Cheryl Ilov – Empowerment, Vitality, and the Art of Movement

The Thriving Solopreneur Podcast Show with Cheryl Ilov and Janine Bolon: Empowerment, vitality and the art of movement

To Learn More about Cheryl Ilov [click here] to view her Media Kit.

Janine Bolon: Hello, this is Janine Bolon. Welcome to The Thriving Solopreneur Show. And it’s always fun for me when I get to have a guest, who I have met before the pandemic. And we were living a life in a very, very different way than we are now. And today’s guest is Cheryl Ilov, She’s an author, speaker, physical therapist, martial artist, dancer, and former chronic pain patient. She published an award-winning book and best-selling book by that matter, Forever Fit and Flexible: Feeling Fabulous at Fifty and Beyond. And she did that in 2016. However, she and I met in 2019, when we were at a book fair. And we were side-by-side, at that conference. And I can’t tell you how much fun we had laughing and giggling and talking about being authors and talking to the people that were there for the book fair. But back to Cheryl, she has over 20 years of experience as a physical therapist and private practice. She has helped hundreds of clients recover from pain and physical injuries by integrating science, as well as physical therapy using the art of movement. But the most compelling part of her story, at least to me was that she had to bring it to her own journey of health healing and self-discovery. After she was railroaded by a devastating injury and subsequent chronic pain syndrome when she was in her mid-30s. How many of us have had some sort of medical issue that just kind of blew our life away. And that’s what happened with Cheryl. She earned her master’s degree in physical therapy with honors in 1996 and opened her own practice in 1999. Now, she is passionate about helping people move better, feel better and look better. And really to empower them to understand their own bodies through movement and self-awareness. And she published her book, so she can share her own message but also the techniques and the tips that she has for a larger audience. She believes that everyone can be healthy, active, fit, and vibrant at every stage of life, no matter what the experts say. She love’s busting the myths of aging. She loves stopping father time in his tracks. And she loves proving the naysayers wrong. Now, sure was a journey of lifelong learning, healing. Took an unexpected turn which began training in an ancient Chinese martial art called Nympho Taijutsu, the art of the ninja, at the tender age of wave for 47. So just remember guys, this is after she was diagnosed with this crazy chronic thing, and then she started taking martial arts a few years later. Martial arts were never on her radar, nor was it in her DNA, but fate would move on with her life. But instead, she fell in love with the art, the training, and especially she fell in love with the confidence and the empowerment that she gained through that training. So, 10 years later, she received the honor of becoming her teacher’s first female black belt. And had 20 years of teaching, he had never had a woman achieve such a high rank. So as a speaker, Cheryl energizes her audiences with an engaging interactive speaking style. She shares her positive message of hope, healing, and personal empowerment with her audience and skillfully adapts each program to each specific audience. So, Cheryl, it is such a joy to have you on the show today.

Cheryl Ilov: Thank you so much for having me, Janine. It’s wonderful to be here. I really appreciate it.

Janine: Well, it seems like literally a lifetime ago that you and I were standing side-by-side at that book fair, way up in the mountains of Colorado. You and I, I don’t know about you, but I had to drive for hours to get to that location. And I remember how much fun I had just meeting all these authors from all over Colorado. That we all did the same thing, it’s in the middle of… I think it was December. And here we are trying to drive up, and drive back down the mountain during clouds snowstorms. There were different snow storms coming through the area and we were dodging those. So, talk to us a little bit about what have you been doing after 2020? When did you kind of have to do as an author and speaker? Because you know, I don’t know about you, but speaking kind of went down the tubes. We all had to go digital, don’t we?

Cheryl: Yes, we did. And that was really challenging for me as a baby boomer. Technology is not my friend. I had to be dragged into the world of technology, kicking and screaming and not in a good way. And even as recently, as about 10 years ago, the only thing I could do on a computer was to receive and sent email. And I really wasn’t even that good at that either. So, this has been a huge shift for me. I, of course, have been learning a lot about technology, with my own podcast and moving forward. But when the pandemic hit, I mean, there I was, I was doing my podcast but I was doing interviews in The Girl Cave in my own home. So, I had to learn how to do Zoom, learn how to go remote and that was one of the biggest gifts I ever received. Because now, I talked to people not only all over the country but in Canada, Australia, I’ve had a couple of guests from Germany. So that has really been a wonderful pivot for me and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Janine: And that’s one of the things as a business owner, we have to work through. I don’t know about you, but I knew the type of life I wanted as a business owner. And I didn’t care who in Hades, I had to talk to but by God, I was going to live my life my way. And I know that was considered very revolutionary in 1996. Like, work from home, I thought only unemployed people did that, right? Remember consultant used to be a bad word, right? Oh, that means you’re unemployed, right? This was like, that was work. But for you is something very different. I knew I had to live life a certain way and I needed to work from home so that I could continue to homeschool my four children. And that’s caused me to start this business that I’ve been in for the last 30 years. But in your case, it was a medical condition. So, I’d love for you to talk to us a little bit. And also you’re a dancer. You talk about, I teach through movement, I do physical therapy, but technically in your core, you’re this very creative dancer. So, it doesn’t surprise me that you ended up in martial arts, either. So, talk to us a little bit about how life experience you fell into where you are now.

Cheryl: Oh boy! That’s a really long story. So let’s just start with my chronic pain syndrome. So, we’ll start with that. So I was in my mid-30s and what started out as some discomfort and a little bit of tightness in my low back quickly spiraled way out of control. And in just a few months, I went from being a healthy vibrant, active young woman to being a chronic pain patient. And, it was absolutely

devastating. At the time, I was in medicine. I was a respiratory therapist. And so I did everything I was told to do. I went through the western medicine model. So, I went to all the doctors, the physical therapists. I took all the medications they prescribed. I did every single thing I was told. But instead of getting better, I was getting worse. Until I lived that life for two and a half years. I can’t believe I did that. Now, looking back. But for two and a half years, I lived that way, and as I said, I just kept getting worse and worse and worse. Until one of the doctors told me that I would never have the life I wanted before. I would never be able to even do my laundry and my grocery shopping all in the same day because the arthritis in my spine was so severe, I would end up being bedridden. And I didn’t process it at the time. I looked at her I was a little confused and I said, “You don’t understand. I’m planning on going back to ballet class.” And she laughed in my face and she said, “No, you don’t understand.” She says, “You are a chronic pain patient. You will never have the life that you had before. You will never have the life that you thought you would. Forget about going to physical therapy school. Even if you could do the work, which you can’t you’re too broken. You’re just too darn old. And I was 36.

Janine: Wow, Wow.

Cheryl: Think about that.

Janine: Yeah. Just to let you know, I have 50-year-old friends who went back to medical school and I had one friend who was 62 that went to medical school. And they said, “But you’re going to be so old when you get out. And the woman’s response was, “Well, I’m going to be 70, anyway.” It was like, well, I’m still going to age, I’m just going to age my way. So, it’s just one of those things. I don’t think people understand. This is a paradigm in mindset, that is still very active in our society, even with 2020. Anyway, so you had this amazing information handed to you as if it was law. And so, tell us about your reaction to all that fun stuff.

Cheryl: Well, at first, it really wasn’t good. I went home. I hit rock bottom, and it was like, wait a minute. I woke up a few days later and I had this Epiphany. It was like, you don’t have to live like this. You don’t have to accept this. You deserve more. And then, I realized that my medical team, bless their hearts, were doing everything that they knew. They weren’t helping me get better. They were helping me stay where I was. So, I again that Epiphany, it says, “This is on you, and you have to figure it out for yourself.” Which actually was frightening but liberating at the same time. So, I fired all of my medical team. Much to their chagrin because I needed them. They wanted to take care of me and I was like, well, they weren’t doing a very good job. It was time for me to start taking care of myself. So I stopped taking all the medications, stopped doing all the PT exercises and stretches that I was given because they weren’t helping me. So, why waste my time? I did add acupuncture. That was the only thing I added. And I taught myself how to move again. I went back to the very basics of how we learn to move when we were children. And how did we learn? We did self-exploration. We played. We just explored our environment. So I would get down on the floor. I knew enough movement through dance and Pilates. I had done a lot of Pilates at that point in my life. So I dissected all the movement patterns and I broke them down into tiny little bits. And then, I would do them and oh, that doesn’t feel good. That really hurts. This feels better. It was a very long process of self-exploration, self-awareness but it was pretty remarkable. In about nine months’ time, with the acupuncture too, which really was very helpful for my stress levels, which were way off the charts, I got better. I was pain-free. And as soon as that happened at the same time, I was accepted into the master’s program, graduate school at CU for my physical therapy. So, I went through the PT training, something really interesting happened along the way. When I graduated with my Masters in PT just right before my 40th birthday. The job market was really bad for PTs. There were too many therapists, not enough jobs. The jobs that were available were really pretty awful. And for two years, I struggled in that environment. Until again, I finally had another Epiphany. You know what, you can go out on your own. And that’s when I opened up my own practice.

Janine: Isn’t it wild? Because at the time, somebody, as a physical therapist going out on their own. I mean, only doctors do that or only PhDs. Here you are what humerus, right? Well, the chutzpah, to sit there with a masters only and go it on your own. I was in the medical community, my mom was a nurse and I worked as a unit clerk in the ER and all that more in clerical kind of positions. But it always cracks me up that there is such a hierarchy that what Cheryl is talking about really is quite revolutionary. And I just wanted to share that with you, because if you haven’t worked in medicine, you don’t understand the hierarchy that is there. The mindset is there. So for you to say, okay. We’ll skip this noise, I’m just going to go out on my own is like, whoo! Obviously, you’re such a little rebel.

Cheryl: Thank you for saying that because I never even thought about it that way, even after all these years. Because all I knew is that I was miserable. I was so unhappy. I didn’t feel like I was doing the work that I was meant to do and made to do. It just didn’t resonate with me. And at that point, I had already taken two professional pilates training programs and it was like a mental head-smacking moment. It was like, “You know what, there is a need for people who had my skill level to be able to work with people one-on-one.” It was a non-traditional practice. I totally went out. It was no insurance. It was cash only. And I specialized in Pilates-based Rehabilitation and Conditioning later, adding something called Feldenkrais, which is a highly sophisticated form of neuromuscular re-education to my practice. And you know what? It worked. It was just great. And a lot of my clients were people who had graduated from traditional PT outpatient and they weren’t happy where they were. They wanted to take it a little bit further, so I was able to bridge that gap when the insurance says, “You’re done, you’re fine.” And they’re like, “No. I want more. I want to be at a hundred percent. So I helped to bridge that gap. And I also got a lot of clients who were just like me, hopeless cases who were told, “You will never be able to live without pain again.”

Janine: Well, and I remember where you and I connected was when I was telling you about the time that I fell off a horse. I was 16 years of age and I was paralyzed from the waist down and I was told I would never walk again. So I remember I was like, “Well if I never walk again, fine. Not happening.” In my head, I said that. I didn’t say it out loud because everybody else was smarter than me and everybody else was in the medicine. But the other thing was, I remember walking on my arms and my hands to the bathroom and I don’t want to lose my muscular control of what I still had control over. Well, after three days of me, just absolutely not accepting the information that I was given. From whatever happened, information went down enough that I was able to start walking on canes. And like you said, it wasn’t a fast process. These processes you and I are talking about where you dig deep and you go, “I refuse to accept this because something inside you says, this does not have to be you.” So, you may be wondering folks. Why are we talking about all this when it comes to The Thriving Solopreneur Show, because when you run a business, it’s the exact same thing that we’re talking about. You have to dig deep and you have to have a vision, a really strong vision for what you want to do. So talk to us Cheryl because, in 2017, I think it was May, you shut down your practice. And now you’ve totally changed what you do in the sense of how you present to your clients but

you’re still in business. So talk to us a little bit about that.

Cheryl: Yes. So, in May of 2017, I did close my practice. And it was a tough decision because I’ve been in practice, at that point probably 20 years. But it was funny because it was a confluence of the events that had happened basically at the same time. That was just making moving forward more and more difficult for me. My lease was up or was going to be up in May and the rents were going up by over 20%. I had been blessed to be sitting on a jury. I was actually a juror for a three-week-long trial in federal court. Oh my gosh, that just knocked me for a loop. And at the same time, all of this was happening. I developed a medical concern that needed some attention that could have been either, no big deal or something very, very serious. And all of this came together, and finally, I said,

“You know what? I’m done.” It’s time for me to take care of myself. I had been taken care of people for 40 years at that point and I had even taken care of both my parents. My mom and dad had been ill at the same time. I had taken care of them. It was like, it’s time for me to just step back from what I’m doing. Promote my book. I did a lot of speaking gigs. It was really a lot of fun. Yeah, so it was just time for a change. But even after I closed my office, there was part of me that really missed that aspect of teaching and connecting with people, and being able to teach people how to move better, how to take care of themselves. Because with my practice, I never fixed people. And I told them that right upfront. I will not fix you. I will teach you how to fix yourself. And that was a powerful message for my clients.

Janine: And I think it puts healing back where it belongs, which is on the individual. Because my father was in the military and I was raised in Japan for a large portion of my early childhood. One of the things I found was that western medicine and eastern medicine really do co-exist peacefully if you will just allow the patient to be able to be in charge of their own care. And one of the things that you find with chronic conditions, if I were rock climbing, and I fall I want a Brazen surgeon there to help put me back together with my head cracks open.

Cheryl: Yes.

Janine: Western medicine is good at what it does, which its hope focus is on acute trauma. Right? Putting people back together when they’ve gotten themselves or are forced into situations that kind of bust them up. But eastern medicine is very good at helping you stay in touch with yourself, which you found out through acupuncture. So, one of the things that I find, so fascinating about you, is the fact that you got into martial arts. And I understand some of the training went through. Not all of it, of course. It’s all about staying in touch with your body. And that whole movement like knowing where the tips of your fingers are, knowing where your sword is. They have all these special names for the different swords so, I don’t want to mess that up. But you know as you’re moving, they have special names for the movements and all that. So between acupuncture and what you’ve done with martial arts. How is that helped you with your business?

Cheryl: Oh, that is the Ten Thousand Dollar question. I love that question because nobody ever asks me that. And I finally did at one point, I said to my sensei, I was having difficulties, with my practice, blah, blah, blah, and doubting myself, is this really what I want to do? And that was like, wait a minute, there was another one of those epiphanies just hit me in the middle of the night. You have the tools, you have the skills, take the principles of what you learned in martial arts and apply that to your business. And it was amazing. Once I did that, it was just two weeks later. Boom! Everything was back on track again. People will ask me, “Oh, have you ever had to use your martial arts?” And I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking, did I ever have to take anybody down which that’s a whole other discussion. Well, yes, I use it every single day of my life because these are the principles that have really helped me stay on track, and even when covid hit and everything was shutting down. What am I going to do? And it was like, wait a minute. You’ve got the skills. You’ve got the tools. You know what to do to keep yourself sane, healthy, and on track.

Janine: And with the martial arts, I studied, which was Aikido. One of the things that I learned is, it’s always trying to move into that breathless state. And use as little energy as possible because your attacker or somebody who’s out to do you harm, they’re the one expending all the energy. You don’t want to be the one doing that. Of course, it’s the same with many of the other martial arts. One of the things I find fascinating though, is a business owner is perseverant, right? Who’s a successful business, owner? Anyone who can stay in business longer than seven years. I mean, it’s that seven-year edge, or can you stay in business, two years or three years? Everybody gets into business for different targets. And I think, sometimes they think that the only way that you can be a successful business owner is if you make millions of dollars, and that’s not the case, as you and I were talking about. Being a successful business owner is living the life you want and you’re able to afford it because of what you do to make the money. So talk to us a little bit about how you keep your center during these really crazy times. Because like you, I lost $28,000 in Q1 in speaking engagements alone because we couldn’t do them, right? And so these event planners already had deposits down, they couldn’t get their money back and I said, I’ll speak anyway for free. Let’s keep the event going. We’ve got to give people hope, right? So, I and a whole bunch of other speakers were doing a lot of stuff for free in Q1, just because we were desperately trying to keep people in a good space. But eventually, you’ve got to pay the bills. So talk to us about how you do that today with the new model that you’re rocking.

Cheryl: Well, it was really tough, and I just bit the bullet because I know how to do that too. And I know how to redirect. I mean, there’s something that we’d say in my martial ar,t when you’re being attacked or when the attack is coming, you can evade, deflect, and redirect. So those are three principles that I use a lot in my business. Evade, I couldn’t evade covid. I mean, I couldn’t evade what was happening. So, it was like, okay, I couldn’t really deflect. The only thing I could do was to deflect how it impacted me and how it affected me, mentally, and physically. And that was my biggest concern. Financially, it was like, okay. Since I had closed my business, my income level had changed dramatically. So I was already used to having that flow finding where the money is coming from, where it’s going to go, how to prioritize. So, I just really expanded on that and use that technique and focus on where am I really going to focus my energy, my time, my money to be able to stay afloat. And one of the things that I came up with, which just cracked me up, as someone who is definitely a self-proclaimed technophobe, and techno moron, which I guess I can’t say that anymore, is I relaunched my practice online. And it’s just been awesome. I mean, at first, I have that mentality, that I have to be touching people. I have to be in the same room. And it was one day, that I was signing off from an online ballet class. Now, I do basement ballet and I still do because it’s convenient. And it was like, wait a minute people are doing everything online. They’re doing yoga, ballet. I can teach people how to move and I can assess how they’re moving, giving them corrections. I could do that online. So it was in May, just this past May, there’s something very, poetic about exactly four years later in May, that I relaunched my practice in a completely different way.

Janine: And it’s one of the things that earlier generations, I should say, the generations that are following us, won’t understand the mindset shift that had to happen. But it’s happening in every industry where it’s like, what we took for granted physically. Like, remember when you used to have to go to the DMV? Now, you can actually show up on a video screen as long as you flash your paperwork and screen, share, and all that kind of stuff is fascinating to me that things that we can now do. And I told the kids, I said, “In a million years, I never would have thought that I could take a picture of my check and have it deposited. That is just out of my mind. Like, oh, wow! We really have moved into this new era. So, for all of you who are like, “Well, this is just how you are going to have to do business now because of your youth.” I just wanted to let you know, please rock on, and please have patience. Teach us. Teach those older folks who’ve been in business 30 years, how we can do it easier. You guys have apps that you’re building today that are helping us so much. And a lot of us don’t know how to use them effectively and you’re teaching us that. So thank you and we return we’ll teach you, how to stay profitable. We’ll teach you, how to go the long game. We’ll teach you, how to be able to stay in the game long enough. So you get profitability and not give up too soon on yourself. Because that’s usually what happens with those nurses. So Cheryl, is there anything else you want to care to share before we sign off here?

Cheryl: Well, there’s one other thing that I did do with all my free time of not running around when we were staying home. And that is to work on my next book. And it is getting very close to being published. I’m just talked to my editor and we are in the final editing. The manuscript is going to the proof editor right now, and I’m starting to work on the cover design. So, that’s pretty darn exciting.

Janine: Can I say the title of it? Is that allowed?

Cheryl: Uh-hmm.

Janine: Okay, sometimes it’s not allowed. I know, that’s why I have to ask. It’s The Reluctant Ninja To A Middle-aged Princess Became A Warrior Queen. I love that title, by the way, and I know some of you may be rolling your eyes. But one of the things that are interesting is people say, “Sweet old lady,” Like, we get that sometimes. “Oh, she’s such a sweet old lady.” And I remember thinking “sweet old lady”, I’m a battle-tested warrior queen. I don’t know who you think I am, just because we’ve been through so much. However, I love how you talk about becoming a princess and then a warrior queen because I understand that, totally. Also, you have some free stuff that people have access to. Tell us a little bit about that before we go.

Cheryl: Certainly. If you go to my website and sign up for my newsletter, you’ll have access to three recorded meditation through movement lessons. Audio only, so you have the freedom to be able to explore. I guide you through the movements. It’s not about how you do something. It has to look this way, or it has to be this way. No. It’s just about exploring your body, exploring movement, taking time for yourself. And just through movement, finding that magic. And that’s where it happens using the mind-body connection.

Janine: And just so that you know, is it, Cherylilove? Is that the website you’re talking about because you have multiple here? Just so you know how to spell it guys. It’s c-h-e-r-y-l So and that’s where you go to sign up for the newsletter. And then you’ll be able to get that new book. Because you only send your newsletter out once a month. Isn’t that right?

Cheryl: Just once a month. I don’t want to bother people. I just keep it short and sweet. I give fit tips. I give safety tips. I do a feminine pick of the month. So yeah, I keep it short, sweet, to the point. I want to try to give my followers as much value and valuable information as I can.

Janine: Well, thank you so much for being with us today. I appreciate you sharing your time.

Cheryl: Thank you, Janine. It has been an honor to be on your show. I really appreciate it.

Janine: And this is Janine Bolon with The Thriving Solopreneur Show. And I just want to remind you, whether you contact Cheryl or somebody, make sure you stay physically fit as a business owner. It doesn’t mean that you have to be running around tracks and it doesn’t mean they have to be exercising really hard with dumbbells or what have you. It just means movement. Okay? And if you need tips, Cheryl can help you, because we get locked into a seated position when we spend so much time on zoom. And so, I just want to let you guys know. Make sure you’re staying in that movement cycle and contact Cheryl to see how she might be able to give you some quick tips and help you out. She is a wonderful resource for that. And also remember, as a business owner keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. And don’t you ever give up on those dreams you see in the stars. You keep reaching. We’ll chat again soon?