On his way home from work one day in April 2013, Justin Elliott was shot in the head by an unknown assailant, a tragic event that claimed his eyesight and forever changed the course of his life. Many months of hospitalization and over a dozen surgeries to his facial bones left him considerably weakened. But today he’s visiting Purely Pilates Center and sitting patiently for an interview, following a tough workout. Justin tells us, “I was always a strong guy, but (afterwards) I had none of this (points to his core). I couldn’t do a sit up.”
As fate would have it, Justin’s next door neighbor just happens to be pilates instructor Nicole Lockhart. Nicole said, “My first thought was ‘he needs pilates’. Of course!”. (And we all giggle).
Luckily, Nicole persisted and eventually got Justin into the pilates studio. Nicole says the process of working with Justin revealed much about her own teaching style. Since Justin had no idea what pilates was (he researched it after Nicole had already roped him in) he relied on touch in the early stages. Nicole would perform a movement, and with his dad’s help, Justin would feel the position of her hand on the footbar, foot against the box, and so on.
In a discussion with Justin and Mike, Justin’s dad, they revealed that traditional physical therapy, while useful in initial stages of injury, gave them a few exercises whereas pilates gave Justin a sense of well-being, overall strength, better mobility and balance. In spending an hour watching him work, it is clear he is a man on a mission. He listens with intensity and puts his best effort forward. As he works up a sweat, Nicole gives a string of verbal cues that would make most folks dizzy. Justin says that as long has he knows all the steps ahead of time, he feels comfortable to keep moving. And move he does! This workout is no joke. Many of the movements would be a challenge to someone with full eyesight.
Nicole says that Justin is actually one of the easiest people to work with because of his keen listening skills and his willingness to trust the process.
Getting back to his former strength is clearly a high priority. Justin, who is now a motivational speaker at local colleges, says that his message is simple: you can focus on your limitations, or you can accept what IS and go forward from there. He’s aware of a common thread, which is that everyone has limitations, it’s what you do with them that counts.