Rebell of the Month: Saara Raappana

We are very excited to share with the world that Saara is our #rebell of the month for March! Saara has been working hard and giving her goals everything that she has and has been crushing it! Saara comes in with such a great spirit to each session, even on days we train a little earlier than usual ;). We are excited to share with you her story! 

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Saara working on her kettlebell swings. 

Your background

Growing up, I was the opposite of athletic. I was uncoordinated; I got injured a lot; and I was the girl that no one wanted when we were picking teams in gym. I didn’t just get picked last—people would fight over who had to take me. So, I’ve always felt pretty scared of/alienated from sportsy/exercisey pursuits. When I was 36, we moved to rural southwestern China, and the lifestyle there is so active that I ended up developing a few muscles by accident, and when we came back to America, I started working out pretty regularly to try to maintain that muscle. I never really liked it, though, and I always found it confusing. How do people know where to put their limbs? Is there such a thing as too sweaty? Can you die from using your arms too much?

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Working on the Turkish Get Up.

 Thoughts about strength training before & after

Beforehand, I actually liked weight-lifting more than any other kind of exercise, but I also thought of it as sort of a guilty pleasure that I snuck in while I was cheating on cardio. Also, I’d never had anyone actually tell me how to do it, so I hurt myself a few times. Now that I’ve been training at Restored Strength, I legit *love* it, and rather than hurting me, it seems to have taken away the pain in my knees and hips/back.


Challenging barrier you overcame

Apparently, I’m terrified of jumping up onto a box…? But I’d never had a reason to do it before, so I had no idea, and the fear came as a legit surprise to me the first time William asked me to do it. I don’t know if I’ve totally overcome that barrier yet, but I’ve been practicing it and no longer feel like I’m going to have a heart attack before I do it, I know I will overcome it. Just knowing I can overcome it is a big deal.

Me on the day that my Uncle George finally let me use the augur.

Greatest achievement

The greatest thing is that I’m not in daily pain anymore. I’ve got trouble with both knees (multiple dislocations because my kneecaps sit too high) as well as my hips/lower back (hyper flexible SI joint). Before coming to Restored Strength, I’d been in pain almost daily for maybe 15-20 years. When I first talked to William about my goals, my #1 goal was to be in less pain so that I could be more active as I age, but I didn’t think it was possible to not have at least some pain every day. But after just maybe three weeks, both my knee and back pains were gone. I can now bend and go up stairs, and lift things and go on car trips, and I’m FINE. I forgot to bring Advil on a work trip recently, and I freaked out at first out of habit, but then I realized I didn’t even need it.

Also, OMG, you should see my thigh muscles. I don’t think I’ve ever had quads before.

Changes your family/friends noticed

Apparently I’m more cheerful…? At least my husband says so. J I struggle with depression and anxiety, and my symptoms for both have lessened—the depression especially. My husband has noticed that I’m less afraid of injuring myself, too. Before, I felt like I’d get one or two weeks of regular work-outs in before I’d hurt my knee or my back. I haven’t hurt myself at all since starting at Restored Strength. Plus, I have more energy, and I feel comfortable in my body for probably the first time. Most importantly, I can pick up all the stuff in the house that my husband used to have to pick up for me. In your face, Eric.

Me and Eric (husband) and our cats, Quintron and Fred.

What do you tell people about our training

One of the best things about training at Restored Strength is that they’re really good about getting to know who you are and what you want to achieve and then taking you through a program in a way that you, specifically, need to do it. They’re really good at explaining stuff in a way that I can actually relate to as a non-fitnessy person, which is the mark of really good teaching. I’ve always thought about working out as necessary confusion and suffering, but at Restored Strength, they seem to focus on teaching me the right way to do an exercise and then have me do that exercise a manageably difficult number of times. Things increase so gradually that it’s really not like suffering at all. It’s fun. Also, instead of shaming you for eating candy, William will ask you which kind is your favorite.

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Working on split squats.

What do you enjoy about our training here

Everybody’s so nice and fun! The trainers and the trainees both. I’ve worked out with people all over the fitness spectrum, and unlike other gyms and fitness classes I’ve been to, everyone feels really equal and totally non-judgey. Plus, a lot of people have pets, and I get to hear about them. Sometimes there are pictures. It’s cool.

3 benefits you’ve noticed

1I’m not in pain anymore! I used to spend 3-4 nights a week just icing my back—I have so much more time for other projects now.
2. I no longer feel like I’m going to die if I don’t take a nap at 3pm.

3. I’ve started eating healthier, but, like, in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m subsisting on sticks and unseasoned grass. I’ve been enjoying vegetables and water and stuff. It’s weird but good

Gym aftermath.

What makes the difference

I’ve never worked with another trainer, but I’ve done other fitness plans. Like, a bunch of them—running, weight machines, HIIT, yogalates, this weird routine with an inflatable ball, etc. I liked some of them okay, but I didn’t feel jazzed about any of them. And I was probably doing most of them wrong, because YouTube videos and the diagrams on gym equipment never answered my questions about form, no matter how politely I asked. But I did them pretty regularly 3-5 times a week for four years. In less than three months at Restored Strength, I’m working out for less time per week, but I’m now stronger, more energetic, and more pain-free than I’ve ever been before. Also, William is a much better conversationalist than YouTube videos.

Additional words

I can do cardio without running! I can do cardio without running! I can do cardio without running!


Saara has overcome so much in her short time at Restored Strength. It’s been amazing to see her excel in her strength and also her confidence. Saara takes the time to master her technique with her close attention to detail. There is nothing but great energy when she is in the room, Saara has such a unique background and similar interests, that she was made to be a part of our RS Family.


Watch Her Story!