Fitness has always been a huge part of my life. Starting at the age of 3, my parents put me into a preschool gymnastics class and they could instantly tell I loved it. I eventually did dance, softball and volleyball but I could never get into team sports. Gymnastics and dance were what I loved to do. I loved having the ability to be in a sport while also having my own twist and creative spin on the dances and routines I performed. I was quickly advancing in both sports and had to make a choice, gymnastics or dance? I chose gymnastics, and here is where the story beings.
I was a gymnast for 12 years. It was the absolute best 12 years of my life. I learned so much discipline and commitment at such a young age that has carried with me throughout my years. Gymnastics was my life. I was in the gym 20 hours a week at the age of 14. Competing with myself every single day to be better than I was yesterday. I loved it. I loved the adrenaline I got every time I stuck my dismount. The excitement that rushed over my body every time I learned a new skill. It was incredible. A feeling that only gymnastics could give me.
I was 14, and I was diagnosed with a life changing stress fracture in my L5 (very lowest vertebra in your spine). It took 4+ months to actually diagnose me. I went to the doctor over and over. I got x-ray after x-ray just to be told nothing was wrong with me. I got sent to physical therapy which only made the pain SO much worse. I was desperate. No one could tell me what was wrong. I was 14 years old, in the worst pain of my life. I never gave up, and I was FINALLY diagnosed correctly.
It took me fighting against my doctors orders, begging them to listen to me that something was not right with my back. It took awhile, but I never gave up and I was finally referred to a pediatric spine specialist. He saw how desperate my parents and I were. We had no idea what was wrong with me and we were a nervous wreck. I got both an MRI and a Bone Scan which showed my stress fracture. We were relieved. 6 months of doctors appointments, physically therapy, and being extremely persistent paid off.
I was instructed to wear a plastic back brace for 6 months, 23 hours a day. The first month I was told to do absolutely nothing. Just relax and rest my back. A month into healing my injury, I got released to start doing basic conditioning at gymnastics like pull-ups, planks, anything I could do comfortably with a back brace. On the same day I got released to start conditioning, I was doing pull-ups and I dropped down from the high-bar like I always would always do and I landed on the side of my foot. All of the sudden I heard and felt this HUGE pop. Guess what? I sprained my ankle literally the same exact day I was released to start conditioning. I could not believe this was happening. I was already in a back brace, now I have to wear an air cast? All I could think was, what is next? Will my body ever go back to normal? What is happening with me? It. Sucked.
The months pass, and I am finally free of both my back brace and my air cast. I was so excited to be able to go back to gymnastics, the sport I had been in for 12 years. Sadly, things were not the same. My body could not perform how it used too. I felt weak, discouraged and lost. The sport I have been doing for 12 years of my life was stripped away from me. I tried and tried to do the skills I had used to be able to do so naturally, but now I had this really bad anxiety around everything I did. I got so fearful around everything, so nervous of every skill I performed. It was honestly horrible. I decided to try out for my high school gymnastics team so I could still be in gymnastics but I would not be working out 20 hours a week. It seemed like a perfect fit. Some of my teammates were girls I had done competitive gymnastics with for years so I was excited and ready.
Unfortunately, nothing changed. I had such crippling anxiety I literally could not get myself to do skills that I had been doing for years. I was so scared. I was so upset, but I could not get over this anxiety. I was petrified of being hurt again. I stuck out the year only to find out my high school was cutting the team anyways. I decided to end my career. It was not worth the fear I was living in everyday just to hold onto a sport my body could no longer handle. The pain of quitting was horrible, but the pain of anxiety and just realizing my body wasn’t the same was just not worth it anymore. It was my time to retire.
My sophomore year of high school I went on a mission to find a new sport to join. A lot of people I knew did cross country and I loved to run so I decided to give that a try. I absolutely fell in love with running. I also decided to try diving. I heard a lot of things about retired gymnasts being divers so I gave it a shot. I did cross county in the fall, diving in the winter and track in the spring. This went on for all of my sophomore and junior year. Cross country and track were great for awhile, but diving gave me issues. Both my junior and senior year of diving I had to sit out at sectionals because of horrible back pain. Both seasons I made it all the way until sectionals but then my back just could not do it. I had to sit out two years in a row.
Senior year, I decided I was done with any type of sport that involved my back. My doctor advised my parents and I that if I was his daughter he would not let me continue either. So I made another hard decision and decided to give up diving, the next best thing from gymnastics. I had no issues with running, except some shin splints so I decided only to cross country and track my senior year. I trained all summer and things were going great but towards the end, I started getting really bad shin splints and a sharp pain in my right leg/foot.
Just to my luck, the first day of my senior year I got put into a boot for my foot pain and shin splits. I also strained my neck in my junior year weight training class… so to say I had bad luck is an understatement. After a couple of months in the boot, they never found out what was wrong with me and I was just done. I stopped going to my cross country meets and I just checked out. I still regret just quitting but I was SO fed up with all of these injuries following me. I finished my senior year doing no sports because I was just burnt out and fed up. This is where I really started to lose myself (see my blog I wasn’t Ready to read about my self-love journey).
For the first 2 years of college, I didn’t really do much working out. I almost had a bad taste in my mouth from all of the injuries I had been through. I started working at Lifetime Fitness and began transitioning into weight training. The only time I had lifted weights was in school so it was definitely something different to try. I did Kayla Itsines 24 week Bikini Body Guide and saw AMAZING results:
About a month after this picture was taken, I had a Grand Mal seizure and dislocated my shoulder. I. Could. Not. Freaking. Believe. It. Another injury?? Really?? (side note: I am very lucky that my seizure only caused me a dislocated shoulder considering I was a lifeguard at the time!!!)
For 6 months after my seizure, I could not drive and had to find a ride everywhere. But that wasn’t the worst of it. 4 months later after my arm had healed, I dislocated my shoulder for the second time picking up my backpack. I seriously thought I was going to lose it. I was pissed, upset, frightened, literally all of the above. I had shoulder surgery in December and have not had any issues since (THANK GOD). 3 years later and I can lift more than I could before this injury so I am definitely ecstatic about that.
I wish that my injuries ended here, but they sadly do not. I had a good 3 year streak running but I got diagnosed with Tendinitis and a bone bruise on Tuesday, November 28th and I am back in the lovely boot.
A year ago, I would have just completely given up and said screw fitness, I’m done. But this time I am choosing to fight because I know I am stronger than the pain and anxiety I am feeling from yet another injury. This isn’t the end and I am ready for my comeback. I still plan on running the Mini Marathon in May and I cannot wait to get back to crushing my goals in 2019. I am still going to finish my 8 week #MyTransphormationChallenge to the best of my ability.
I hope that you found my journey inspiring and I want my story to remind you that things always get better. Remember to NEVER give up because you are so much stronger than your setbacks. Stay positive and remember to look for gratitude in every single situation.