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INSTRUCTING FROM INJURY: HOW BOLTCULT FAVORITE, TIFFANY WOLFF, USES THE LIT STRENGTH MACHINE AND PERSONAL PAIN TO EMPOWER OTHERS

Jun 29, 2021

In a recent sit down, we caught up with LIT’s veteran instructor and resident Pilates powerhouse, Tiffany Wolff. 

A lifelong dancer and performer, Tiffany gives us a closer look at her unconventional path to LIT and how, in the wake of a scoliosis diagnosis, she has found new strength and inspiration in her LIT Strength Machine, the LIT community, and in developing an incredible new program that incorporates physical therapy, pilates, and prehab.

Can you discuss your diagnosis and how Low Impact Training has helped you with it? 

Scoliosis was something I discovered fairly late. Since childhood, I’d had a number of dance injuries I was attributing a lot of my pain to. In my lower back, I had nerve pinching and I assumed it was from that. But four years ago, I found out I had a fairly moderate curve in my back and that’s when I was diagnosed. 

It was actually right around the time I first started coming to LIT.  I came in with a lot of alignment issues — which is something that I’ve been really able to address on a deeper level since starting the LIT Pilates program — and I was able to find balance within my body. And that kind of long term understanding of our individual makeup, what’s going on with our specific instrument is so acute because our bodies all operate differently. 

That’s the thing that Justin and Taylor have always seemed to get, and it’s why I clicked so easily with LIT. They never believed that one prescription could apply to everyone. And I really took that to heart and infused it in my teaching. I used my own challenges — from the scoliosis, multiple ankles injuries, and other ailments from dance —  and I really tried to better understand each person’s trauma. Each person in my classes was dealing with a different type of injury, and I was really able to communicate with them on a much more personal level about the intricacies of their injury and share my own experiences in the process.

 

Let’s talk about people with chronic illnesses or injuries who are used to going to a physical therapy clinic. How do you foresee the machine being a more innovative type of relief, particularly in the sense that they can have peace of mind and take control of their progress and pace at home? 

Yeah, I think that there are so many different approaches to Low Impact Training and especially with this machine. I talk a lot about it in class, but what we’re seeing is pretty incredible. The beauty of it is that you are literally creating an intimate relationship with your Strength Machine. And that is my goal, that through our classes, there is really a deep understanding of how to individualize your machine and your time with it. So much of my role here is helping people improve and continuing to provide challenges for the areas they feel strong in and want to continue to exceed in. 

And when we talk about it through the lens of injury and physical therapy, there’s nothing like it out there. With a doctor’s recommendation, you’re really able to individualize the treatment plan — and I mean, think about that. You can really take care of your body with the doctor’s endorsement and recommendation, as well as have a daily support system in your certified LIT instructors. 

Take me, for example, what I’m doing for a living with LIT — my job is actually the prescription and directive from my doctor. And that’s great for our community. We’re thrilled to be able to provide that kind of bridge. It’s wonderful to be able to make that connection between what a doctor is saying you need to do to recover and be the method and the machine that makes that happen. 

Can we dig in a little more on that? With pilates, for example, a lot of people out there don’t know that this machine isn’t just a rower. It’s also a pilates reformer and a strength trainer. Is pilates a form of physical therapy for you? And if so, how are you working that into class? 

 

Yeah, 100% I feel like the program itself and the passion I had to create that program are both because I had benefited so much from from slowing down and taking the time to really connect the dots of what we talk about in so many classes with the metaphor, the emotional, and the physical — all working in synchronicity. I think Pilates provides a wonderful opportunity to slow down and connect breath, to movement, and to sensation. You’re able to truly feel when your body is being triggered in a negative or uncomfortable way — and stop and address that in the moment. You don’t have to speed up and get through to the next exercise and you’re able to stop and have more patience with yourself and with your physical journey. 

And I can speak from personal experience how important that permission is when you are coming back from an injury. You have to be a special kind of patient to give yourself the time and your body the space to get back on track. 

Pilates is such a great way into being able to do circuit training and strength training and endurance rowing. It has the difficulty that is present in those more advanced, quicker paced classes, but it also has the space and room. And my hope is that in my communication, I’m helping people build a stronger relationship and understanding of their own physical body and where you can strengthen from a slow driven, eccentric movement place to give yourself more balance, rehab, and injury prevention. 

And mentally, it’s very therapeutic. Injuries can be really frustrating. A lot of athletes come to LIT because movement is in their DNA — and I think there’s a bit of that in all of us. Needing to move and feel good about it. And when that’s taken away from you in some form, especially with an injury, it can be emotionally fatiguing, as much as it is physically.

 

It seems like LIT is really aiming to get people to embrace that injuries are at the heart of most of our origin stories. You mentioned other injuries in addition to treating scoliosis. Compounding physical obstacles is a reality many people deal with — where they’re tackling more than one issue because they’ve had more than one interest and risk they’ve faced. Would you tell us more about those experiences and how they’ve informed your role as a certified LIT instructor?

 

Of course. I always think, “How can I prevent future injuries for someone else by using the experiences I’ve had? And providing that knowledge throughout class?”

When I was going into my senior year of high school with plans to join a dance company — and you know, that was the future I saw for myself — I had a horrible injury. I tore all the ligaments in my right ankle, and I went from having what I thought was going to be my senior year full of multiple competitions and college auditions and myriad of opportunities to being in a cast for six months and teaching other dancers routines I had worked really hard to create. It was a traumatizing experience and just so much of my identity at the time. But through that process, I was able to identify my love for acting, and my love for movement in general, and I really learned how important it was for me to make sure I had that in my life for the long haul. 

LIT has really embraced my background, and that individuality, as well as my perspective and my uniqueness. And Justin and Taylor have really encouraged me to bring all of that authenticity to my classes. For me, that was not something I had experienced when I was looking into training as a fitness instructor. There wasn’t a whole lot of interest in that knowledge, but they were different. Things like my diagnosis, things that would have made me an outsider elsewhere were exactly why I fit in here.

 

What sets LIT and the LIT Strength Machine apart from other brands and equipment out there?

I went through a rigorous certification program. That’s the thing about LIT. Regardless of the modality you teach, to become a LIT Method instructor, you spend a great deal of time learning how to build injury prevention into your programs. Justin and Taylor take the certification training process very seriously because they are constantly looking at it from the injury prevention angle. They know how debilitating it can be. They know what I went through — because they went through it. So they’re looking at you as a prospective instructor and they know your success in teaching the method is going to be the difference in someone helping or harming themselves. So it’s intentional. It’s thoughtful. It’s extensive. And it has been one of the most rewarding processes of my career.

And that’s all so incredibly important. I see so many people using equipment in an unhealthy way with heavy weight, that all I see is joint damage happening with every single repetition. But with the LIT Strength Machine, and with the education and classes, it’s definitely different. You’re not just receiving a machine — you’re receiving the community and the thoughtfulness that has gone into this machine. You’re receiving a commitment to ensuring it’s a tool that helps you, not harms you.

And as far as what we intend to do here with LIT, it’s just so special. I feel like Justin and Taylor have created a brand that truly welcomes every walk of life. Especially with our trainers and our different backgrounds. 

When I was younger, I was going from not warming up my body at all to doing a back handspring. And now, to find a method that says, “Let’s protect your body. Let’s provide the tools it needs to sustain itself with proper warm up and proper recovery and cool down” — that’s one in a million. 

It has only deepened my already shifted perspective on how I was working with my own body and how I can help others do the same — and do it safely.