Today we’d like to introduce you to Liz Letchford.
Liz, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I didn’t get into this fitness world because I loved fitness or I was good at fitness. I started in the medical field. I was an Athletic Trainer and an EMT and spent a lot of time responding to emergencies and rehabbing injuries of all kinds. I decided to pursue a PhD in kinesiology and rehab science because I have a love affair with sports medicine. The more I learned about the body, the more I realized that people can benefit from knowing what’s going on with their bodies – that there’s power in knowing your anatomy and how things work and whether its good pain or bad pain.
I thought I wanted to be a professor: share my knowledge through teaching and publishing research. But after doing that, I realized what academia was really like – and how long it really takes to share your research findings. Something deep inside knew that I wasn’t destined to give lectures and grade exams for the rest of my life. Athletic Trainers traditionally provide medical care to sports teams, but I knew I could use my skills to help the general population. Athletes have so much access already to sports medicine. I wanted to give that access to the everyday person. And so… that’s what I did.
I didn’t really know what to call myself. People have always been confused by the title “Athletic Trainer”, I wasn’t a personal trainer, I was a health care professional, but I worked out of a gym? With that confusion came a lot of self-doubt. But eventually, the right people found me. They were people of all ages, all skill levels, who had all kinds of chronic pain, injuries. They had gone to therapists and chiropractors and doctors and they received a ton of treatment and medicine, but they were never invited to play an active role in their own healing. Nobody was teaching them about their injuries, nobody considered that maybe if these people were empowered with the knowledge of their own bodies, they could then take ownership of their healing and finally start moving better so they could get back to doing the things they love.
There are a lot of people with my credentials that share their knowledge just for their own validation. There’s always a lot of big words and talking over people’s heads and I just don’t vibe with that. I’m here to help you discover that you have this incredible capacity to heal yourself – and I get so much joy out of giving you the knowledge and tools to do so. You’ll always hear me say “get out of your head and into your body.” I believe in that. Because that is what saved me. I’ve spent way too much precious time afraid of failing. Of not living up to expectations. I’d only try something if I knew I was going to be good at it. Then I found strength training.
Working out like that and moving my body like that was a challenge unlike anything I had ever experienced. Instead of fearing failure, I found freedom in it – because it meant I was getting stronger. And that forced me to get real comfortable with being uncomfortable. As I grew through my own strength training practice, I was seeking new tools to help improve my pain and mobility. One day, I stumbled across Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up therapy balls. I was working through some ankle tightness and figured I’d try self-massage to see if helped.
I began rolling around on the therapy balls regularly. Not only did this practice help improve my mobility, but it brought me back to calm, helped me reconnect and rediscover my body and improved my performance in the gym. I started putting on sexy, relaxing playlists and turned this massage practice into a ritual. It took me a while to discover that I fell in love with it because it helped me tune out the world and tune into my body and all of the tension I was storing there. Then a lightbulb came on. If I was craving something meditative that wasn’t meditation, something that gave me the same escape as yoga or strength training without feeling competitive with myself or others – I was sure other people were craving the same thing.
And just like that, The Release was born. I bought 40 sets of therapy balls, invited everyone I knew, created the sexiest playlist, turned down the lights and led my first Release class. Two years later and the class continues to grow and evolve while continuing to meet students where they are. I created an experience where people could come escape into their bodies. The Release offers them an opportunity get out of their heads and into their bodies, to practice being calm in the face of chaos.
I have had students share with me that after experiencing class, they were finally able to relax or that they discovered the root cause of their knee pain or they were finally able to be intimate with their partner once again. I am always so in awe of The Release community. They are willing to get uncomfortable on purpose in order to shed light on all of the places that need work, in both body and mind. I am excited to continue sharing The Release here in Los Angeles as well as virtually!
Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge I faced when building my practice and creating The Release was this urge to fit myself into a box. I continually played small, trying to make myself look and sound like every other personal trainer out there as if to validate my own work simply because it looked like what had already been accepted. It took some time to recognize that my unconventional approach to fitness was not a weakness but an incredible strength. And once I made that realization, I was unstoppable.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
We have already seen a big shift in the fitness industry toward more recovery-type practices; it seems that there is a new recovery center or cryotherapy chamber popping up on every corner. With more people experiencing burnout, autoimmune conditions and stress-related illness, we are finally beginning to place value on taking time to ourselves. I believe in the next five years, people will begin to understand the value in finding their “off” button.
- Website: www.therelease.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @lizletchford
- Other: www.lizletchford.com
Tracy Wright Corvo, Ashley Batz, Praise Santos, Grace Wilcox