One year ago, back in May 2013, I had the opportunity of a lifetime and was invited to compete on the NBC hit show, American Ninja Warrior! I was even selected to be taped for an individual interview so the pressure was on. I was one of only a handful of women hand picked and I was both excited and terrified. I hadn't had the time I wanted to prepare but crammed in as much training-prep as I could. Although I knew I had the strength, many of the obstacles were outside my skill set and were created for someone taller than 5ft. It was quite surreal. But the surreal-ness was just getting started.
When I arrived, I looked for other woman.. hardly any. But the guys there were great and I formed some instant friends. The show gives you a walk-through of the course to explain the rules; where you can touch and grab, and where you can't, or you'll be disqualified. I looked at the course and my fear turned to pure excitement and I thought, "I can do this!"
The only obstacle that worried me was the quad steps because they aren't the kind of fitness you come across and it's hard to practice them. They are also farther apart than they look on TV, about 4 ft from one to the next, and I'm only 5 feet. But they seemed closer than the ones I'd practiced on so I was pumped! As I waited on the platform for the start beep, I could hear the crowd singing Happy Birthday and waving balloons.. oh yeah, it was my birthday. I was about to give myself the best birthday present ever! …or so I thought. BEEP! And GO! I hit quad step 1…then 2… and yes, 3!… and 4 and as I thought, "only one more!", SMACK! I hit that last step with such force and in such the wrong way, the pain from my left foot shot up my body and I crumpled into the water and couldn't get out. I was lifted out by a crew member and the show's medic carefully and painfully wrapped my foot; I knew it was bad, I just didn't know how bad. By now, my family had come from the stands not knowing anything except that one of the people sitting next to them said, "she's down!" How correct they were. As we all sat there, trying to decide how we were going to get me out of there, I had the interesting new experience of watching my vision come to a sliver. I was just about to pass out but the last piece in my sliver was my little daughters tears of worry, and I heard myself say, "I'm fine baby. Don't worry." And I was back.
Since I came early that day, and my family later, we had two cars at the Ninja location in Miami, about 45 minutes from home. After a lengthy piggy back ride (probably over half a mile) from my hubby to my car, I drove with my teen in one car, so she could keep an eye on me, and my husband with my younger daughter in the other. I was actually quite thankful I didn't injure my driving foot. The interesting thoughts that go through your head. We dropped our daughters at home and headed to the emergency room.. he drove. I did enjoy the faces of the nurses and Dr.s when I told them how I did it. I left with an ace bandage and a report that nothing was broken. If only I was so lucky.
By the next morning my foot was scary swollen and I couldn't even touch my toe on the ground without severe pain. On top of that, I was incredibly disappointed at not getting further on the course. I kept rolling it over and over, what might have been had I just made that last step. My heart hurt. The show had done a whole interview profile with me, "hero shot" and all (that serious, looking off into the distance and then back at the camera, hands on hips, strong shot). I had been fantasizing about how well I would do, how far I could get, the cool people I would meet being one of the only women to get that far in the course! *Pop* and then reality burst my bubble. What a birthday.Yep, big ol' aching heart.
A few days later, I went to an orthopedist. I thought, bad sprain, off it for a couple weeks, done. But that's not what happened. Instead he told me I had a severe lisfranc injury and I would need surgery, crutches for 3-4 months, a boot for another few months, and no normal workouts for a year. A year?! What?! I started crying right there in his office.
"Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot." (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/main.cfm)
How could this be? Injured? Me? I was 10 the last time I hurt myself, a broken leg at gymnastics camp. I could barely wrap my brain around it. A thousand thoughts raced through my head How would I take care of my family? How would I workout? How would I keep the physique I worked so many years for? I was devastated.
And then something happened. I stopped crying.
I went for a second opinion and this Doctor was much more optimistic. He cut down the first doctor's timeline and assured me I'd be ok. (It's what I needed to hear). After surgery with my new plates and pins, all of sudden I saw a new challenge! I would figure out how to workout on one foot! I would figure out how to keep as much of my lean muscle as I could, and I would figure out how to take care of my family on one foot! I also began to see so much kindness in people that we miss when we're racing around on two feet. People helping out, showing concern, and sharing their stories of recovery. It was quite wonderful and very lifting. Plus, I'm not going to lie, it was a pretty fun to tell my story.. "Well, I was competing on the show, American Ninja Warriors and…" "no way!" So even though I actually failed miserably (which I'm ok with now), in other peoples eyes, I didn't. That was very healing for me.
So what got me throughout it? I was DETERMINED not to go backwards.
I simply got busy doing everything I could to keep moving in the most effective and safest way possible. I stopped thinking too much, and just did what needed to be done. Worry is useless in a situation you can't change and it only slows you down from your solutions. I just drove my kids where they needed to be. I just went to the store and had a blast in the mobile carts, especially with my younger daughter. In fact, we'd choose days to go "carting" and she'd do the steering and we'd go all over the store, her in my lap. I figured out how to workout every muscle except the ones I couldn't use; did lots of super-sets, continued to eat very clean (the most important); AND I found that crutching and hopping was phenomenal exercise!
When I was finally off crutches and out of the boot (a total of about 4 months) I had some work to do to strengthen my left leg and bring back my muscle tone. It was odd to see it so thin and mushy, but hey, just another challenge. The thing is, the Dr.s were right, it would be about a year before I was "normal" ish, but thinking about it then just would have freaked me out so I simply went with the flow. I can happily say that minus some stiffness sometimes, I'm 100%. The most interesting and profound thing is that I actually accomplished goals I couldn't accomplish before the injury because I was doing the same things and getting the same result. This situation forced me to take a step back, reaccess my workouts, rest more, make my workouts count more, and it didn't allow me to over-train like I had in the past. The last thing I wanted to do was to over-do and set myself back. So when all was said and done, I have actually arrived at the end of my recovery tighter and leaner than I was before I hurt myself. Pretty cool.
They say in every situation there is something to learn and although it's not a route I would choose to go down again, I am grateful for the wonderful people I met, the amazing kindness from so many, and the extremely valuable lessons I couldn't have learned any other way.
The moral is basic and simple - Don't let anything stop you from reaching your dreams.