The post on Facebook was a wail. The young woman was crushed: a recent bad breakup, and she had badly cranked herself heading at speed down a Colorado mountain. Her knee was trashed. According to her, her life was over.
Right. Um, no.
About ten women chimed in- all of us athletes, varying ages. Most now or had recovered from similar injuries, and not only offered to walk her dog but also lined out a slew of suggestions on how to cope.
Including forgetting about the boyfriend, and focusing on getting well.
About a week later she was back, in tears in her doctor’s office, having just been told that her injuries were much worse than they’d thought. Two painful, complex surgeries. Again, her life was over.
We all weighed in again, providing support and reassurance. You will get through this, and you will get better. And all these other badass chicks were proof that even the worst of epic accidents would pass, and returning to the ski slopes was very much in the offing.
It’s About Getting Back Up
What struck me about the suggestions that these amazing women threw down for the woman in question was how they had coped with their infirmity. One woman said that while her knee was out, she turned her arms into rock-solid climbing machines.
Others described their rehab routines and how quickly they recovered.
Each example was a story of courage and determination.
That’s definitely badass. We’ve all been down. And many of us have been down hard, multiple times. The point is to get back up.
The Joys of Rehab
Last year I nearly got killed by two different horses, in two different countries. The first time I came home from Turkey with broken ribs, broken teeth, my 19th concussion and a smashed shoulder. I rehabbed, and got right back to riding.
The second time a horse threw me at the gallop, breaking my lower back in four places. That was Kazakhstan. I landed on that same shoulder, but the broken back took precedence.
I love horses. Especially feisty ones. However you pay for that affection. Sometimes with busted bones, a cracked noggin and…a bad shoulder.
This past January, after spending months rehabbing my back and hitting the gym, my right shoulder was in agony. The VA took Xrays and an MRI. The rotator cuff tendon was torn nearly all the way through.
Getting severely injured is part and parcel of doing what I do, from skydiving to kayaking to riding horses, to climbing large mountains. At 65, I may not have the flexibility of these younger women, but I know something about rehab, recuperation and recovery. It’s a part of life if you’re going to live out loud.
What struck me about this online community of women was how swiftly they swarmed around the newly-injured woman. Refused to let her fall any farther. Offered company, help, to walk the dog and do whatever it took to keep her focused on getting better.
The first time you really wipe out and end up crippled for a while it really does feel like your life is over. However the older you get, the more injuries you have, the more you realize that it’s the price you pay for an amazing life. You heal, you rehab, rinse and repeat. And RISE.
The terrific skier Lindsay Vonn is a perfect example. Love her or hate her personally, she has had a remarkable career, with repeated comebacks from severe injuries. Fractured ankle, broken arm, torn knee ligaments, you name it, she’s smashed it. As one of the oldest Olympian competitors ever, she still brought home a medal, and continues to win.
That’s badass. And what an example to all of us women everywhere for pure grit, determination, and focus.
One Wing Down
I’m up for surgery sometime in May. That’s weeks with one wing down. No upper body workouts. No pullups or bicep curls or chest presses.
However, the best way to go into surgery is in superb condition. That tells the body to get well fast. As all those women have demonstrated, anything that isn’t in a cast or sling gets worked. So every day is leg day. I run stairs, hike the neighborhood in a weighted vest, and practice one-armed pushups with my non-dominant arm.
I’m up to fifteen so far. Fifteen one-armed pushups on my non-dominant arm. Come ON, man. I’m 65. I never, ever thought I could ever do even one.
Here’s what I’ve learned about injuries:
Every time I injure, I end up stronger afterwards. The rehab forces me to focus on weaknesses. Some injuries have taught me new sports, or new training methods. A serious pelvic injury from inline skating at 61 got me into yoga. Yoga saved my life more than once.
Stuck with my right arm in a sling, and inspired by the comments of these remarkable women, I threw down the gauntlet and challenged myself to try just one one-armed pushup.
And did four. Nobody was more surprised than I was.
Injuries force us to discover new lands and new capabilities in the universe of our bodies and our mental toughness.
Those times also force us to discover the resources that exist to support us. When I went on line with my rotator cuff injury, one woman even offered me her exercise bike. We’d never met. That’s also badass.
What Truly Defines Us
It’s no fun to be injured. However those are the very times that redefine who we are, how we deal with being down, how we embrace the valleys as well as the summits. Today’s intense women athletes have a very different approach to having one peg or a wing down: they simply work something else until it’s time to get back to their sports. That tells the body that we intend to be well, and the body responds in kind.
In the same way that double and quadruple amputees who make it to the top of the world’s largest peaks, injuries and limitations provide the spring board for discovering who we can truly be.
The other thing that defines us is our ability to let others support, cajole, motivate, energize and get us back up and going. As this intense group of women demonstrates, it takes a community of badass women to keep us all in the game. You’re allowed about forty-five seconds of pity party. Then it’s time get with the program.
My life is over? Hardly. I’ll be back in no time at all. So will you.