Giving Lyme disease the boot

Valerie Cota employs exercise to overcome loss
By: Ben Furtado, Journal photo editor
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Anyone would be impressed by Valerie Cota’s chiseled 42-year-old body. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Cota overcame Lyme disease and uses exercise as a way to stay mentally and physically healthy while being an inspiration to others. This week she visited an Auburn workplace to help employees kick start their fitness routines. Cota runs her own business out of Citrus Heights called Corporate Wellness Boot Camp, and takes her workouts on location to businesses to help their employees exercise and stay fit. Nella Oil Company in Auburn uses Cota’s workouts as an incentive for employees to help them enjoy their jobs and stay healthy. Accounts receivable specialist Diane Cone talked about her first time in the boot camp on Tuesday. “This is the most intense thing I’ve ever done,” she said, “I used to eat in the cafeteria watching and making fun of everyone working out, but now I’m doing it. I’m also more energized to get through the rest of the day.” Back in 1996 Cota had it all. In Colorado she owned and operated her own health club, teaching aerobics and producing her own exercise video. She was married and had two children, a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, her baby girl died five weeks after birth, but Cota continued to hit the gym, burning off grief from the loss of her child. Through her workouts Valerie started entering fitness competitions as a serious bodybuilder and won her first challenge in July 1998. Then in January of 1999, she was so sick in bed, she was unable to get up. She noticed blurred vision and slurred speech along with headaches. After some tests doctors diagnosed her with Lyme disease and told her she would lose the ability to walk. Growing up in Rhode Island, Cota always hiked in the woods and suspected she contracted the disease from a tick. Sick, depressed, unable to care for her family and no longer married, Cota sold her gym and moved to Oregon to stay with family. She attempted continuing her workouts but was unable to because of her illness. Determined to not be depressed and fight through the disease, she pushed herself and continued to hit the gym. After she became fit again she got a job at Cascade Athletic Clubs in Oregon teaching cardio kickboxing and spinning classes. In the spring of 2002 Cota decided to compete again as a bodybuilder. That year at age 35 she won the open class of the National Physique Committee’s Oregon State Bodybuilding Figure and Fitness Championship in Portland. Afterward, she took the next step in her life and moved to California to be with her son, Kyle, who she couldn’t take care of when she was sick. “I owe my fitness and exercise to overcoming my Lyme disease,” said Cota. “I like giving back what I know and getting people back in shape is great.” The cost for the wellness boot camp is $10 per person, with a minimum of five sign ups. Valerie also supplies all the equipment including weights, medicine balls and resistance bands. For more information go to