Loribeth Cohen has been treating orthopedic conditions and chronic pain since 1989. In addition to treating patients and teaching Pilates, Loribeth lectures nationally to therapists. A former marathon runner and dancer, Loribeth is able to offer an integrated approach to athletes, performing artists and people suffering chronic pain by combining Physical Therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) and Pilates into rehabilitation.
Loribeth is a 1989 graduate of the University of Illinois and holds a BS in physical therapy. Loribeth began her physical therapy career treating patients in outpatient clinics. In 1994, she developed and managed the Physical Therapy Department at the Pilates Studio of the Midwest. In 2000, she founded her own rehabilitation/fitness company, re:fit.

Tell me how your interest in Aryuvedic Medicine began.

I was a dancer in grade school and high school. I was training and a dancer broke his foot when he went up for a leap. It clicked in y brain that I was supposed to be on the other side and helping people heal.
To be honest, back then I was a little bit flighty. I thought I’d be a physical therapist or nutritionist. I didn’t know what they meant, but when I thought of it, the nutritionist job meant a lot more time behind a desk, so I chose physical therapy. I chose it kind of blindly but it was the right choice. What I tell young women is envision what you’re comfortable doing. Know yourself.

But a physical therapy career wasn’t totally the right career path for you?

I thought I would be helping heal, in all aspects. I went to physical therapy school and I started working at Lutheran General Hospital. But within a few months I knew it wasn’t my venue.

Was it too structured?

I loved it when I was with the six rehab therapists and patients. In rehab, you spent an hour and a half with patients, so you got to know their family and see the impact you had on them. But when you went down to the main floor and there were 20 therapists and you were trying to work through the system of doing acute care and getting people up and walking. It was so much politics, working with the nurses and transporters. It wasn’t at all what I wanted to do.

So I moved to an outpatient facility and got back to my roots working with dancers. For a long while I worked with Hubbard Street Dance Company. I got to do that piece that I always wanted to do.
I realized the skills I didn’t have. You need to keep learning and growing. That led me to Aryuvedic Medicine school.

Help me understand how it differs from traditional medicine.

Aryuveda is the [Hindu] science of life and being in balance with nature to stay balanced. It’s diet, lifestyle and routine. How we push ourselves too hard. In diet, I don’t mean counting calories. It’s balancing the six tastes [sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent]. It’s the [two] phases of digestion. In Aruveyda you are what you digest, not what you eat.

Did you miss dancing? Is that why you returned to it?

Yes, significantly. When I went to physical therapy (PT) school, I had to quit dancing. School was from 7 am to 5 pm and then I studied all evening. I went from dancing 4 hours a day to not dancing at all.
When I graduated PT school and passed my boards, I thought I’d go back to dancing. But I found I couldn’t do it “a little bit.” But recently I started dancing again with a small company. It’s just a little non-profit organization for people who love to dance.

Have you had mentors who have helped guide your career?

I’ve had my mentors in all stages. A few in Pilates were incredible. A few in physical therapy as well. But I also believe you should listen to yourself and your body to know what’s good for you.

In 2000 you decided what was good was to open your own business, re:fit. How difficult a decision was that?

I started the business small. I relied on a book, “Anatomy of  a Business Plan” (by Linda Pinson and Jerry Jinnett]. When I went to the bank for my loan, the banker couldn’t believe how little I wanted.
We started in a 1,000-square-foot space. Now we’re in 3,000 square feet.

What was the first important thing you learned when you opened re:fit?

Don’t try to do it all. We have great instructors. Everybody has their niche. I don’t have to do it all.

There was a time when you thought you did?
Oh yeah. But you have to let go. Maybe there are other ways and it’s not the end of the world if something gets done a different way than you thought. It’s been a great learning for us all.

What else have you learned?

I had some friends who wanted to come work with me, but when I thought about it I realized it wasn’t going to work. I love them but we practice [yoga] completely differently. The whole way I structure my practice works for me, and the people who come work with me know that that’s how it’s structured. Some others wanted pediatrics and [re:fit] isn’t right for that. I used to want to make everyone happy. [That I can’t] was a huge lesson for me to learn.

We have really good practitioners here. It would be fun to add more, but I think we have enough. Knowing when you’re at enough and not overgrowing is important.

How do you balance your work and the rest of your life?

Well, sometimes I don’t! But most of the time I am in a place where I am conscious of how work could pull me in, and I think, “Does this have to be done today? Or could I go home?”  When I started my business, I was single and had more time for my goals. I am blessed that my husband, Paul, and my family are very supportive of my goals and me.

What advice do you give young people seeking their life’s work?

Be honest and truthful.  Know yourself; be realistic; know your strengths and weaknesses. Use your strengths to your advantage and get the support you need to work with your weaknesses.

Determine what the goal is for opening your own business. It is not always financial. Ask yourself if you will sacrifice time and energy to achieve your goal.

Know there is no one right way to do things; everyone will have their idea of how something should be done. Do it the way that resonates with you.

Enjoy the journey; there really is no end to get to, and it isn’t a race.

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