Inspiring Insights When Facing An Uphill Battle: 5 Steps to (Better) Injury Recovery
Injuries are a gift…they don’t come into our life for any other reason than to become better versions of ourselves, or at least that’s how I have grown to see it, and believe others should too. When an injury comes into your life you really only have two options: 1) Let it defeat you, or 2) Use it as an opportunity, to let it make you better. To take the injury as a loss, as something that will bring you down and crush your dreams—or to recenter and refocus on what you really want in life and take the steps to become better than the impact or result of your physical injury.
A Bit Of Backstory
Let me give you some backstory (pun intended—you’ll see). On February 28, 2016, I broke my back. After a chaotic series of events, including the hours leading up to the accident, I found myself lying below a tree that was at least a foot in diameter that I had just collided into. Right away, I could tell I was hurt, but I was unsure of how bad the damage was. After a random person passing by was nice enough to bring me my ski and make sure I was OK, I actually got up and made my way gingerly to the lift. Before I even got off at the top, I knew something was seriously wrong. I could feel the knocking from the person on the chair in front of me as they bounced their legs. It was as if they were hammering a nail into my back with every. swing. of. their. feet.
As I got off the lift I signaled to the lift operator, got some help taking my skis off, and immediately laid down. I was taken down the mountain in a toboggan and eventually to the closest hospital. After a CT scan and several X-rays, I learned that I had broken the transverse process of my L4 (a.k.a. the wing that comes off of your vertebrae.) This was extremely lucky considering I had tomahawked (or cartwheeled) at least four-and-a-half times into a tree at an extremely high rate of speed. The most astounding part of the whole accident was that I almost always wear my helmet, but on this particular day it was still in my backpack, and in the exact place I had hit the tree. That helmet probably saved me from getting an injury that would have created permanent disability (or death). To me, this was a signal that carried deep meaning throughout my ensuing recovery, and something I think about almost daily.
Fast forward almost exactly a year: I’m filming park tutorials for my company Academy of Skiing. I’ve spent the last year focusing on my diet, exercise, mindset, overall health, and purpose here in this world (an injury can suddenly reset your priorities or make them clearer). I’ve questioned what I am supposed to be doing, and come to the conclusion that I’m supposed to continue pursuing my greatest passion—skiing—but to also share that passion with others through an online academy teaching others how to ski, and how to ski better. My videographer and I are on our last run of filming instructional tutorials and we’re getting ready to do some filming for an edit. In an instant, my season was cut short yet again with another injury. This time, by something so random I think it’s more likely I’d win the lottery than to get injured in the way I was hurt. It’s even on video.
Tearing His ACL: An Act of Randomness
Once more I had to do some soul searching, think about my life’s purpose, and decide whether I was going to continue to pursue professional skiing. I can’t say it didn’t feel like a slap in the face. I had to weigh my decision carefully. After some deliberation, I came to the conclusion that skiing is still wholeheartedly what I am supposed to pursue. I decided (with conviction) that I’d continue to chase my dreams of an X-games medal and build a skiing academy.
Sixteen weeks after my ACL surgery, I feel that I’ve been given an infinite number of gifts by embracing injury as a way to become a better person. I’ve evolved and learned so much about what I’m truly capable of, including riding 447 miles and 33,000 feet of elevation gain on a road bike just 10 short weeks after surgery. I’ve outperformed every other patient the doctor has done ACL surgery on, including US ski team athletes and other high performing athletes (I made sure that I was in good hands).
5 Steps Scot Attributes to Injury Recovery Success
So, how did I do this? And what I can pass on to others about my recovery through not one, but two major injuries?
I outlined five steps that I went through after each injury—to which I attribute my success—that I want to share with fellow skiers and riders who may face the same. Here they are.
- I accepted that my injury was my present reality and that I had to face it head on.
- I decided the injury could and would make me better. This isn’t an easy decision at first, but you really only have two roads to choose from, for better or for worse.
- I decided to revisit my diet, exercise and mindset habits held before the injury, and figure out how to make changes that would permanently affect my well being. I also took the time to admit my faults (admittedly not easy), learn about how to fix them (also hard, but incredibly rewarding), and ultimately put in place a plan of action to become better than them (entirely possible, and I can help you do this, don’t be dismayed).
- I decided I’d rather feel all of the pain associated with my injuries and the recovery process, than to hide from it. I never once took pain medication during either injury. Instead, I became grateful that I could feel the pain so I could channel it into moving forward.
- I became (utterly) grateful for the opportunities it would afford me and, even if I couldn’t see them yet, I trusted that they would appear on the horizon (and they did, and still do every day/week).
After only a year and four months after breaking my back and just sixteen weeks after the ACL surgery, I can honestly say that I am the best version of myself that I have ever been, which has been both inspiring and motivating. I know in my heart that I am going to have the best season of my ski career this upcoming year, and most importantly I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Has it been easy? No. Would I wish injury on anyone to reach this place of transformation? Of course not. But anything that’s worth it in life takes hard work, especially reaching new levels as an athlete and as a person. From starting a business, to becoming more fit, to fully owning the consequences of my actions—none of it has been easy. Many of my friends and those who know about how the injuries occurred have asked me if it’s been worth it. My response is: More than you’ll ever know.
Injuries: Choose To Define Your Journey
To sum it all up, injuries can be a gift and opportunity to grow, but only if you decide it can be. Only if you let them make you better. Maybe not necessary in the process of learning, but the events of the last eighteen months will always define me, but only because I chose to define them. I will always be able to draw upon the power they’ve given me. Most of all, I will always be able to grow from “negative” experiences, because of the valuable practice my injuries gave me.
It’s definitely not always easy to make these decisions, but if you do, I can promise you that you’ll forever reap the rewards. If you ever need a reminder, look at someone who’s been less fortunate with injury—or worse—someone who’s passed. What advice would they give to you? How would they lift you up and help take you through the situation? I’m always here to answer your questions and help lift you up if you ever need. If you have other tips or processes that guided you toward personal growth, I’d truly love to hear them. Drop them below in a comment to share your insights with our fellow adventurers. And share this with anyone you know who’s on the road to recovery right now.
In your corner,
“Remember if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”