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Kingsley Delacato Pin It
Photo: Instagram/@kingsdelacato

If you were asked to describe yourself, what would you say? Would you define yourself by your career? The city you live in? Whether you’re married or have kids? Imagine the very things you define yourself by being taken away from you unexpectedly. That’s exactly what happened to fitness instructor Kingsley Delacato.

Faced with an excruciating injury, Delacato could no longer do her job. Since she couldn’t work, she couldn’t pay rent or afford to live in New York City, a place she loved. Dating was paused and her friendships were tested. Who even am I anymore? she wondered time and time again, as she lay on her back wondering when—and if—she was going to feel better.

Here, in her own words, she shares her story of self-discovery.

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Kingsley Delacato injury
Photo: Instagram/@kingsdelacato

The moment everything changed

Two-and-a-half years ago, I was living the life many people in the fitness industry dream of: I was an instructor at one of the buzziest studios around, in one of the most competitive industries in the world, living and breathing the sweat life. Teaching multiple classes a day, your body becomes your tool, and you use it constantly. I was so proud of the life that I had created, and loved the positive vibes and people with who I got to surround myself. The power, strength, and control that I had behind my physical movements was something amazing to feel. Until one day it wasn’t.

Putting so much wear on my body caused a disc injury in my lumbar spine. I started feeling intense pain in my back, hips, and all down my legs. This wasn’t the good kind of sore you feel after a hard class. This was bad—a kind of constant pain that I’d never experienced before At times, it was so intense that I couldn’t even see straight. I couldn’t carry my groceries up my apartment stairs. I couldn’t drop my laundry off at the laundromat. I certainly couldn’t teach classes anymore.

I couldn’t carry my groceries up my apartment stairs. I couldn’t drop my laundry off at the laundromat. I certainly couldn’t teach classes anymore.

The first doctor I saw told me I would be back to normal in four to six weeks—I just needed to rest up. But as the months dragged on, I wasn’t getting better. As if being in constant pain wasn’t bad enough, it also started to take its toll on other areas of my life. Since I couldn’t teach, I wasn’t making any money. I thought about getting a job outside of fitness, but even sitting at a desk was too painful. Eventually, I was unable to make ends meet, so I went home to Philadelphia to stay with my family.

I spent seven months seeing every doctor and specialist I could think of. I’ll never forget the last doctor I saw. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Kinglsey, you’re going to have to find a way to deal with the pain.” I was with my mom, and I left his office sobbing as she tried to console me. How could I come to terms with being in constant pain the rest of my life? 

Kingsley Delacato
Photo: Instagram/@kingsdelacato

Searching for answers—and identity

Everything I defined myself by was stripped away. I was a New Yorker, a fitness instructor…Who even was I anymore? It was a question I had to sit with a lot. Fitness used to be the way I worked through things, but since that was out, I started meditating at home and at MNDFL, when I took trips to New York. My body was in too much pain when I sat on the cushions, so I sat in a chair in the back of the room instead. At first, I was embarrassed by that. I also started journaling as a way to remind myself of who I was as a person, as well as to remind myself that everything happens for a reason.

In the process, I realized that who you are isn’t what you do. Instead, it’s how you love the people around you. It’s how you support people. It’s how you feel things. I learned who my true friends were, too. I’m going to be honest: This was a time in my life when I was pretty grumpy due to the pain I was struggling with—a side of me my friends hadn’t really seen before. But they kept showing up for me over and over again. My relationships with my friends and family strengthened, and I learned true friends are the people who love you when it’s hard to love yourself.

I learned true friends are the people who love you when it’s hard to love yourself.

I decided I wasn’t going to listen to the doctor who told me to learn to live with the pain. There had to be another way. The first holistic healer I went to see was a myofascial specialist. She explained to me that when the body goes through trauma, the fascia stores the memory of that trauma to prevent further injury. Sometimes you have to heal the fascia once the injury is over in order to completely let go of the physical trauma.

Encouraged by alternative ways to heal, I went to reiki for the first time. During my treatment, my left leg—the entry point for a lot of my pain—started twitching a bit. It made me wonder if something was working. There was definitely something to energy healing after all.

Surf Yoga Beer
Photo: Instagram/@kingsdelacato

Landing the dream job she never even knew existed

Gradually, I started to feel a little better. I didn’t trust it at first, but it was happening. At my meditation classes, I eventually moved from the chair to the cushion, next to everyone else. My good friend and business partner Mantas Zvinas, founder of a fitness retreat company called Surf Yoga Beer, supported me throughout the recovery process and urged me to continue on in my role as adventure director. Prior to my injury, leading the trips for Surf Yoga Beer had been a great source of joy in life, so, to expedite my healing, I made it a goal to be well enough to attend the Honduras adventure that year.

Being in Honduras was amazing. Just having my feet in the sand and being able to look at the stars in the sky was incredible. Plus, on the retreat, there was so much positive energy. One evening, everyone was doing yoga on the beach as the sun was setting. I was in my usual role of Instagram content curator. But watching everyone else, I wanted to be part of it so bad. I’ll just sit in child’s pose. I can do that, I told myself. Through this incremental achievement, I started moving through some of the poses. There was something powerful about being connected to everyone else in this way. It had been so long since I felt it. Re-engaging in my role as adventure director again made me feel strong and find my place as a leader to others.

After that trip, I continued to explore energy healing, and over time, my body restored itself to what it was pre-injury. Now, I’m fully immersed in my role as the adventure director for Surf Yoga Beer. Some may think my injury would make me be more careful, but it’s actually made me more adventurous and led me to the realization of my true calling. I’m grateful for things I didn’t even know to be grateful for before.

I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone—and I’d never want to go through it again myself—but I wouldn’t take it back either. This experience led me to discover who I truly was.

In addition to being the adventure director for Surf Yoga Beer, I’m continuing to explore the powers of holistic healing and goal coach setting by helping others. When I had my injury, I wished there had been someone to tell me which energy healers to see, books to read, or even what foods could help. I’m hoping to become a wellness guru of sorts to provide that kind of advice for people. Currently, I recently completed my reiki level one training—and this is just the beginning.

I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone—and I’d never want to go through it again myself—but I wouldn’t take it back either. This experience led me to discover who I truly was.

If you’re curious to learn more about energy work, here’s why more women are turning to it for healing, including how science backs it up.