy or sustainable. We are taking a step back to focus on building a Fitness Blender that is able to offer even more than it does now; we have huge plans for FB and we are not going away. It's important that you know this! 

On a personal note, my plan is to take some time to focus on myself and heal. I know what I need to do to heal, and I will now pour my heart and best efforts into taking care of myself, for the first time in a while. I will do everything I can to get back to a place where I can freely enjoy the life and work that I love so much. 

Also, I have been relentlessly reading, researching and speaking with some of the nation's leading specialists in physical therapy, pain psychology, and body mechanics. This has been an eye opening experience on many fronts and I have since learned that about a third of the population suffers from chronic pain. The thing is, even while in pain, exercise is still important. Even the most daunting of chronic issues can be improved with smart exercise and nutrition. The key word there is "smart"; it has to be right for you and your body. Once I am in front of the camera again, I am hoping to tackle the complicated conversation of chronic pain, wellbeing, and exercise. I had no idea that so many people were suffering at any point and time and I want to help.

My biggest message at the moment is to cherish your health and body. Cherish the opportunity to walk and workout, cherish your jump squats and burpees. Whatever your body is capable of at the moment, do not take it for granted. Health scares like this are what make you realize how silly it is to stress out over "those last 5 pounds" or "having abs". Like we always say; you should eat well and workout for a better life. It's great to have goals, but keep your priorities straight. 

This is an honest depiction of my life at the moment. The internet and social media is strange; this feels like total overshare but I don't think it's fair to share the highlights of life without also being honest about the lows & struggles as well. And you know how tight knit our community is; how could I continue to not tell you guys what has been happening, especially if I might be able to eventually help someone else, once I'm back on my feet?

Thanks for reading this novel of a post. Don’t take your health for granted, take care of yourselves, and please be careful with how deeply you feel your stress. It won't be terribly long before we are earning our “Workout Complete” together again. Love to you all. xKelli