|After a Stroke: The Expanding Role of Exercise in Promoting Recovery|
A tiny, Type A gym rat, Brott doesn’t let much get in her way for long. When she was unhappy with a contractor laying wood floors in her home, she fired him and installed them herself. Then she figured out how to put in lighting and did that, too.
Once a 3:57 marathon runner who switched to spin classes after an injury, she decided at her neurologist’s recommendation to return to the huge Sport & Health Club in the Rio shopping center in Gaithersburg, where she had worked out nearly every day before her stroke.
By chance, she met a rookie Pilates instructor, Chris Spring, who agreed to work with her. Neither woman had any background in medicine or rehabilitation.
“I said, rationally, if it’s a mind-body disconnect, let’s get the connection going again,” Spring said.
Spring decided to use the Reformer, the medieval-sounding platform that is the most basic equipment in many Pilates studios. Originally constructed out of available parts by Joseph Pilates while he was interned by the British during World War I, the device has evolved into a standard piece of gym equipment that fosters a total body workout using resistance springs.
At first, Brott had so little strength in her left hand that Spring had to lash it to the device’s straps with elastic hair bands. As Brott’s right side did the work, her left side went along for the ride. “She could think it, but her body wouldn’t obey her,” Spring said. “She could want to draw her arm back, but she couldn’t make it happen.”
The women met as often as six times a week, working Brott’s weak muscles again and again. At night, Spring did more research and devised additional exercises. Brott worked out for another hour at home.