THE past six years have been an emotional rollercoaster for Bendigo couple Brad and Stacey Cossar.
Despite many setbacks and a pandemic, the couple have successfully opened a reformer Pilates studio in Bendigo.
Before 2015, Stacey never really took a liking to Pilates, instead focused on more high-intensity exercise such as hiking or running.
That all came to an end when she fractured her vertebrae landing incorrectly on a trampoline.
"I knew immediately that I had done something to my spine... It was pretty severe," Stacey said.
"I was taken away to hospital and as soon as they did CT and X-ray scans, I went straight to the spinal trauma ward and had surgery."
Falling in love with something new
Stacey spent three months in a brace after the incident and now has metal work permanently placed in her back.
She was told any high-intensity exercise was completely off the cards for a long time.
"I was absolutely shattered, running was my escape," she said.
"I could go for a long run and switch off and that's what I did for my mental health."
Stacey's doctor instead suggested trying reformer Pilates.
"When my doctor suggested it, I just rolled my eyes but I was very wrong to have that attitude," Stacey said.
"I ended up trying it during my rehab and absolutely fell in love with it.
"I love that this is a low-impact exercise but you are getting a full body workout and full all-over burn.
"Anyone can really do it ... and it changed my life.
"Exercise is so important for mental health and it can make you feel so much better."
Pilates became a strong part of Stacey's life throughout her recovery and beyond.
A few years after she had fractured her vertebrae, Stacey and her husband discovered they were expecting twins, Sid and Elsie.
Stacey continued to pursue Pilates until she was 34 weeks' pregnant.
"It was really helpful to have Pilates during my pregnancy and even through to my recovery after," she said.
But the family faced tough times again, after Sid was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition shortly after birth.
The family moved to Melbourne to help him seek treatment.
"He had an auto-immune condition and was needing blood transfusions at the Royal Children's Hospital like three times a week," Stacey said.
While in Melbourne, Stacey made the leap to becoming a Pilates instructor, something she said was one of her best decisions.
"I wanted people to experience what I had experienced and fall in love with it as much as I had," she said.
After two years and once Sid was better, the family moved back to Bendigo.
Starting a business during a pandemic
Once back home, the couple started planning on opening a Pilates studio.
Stacey wanted to share her strong passion for the fitness system with the Bendigo community.
"We had planned to open just prior to COVID hitting around March last year," she said.
"COVID definitely put us back a few months and it was really uncertain when we could actually open."
It was about this time Stacey discovered she was pregnant with the couple's third child, Ned.
"When we found that we were pregnant, it was a little stressful because we were trying to plan out the birth around our actual opening date," she said.
Oh Hey! Pilates Studios opened two weeks ago and Stacey says it has been absolutely crazy.
"It's been amazing and Ned was only seven weeks old when we opened the studio," she said.
"It's been full-on, full classes. It has been a dream run now and it's finally open and it feels so good."
Looking back at the challenges and successes of the past six years, Stacey said she couldn't have made it through without the support of her family, friends and husband.
"I feel like you don't really understand how strong you truly are until everything is thrown at you and you come out the other side," she said.
"Sometimes you feel like everything is one thing after another and that's okay. Brad and I are a team and we know whatever is thrown at us, we can deal.
"It has been a long journey over the past six years but we did get there."
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