It goes without saying: No athlete ever wants to diagnose a "career injury". With such an injury, which is months or years away from your boat – that's what makes you alive – without the ability to ever compete at the same level as before. It's like we're starting over and hoping you're half as strong as before. You can not help it, as the years of hard work would be a waste, because somehow you still hurt yourself.
For me, that happened when I ripped my ACL in 2010. I was a strong NCAA gymnast who had never suffered a serious injury. Then, as I made a double turn on the ground, I landed just right and tore my left ACL. Then came the even worse news: Later that day, while I was sitting in the doctor's office, a sports doctor told me that my career in gymnastics was over. At first I could not believe it ̵
It's no secret that this happens even to the best athletes. Like many others, I did not wonder: Why me? My legs were strong. I spent months training lateral movements. I ate right and made sure I was well rounded in all aspects of my sport. But for some reason, my ACL was not impressed by all this. (Related: Why rest days are not just for your body)
I did not take the news well. Gymnastics was everything I knew. And as a coronation I had never trained (I just did gymnastics), so I did not know how to deal with it. Of course I used to drink and celebrate in college – but that was getting old quickly. After surgery I had to re-evaluate what I did in my life. As soon as I'm mobile again, the doctors advised me to work with a trainer to reverse my situation. I did it and six months later I did gymnastics again. I was lucky to be able to do my sport but I was not even close to my previous level. I went to routines five times a week from my college team to do nothing. This transition was difficult for me and made me realize that I had to find a new passion to keep myself active. (See also: My neck injury was the wake-up call for self-care that I did not know I needed.)
Then I turned to the fitness world. After college I heard through a friend from a local fitness contest. I was fascinated immediately. It sounded right down my alley as these competitions are usually a mix of fitness and bodybuilding – and even include some gymnastic movements. So I set myself the goal to become one of the top competitors. And that's exactly what I did. For me it was the perfect opportunity to have fun in the gym and to become a competitive athlete again. Fitness became so much of my life that I decided to become a personal trainer and help others achieve their goals.
Today I held several World Fitness titles and recently became an American Ninja Warrior competitor. In May I attended the ANW course in Philadelphia when the worst happened: I had a bang in my other other knee.
In competition I was the strongest I have ever had in my life. I had been training for years and deliberately spent a lot of time moving sideways to protect my legs and ACLs. I flew over the course and was on my way to becoming one of the top 5 women, when suddenly my body, after the jump of "The Wingnuts" (an obstacle in which you have to jump a trampoline, a wedge in the shape of a wing nut and swinging horizontally to grab the second edge.
When I fell, I immediately knew that I had torn my ACL, but I was totally denied, I went to the ER and they told me I was right my MCL sprained and I would be okay in a couple of days, sighing with relief and thinking that maybe it was not my ACL this time but the next morning I woke up with a lot of swelling and got out of the shower and mine Bein gave in. At that moment, I knew I had been misdiagnosed, and when I returned to the hospital, the doctors confirmed: I had ripped open my other ACL.
After officially getting the diagnosis, I want to I give up. I was so close to my goal of being a top competitor, and like last time, I was robbed of everything. There was definitely a moment when I thought, "I'll never be able to compete again," but it did not take long. I remembered what it was like to overcome my other injury and quickly decided to change my way of thinking. I told myself that not only would I become an ANW competitor, but I would come back faster and faster. The first time I tore my ACL, I felt embarrassed. It was something that I found inherently negative, and one way or the other, my fault. I allowed myself to take a dark path. This time, I decided to consider it an opportunity rather than a setback.
For beginners, that meant finding new and creative ways to stay active. I realized that my body can still move, even if it was not the same as before. I could not use my leg, but I still needed my arms and core. During my rehab treatment for my right leg, I was still able to strengthen my left leg so that after recovery I did not start all over. Within a week of my operation I was already on my crutches in the gym. I got creative with my training and realized that simple exercises that I could sit on a bench were the key. I've always set other achievable goals, so I felt I had something for myself. As my knee became more stable, I worked on my pull-ups and push-ups and learned how to make a better handstand. (Try these trainer-approved movements for stronger thigh muscles or this leg-joint training for knee pain.)
Another big part of my recovery was getting in touch with other people who had gone through a similar situation. I knew that women tear their ACL six times more often than men. But I had no idea how many athletes went through the same thing or went through it. Getting over serious injuries is not much that many people talk about. As a personal trainer, I've taken the initiative to connect with others and connect with physical therapists, athletes, and fellow Instagrammers in my community. It turned out that many had gone through the same thing or gone through it.
The connection to others through my recovery was a decisive step for me. It gave me a whole new perspective when I started with the mental and physical transformation. Not only did it give me the comfort I needed mentally, it also motivated me to go to the gym every day. I could talk to other people around the world who could relate to what I was going through. I even met with someone I met on Instagram and put together a one-legged workout.
Through my recovery, many people spoke and asked, "How do you win after a career injury – an ACL tear or something else?" "How do you stay mentally strong?" "Can you still exercise?"
The answer: Of course you can. Some of the best athletes return from an ACL injury to reach their best season. The bottom line is, whether you are an athlete or not, you can grow from such an injury and become a better version of yourself.
But where do you start? From personal experience, I can say that the most important thing to focus on is your mindset. Overcoming an injury is psychologically much more difficult than physically. For an athlete, relaxing and relaxing can be boring and boring, leading to depression and grief. (This will allow you to get the most out of your physical therapy sessions.)
You can also experience body dysmorphism, a fixation of your perceived deficiencies that reinforces your critical thoughts about your body. As an athlete, watching as the muscles in your legs slowly disappear can lead to a rapid downward spiral. It's the same for non-athletes. The inability to perform everyday activities, such as visiting a grocery store or going up and down stairs, can be frustrating and defeated. (See also: Lili Reinhart Made an Important Point Concerning Body Dysmorphia.)
How can you overcome these natural and normal emotions? First things first: Accept your injury and recovery. It's okay to feel downcast, but do not get stuck. Manage your depression and frustration by relying on friends and family or even addressing a therapist. This is the first step to move on. There is no point in constantly reliving the moment of injury and asking, "Why me?" Instead, think and move forward. You are now on a new journey and you will come out stronger than before – if you get it right. (See also: How to stay healthy and healthy if you are injured.)
It also helps to prepare for detours and delays in your recovery. Yes, physiotherapy offers rest periods, but everyone is different. Understand that no matter how fast or how slow your process is, you will get to your destination. In the meantime, ask for help and contact others who are going through the same thing. For me, the release from my journey and my scars was liberating – and you'll be surprised how many people went through the same thing. This means that your life must stop or that you can no longer be an athlete. You have the power to use your injury as an opportunity to build strength that you might not have imagined before. If I've learned anything from my multiple rides on the roller coaster ride with ACL injuries, you need to be patient and treat yourself with grace. Your injury does not define you. It's a springboard to make you the person you want to be.