Ido Lazan is bulletproof: From victim of terror to physical trainer
This week I sat down (virtually) with an incredible person, Ido Lazan. Ido is the owner and head trainer at Bullet Proof, a crossfit gym in Tel Aviv – he became a trainer after suffering an intense injury that left him unable to walk. During the COVID-19 quarantine, Ido is teaching virtual workout classes – and I had the chance to speak with him right after one of the intense classes ended.
Ido’s story is unique – soon after deciding to become a personal trainer, Ido was the victim of a terrorist attack in which he was shot several times. Ido and I spoke in depth about his path to recovery, his relationship to rehabilitation, and his accomplishing his dream of opening a gym. I am so inspired by Ido’s determination to get better, to live a normal life, and to not let his disability define him or his goals. This is his story:
On July 14, 2016, 35 year old Ido Lazan opened up his own gym, Bullet Proof, in Tel Aviv. He taught an intense crossfit workout to a group of 7 trainees. But this was no ordinary workout class. Ido Lazan was using a cane while he led his trainees in this intense workout class.
A cane? You might be thinking that it seems strange someone who couldn’t do a squat themselves would be opening up a gym and teaching others how to do it properly, and you’d be right to wonder about that. Ido himself never pictured the opening day of his gym to be under these circumstances. The reason why Ido was using a cane was because just 8 months earlier, he had been shot multiple times in a terrorist attack.
Quitting the job he hated
You see, before becoming interested in fitness training Ido Lazan was working in a successful advertising firm for years. In his early 30’s he found himself miserable, waiting for the work week to end, constantly looking forward to the weekend. At age 33, Ido decided enough was enough. He quit his job and began soul-searching. He thought to himself: what do I love to do? What am I good at? No traditional office job stood out to him. Instead, what he began thinking about were memories as a teenager of playing sports. From a young age, Ido proved to be very athletic. He was passionate about running track and long jumping throughout high school, and as his teenage years ended, he lost sight of that passion. Military service, travels and other jobs replaced his hours in the gym or on the track. Ido realized that he was happiest when he was in shape, and when he was physically active.
So he made up his mind. 2016 was going to be the year that he would become a personal trainer.
Ido spent the next 10 months working out night and day, taking courses and learning about the body, nutrition, and more. At the end of the year, Ido felt like a new person. On December 27, he celebrated his birthday with friends. The theme of the birthday celebrated Ido’s new passion for life and focus on fitness. 2016 would be his year.
As Ido told me in our conversation, what happened later that week would change Ido’s life – “I learned what the meaning of the saying “you never know what will happen to you tomorrow. Never take any day for granted ”
Just a few days after celebrating his own birthday, Ido went to have a beer with a friend on a busy street in Tel Aviv. Just after ordering and sitting down, “the place turned into chaos. The terrorist came from the store next door and just began shooting everywhere.” Ido was shot twice in a matter of minutes. Once, in his chest, and then again in his leg. The second bullet caused the main artery in his leg to rupture. Ido fell to the ground, and began passing out. He told me that he really felt that he was going to die there.
Waking up in the Hospital
The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital. He had undergone 4 major surgeries. They were able to save his left leg from being amputated, but he no longer could move it or felt any strength. And so began Ido’s story of rehabilitation.
Ido was determined to recover. He says of the next few months in the hospital and rehabilitation center “I learned I was pretty strong mentally…something I couldn’t learn until I was in position where you you have to be…. Although the doctors told him it was lucky that he was so in shape at the time of the attack, Ido felt like it was terrible timing, “ I couldn’t get my left leg to move. There was nerve damage, blood vessel damage…I had just become a coach”.
But Ido recalls that only a few nights after he woke up from the surgeries, while he was still in immense pain and only partially conscious, a friend of his came to visit. Together they decided that no matter what, Ido would become a fitness trainer. He credits that conversation with giving him a sense of a goal and an understanding that he would find a way to make it happen, no matter what.
7 weeks after the attack, after being transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, Ido stepped on his foot for the first time. He couldn’t flex or point, and his toes were stuck, but he knew that it would be a long road. At least for now he could try to learn to put weight on his leg again. Over the next month, Ido went to therapy almost every day. Most days, he says “I wanted to go.I knew that what I did now would mean I could return home sooner. I wanted to get better” But of course, there were low points as well. He says there were many hours where he wasn’t doing anything, just sitting in a wheelchair, or lying down. He felt useless. But he would try to self motivate. He knew motivation really didn’t come from inspirational quotes on the walls, which he credited with “5 seconds of feeling good,” but from the inside. It was a mental battle. And Ido was determined to win. Even if not every day, most days he did win and got himself to the therapy session.
After a month in the rehab center, Ido could walk with a cane. They sent him home. He lived with his parents for two weeks, but then moved back to his old apartment – which was up 3 flights of stairs. He ignored any thought of moving to a ground level apartment. The steps would be his therapy. “It was important to me to go back to life being as normal as possible…I wanted to try to not readjust my whole life.” It would take him a long time to get up and down the steps, but each time he did it he felt a sense of accomplishment and progress.
Pursuing his dream
5 months after the shooting, a friend called Ido to say that he had found a spot for rent that could work for a gym. At first, Ido thought the idea was crazy. Now? While I have a cane? But when the friend told him the location of the place, he reconsidered. It was right across the street from the bar in which the terrorist attack had taken place. Ido thought of it as a sign – he felt it would be powerful to open up his gym right there. Not only that, he also made sure to go back to the bar and get a beer with the friend he had originally sat with on that fateful day. For Ido, “it was like getting back on the bike – I didn’t realize at the time how important that would be for me later, that I was able to do that”
And so, 8 months after the day of the shooting, in July 2016, Ido had his first lesson in the gym Bullet Proof. The gym has been open ever since (in fact, they moved to a new location because the business outgrew the small space!) But for many years, Ido would go to work across from the bar he was shot in. He often would have a beer at the end of the workday.
Ido says that today, his leg is at 70% compared to his right leg. There are days when he has terrible pain, and days when he feels better. While discussing his mindset during rehabilitation, Ido said that “At first, it was easy to be comforted by comparing myself to other people’s situations, situations I saw in the hospital or rehab center next to me. Of course it could be worse. But soon I learned that wasn’t very helpful, because my problems were my problems. I started to shift my mindset. It is not an easy thing to remain hopeful. I know it is actually easier, and nobody will judge you if you sink into a bad place. But I focused on the glass half full…even if my leg wouldn’t be 100%, I could do more and more if I worked hard.”
Since 2016, Ido has dedicated his time outside of the gym to helping those with disabilities remain hopeful and get better. He volunteers with several organizations and has become a spokesperson for some as well, especially those that represent people who have been in a traumatic event. Ido finds meaning in inspiring others to overcome physical and mental challenges. He believes strongly in “post traumatic growth” – that after an event that injures you in a traumatic way, “you can grow even more and take it to a good place”
At the end of our conversation, I asked Ido about what he thinks of those who are now facing the challenges of recovery from home:
“My message to people who are now stuck at home and can’t do their physical therapy as they were before is: It’s OK! Nobody knew this was coming, and it is ok not to be on your A-game. PT isn’t the only thing to help recovery, with many things, time also can be healing, mentally and physically. I recommend you not try to do everything. IT’s not all or nothing. Talk to your PT and be honest, ask what are the 2-3 more important exercises to do. Once those feel good and become a habit, you can add in more. Try to do it with other people, even over zoom to hold you accountable. With a friend, or another patient!”
Ido’s story and advice struck me as so inspiring. Ido never let the responsibility of his recovery fall to anyone else – he was determined in his mind and heart to improve, even if that meant challenging himself outside of therapy hours (like with the stairs at his apartment). His personal journey and positivity towards his rehabilitation (without sugarcoating that there were tough days and low points) is definitely worth sharing, and worth remembering whenever we are faced with a tough mental or physical challenge in life.
Here at OneStep, we are committed to helping patients recover. These stories empower us to create technology to assist you in your recovery journey, and to continue finding ways to assist you as your progress. Especially in light of Covid-19, when so many people cannot access their PT as usual, we are determined to deliver on our mission. So, for the month of May, we are offering free PT and exercise sessions via Zoom with our in-house physical therapists. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
In the meantime, share this inspirational story with a friend or loved one that might benefit from reading it!