This past Saturday, I finished a 10K. There was no race setup, no official finish line, no free T-shirt or crowds cheering me on. There was just my mind, my body, and a 6.2-mile run: the end goal of Aaptiv’s 10K program. It was a goal that I had set for myself—and one that wouldn’t normally feel like such a big deal. But after a long and unexpected journey that left me at a complete loss of physical and mental strength, finishing this race wasn’t just a big deal, it was the assurance I needed that I could be strong again.
I’m at the end of a three-year ordeal I didn’t see coming. There were the three major shoulder surgeries and a hysterectomy in 18 months. Then came the severe pain in my left shoulder, the discovery of a mass in my humerus bone, and the destroyed rotator cuff. There was the cancer scare and the removal of a (thankfully) benign cyst. There was the bone graft and the total rotator cuff repair. And there was the seriously badass scar.
Then, there were the 42 physical therapy sessions filled with pain, anxiety, and little to no physical progress. There was the realization that my physical strife wasn’t over yet. There was more testing, an infected joint, and another surgery … and then still two more after that.
Of course, then there was the loss of muscle mass, range of motion, and core strength. There was the weight gain that increased after every surgery. Then came the depression and the PTSD and anxiety triggered by medical facilities. There was a physiological hurricane that left me depleted physically and mentally. And now there has to be recovery.
Strength is a relative term, isn’t it? It means one thing to an Olympic athlete trying to defy the marks of history. It means another thing to a sleep-deprived mom trying to get it all right. And it means something entirely different for someone setting and trying to achieve fitness goals. But it’s all strength. In all of these scenarios there’s determination, grit, perseverance—and in all of these scenarios, the individual comes out stronger.
I have always been a very independent, strong person. Strength wasn’t something I thought about all that much; it was something I took for granted. It wasn’t until I was sapped, both physically and mentally, that I began to question my ability to be strong again.
Now I’ve learned that strength, for me, comes from faith in the midst of adversity. We don’t always realize it, but when we’re at our weakest, we have the greatest ability to be strong. When we’re challenged, we can change. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,’ and I take that to heart. There will always be times when we feel challenged beyond our capabilities—whether it’s finishing a set of burpees, crossing a 10K finish line, or recovering from a debilitating injury. But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s those times when the pathway to greater strength is even more clear.
Getting Weaker to Get Stronger
As a result of the physical and mental challenges I’ve faced and continue to face in my recovery, I’ve realized more and more that building strength requires some kind of breakdown. If you don’t break muscle down, it can’t rebuild stronger. If you don’t experience emotional or mental upset, you can’t learn to cope and be stronger next time. There’s physically strong and there’s what I call “life strong”—and the parallels between the two are astounding. Over the last three years, I’ve learned that both physical and life challenges are constantly changing me and a stronger me is emerging.
Growing Stronger Every Day
As I work through this period of recovery and strength building, there are a few things that have helped along the way—but nothing compares to Aaptiv.
Aaptiv has played a significant role in motivating me towards my goal of full recovery. I wish I had found it sooner, but it seems to have come to me at the exact right time. After months of surgery and physical deterioration from 2014-2016, last year was finally my year to begin real recovery—I was officially given the green light to start getting back into shape. I felt mentally ready but I was so depleted physically that I felt like my body had no chance of keeping up with my mind. I became painfully aware of just how much strength I had lost through my ordeal.
This is when I discovered Aaptiv. The app is an incredible resource for healthy athletes of all levels, but I’ve found it to be an invaluable resource for me, someone at rock bottom. Here are some of the ways Aaptiv has contributed to my recovery.
When I started working out again, my body was essentially foreign to me. I needed to stop trying to reach goals suitable for my pre-injury body and start rebuilding my post-injury body. With Aaptiv, there are workouts in all varieties and for all levels. Having access to all of these options helped me break away from my previous goals and gave me the flexibility to try new workouts and programs that aligned with my new goals in my new body.
When recovery is long and the finish line feels like forever away, I found it critical to focus on the here and now and celebrate each small success along the way. Aaptiv does this by design. Workouts are modifiable and attainable but still challenging. The trainers are professional and technical, but they’re also motivating and encouraging. Every workout feels like an accomplishment right here and right now—everything feels significant. Having these daily, weekly, or monthly benchmarks has helped make my long recovery feel much more possible.
My depression was severe throughout my ordeal and well after it. My trust in my own body was destroyed and my hope that I would ever be strong again was devastated. With Aaptiv, I slowly started to feel better. The trainers not only teach good form, but they focus a lot on the mind-body connection. In my workouts, I’m encouraged to trust the process, test my mental toughness, and believe in my body’s potential. I feel like I learned how to breathe again. Gently, my negative mindset has refocused with each workout as the trainers push me to trust my body again.
My ordeal taught me that half the battle with adversity, physical or mental, is the isolation it brings. When it came time to regain my strength, my loved ones were as scared as I was for me to push myself. The Aaptiv community quickly became the healthy, encouraging friend I needed. I found myself motivated by the success stories, the honest posts about struggles, and the massive amounts of encouragement I received. I’m not a selfie person, but I posted a sweaty selfie in the community. It’s a place of accountability and encouragement, unlike anything I could have expected. It’s the type of support that gets you up in the morning.
Taking the Next Steps
Physical adversity has challenged me and changed me. For me, 2018 means strength. I spent 2017 accomplishing what seems like the most basic goal: movement. I walked until I could run, I completed a 5K and a 10K, and I lost 17 pounds. As I look forward, I’m setting new goals. This year is the year I learn how to fuel my body for progress and for life. I’m adding strength training, stretching, and yoga to rebuild what’s been lost. I’m redefining my relationship with my body and I’m letting the stronger me emerge.