The Road Back from Ruin
It’s hard to reconcile today’s smiling, energetic Denise Latousek with the 2008 version she’s talking about. “I was angry. I was depressed. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t parent.”
Back then, Latousek looked like a winner – or at least her bank account did. She was making six figures after selling her very successful event-planning business.
But she was in debilitating pain. The doctor who reviewed her X-rays said that a 90-year-old former linebacker’s hips would look like that.
But Denise wasn’t 90; she was the 39-year-old mother of a two-year-old and a newborn. “I saw that I really did have 90-year-old hips!” she exclaims. “I was walking like a cripple! I thought that maybe that was why it hurt so much to ski! Up until then, I thought that maybe Greeks like me were just missing a skiing gene.”
Denise’s hips had been crushed by osteoarthritis and deformed by bone spurs. To fix them, she had to have both hips totally replaced, one surgery at a time.
But a year and a half later, she was still in pain, limping and handicapped. She tried acupuncture, water therapy, physical therapy, bodywork, mat activation technique, hypnosis and an excruciatingly painful ozone shot therapy. Vitamins. Minerals. Nothing helped. And her doctor’s response – “Here’s another prescription for pain meds” – put her on the road to ruin. Although she never exceeded the prescribed dosage, she was taking Valium, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Demerol, Lexapro and Oxycontin — and sliding into drug dependence.
It turned out that both hips had been installed at the wrong angles and a screw was slicing into her sciatic nerve. To repair the damage would require a new doctor, two more operations and a detox process that sounds like something from Trainspotting or Clean and Sober.
Denise, who was physically dependent on pain meds, but not emotionally addicted, checked herself into a detox facility. She was still unable to walk; her hip revisions would heal only if she kept weight off the bones. She had to stay on crutches, but she was determined to rehab her hips and kick the meds. “The minute my husband left, I was treated like an addict,” she recalls. “I was crying for two days, locked up and treated like a criminal.” She was losing weight. There was no heat and no medical, chemical or emotional support to help with the jarring process of withdrawing from the opiate medications. What’s more, because of her crutches, she was unable to open doors, use the pool or even shower in privacy. Despite its claims, the facility was not handicapped accessible!
After eight nightmarish days, Denise checked herself out of the facility and into a luxury hotel. She rested, ordered room service (real food!) and began to slowly crawl out of a deep, dark pit. She never looked back.
As she learned to walk again and slowly rebuilt lost muscle mass, Latousek also had to battle Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, called PAWS. Denise, who had already been certified as a physical trainer for years, had an important insight: “You need endorphins to get through this.”
It took her about two years to work her way back. “Last year, I skied 25 days, biked all summer and taught 13 classes a week,” she says. She also provided clients with 15 hours of private coaching each week.
Latousek started Burn Fitness Studio in March, 2014. Burn now employs 14 instructors and offers 45-plus classes each week. The schedule is based on lessons learned from Denise’s personal training background. Burn’s mom-friendly layout includes a kids’ movie room, dressing rooms, showers and a studio equipped with stationary bikes, mirrors and a “booty barre.”
Bootybarre® incorporates ballet-type exercises along with other moves, and Latousek regularly mixes up new music and choreography. The studio also offers Les Mills Bodypump, TRX Suspension Training, MOi Cycle, Boot Camp, small group personal training, boxing, Pilates and yoga. (See full schedule at BurnFitnessStudio.com.)
While Burn’s instructors are happy to help clients drop a dress size or prepare for ski season, Latousek’s speciality is training people with health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic pain and post-surgical recovery. When possible, she works in conjunction with their doctors and physical therapists. She says, “There are so many modalities available today to treat injuries and rehab from surgeries. I am so compassionate to people going through rehab. It can be a long road back. I have been there, and I know the way.”