As a CrossFit affiliate, our goal is to help people live longer, healthier lives by gaining strength, losing weight, increasing mobility -- and even reducing the need for certain medications. We take pride in the positive influence we have on our community.
And while it’s true that these health benefits usually become evident over time, sometimes CrossFit and real life intersect in the most astounding of circumstances. And when it happens – as was the case for our long-time member Carol -- the true value of what we do comes into strong focus.
At age 65, Carol has grown into one of our most consistent members. We do make modifications to some movements to work around her limitations, but overall, Carol’s fitness and health have been steadily gaining ground since she joined Hardbat four years ago.
Fast forward to this year, when Carol survived a terrifying helicopter accident -- an event that few people experience, and even fewer walk away from. While still shaken as she recounted the traumatic events of August 10, 2018, Carol is confident that her CrossFit training helped her throughout the ordeal.
“I truly believe because of CrossFit that I was able to walk away from the crash with little to no long-term physical disabilities or loss of quality of life,” Carol told me.
Carol’s odyssey began when she and her helicopter pilot were hovering above ground. Suddenly without warning, they plummeted downward, crashing into a marsh.
“It felt like we slammed into a cement wall. I was completely upside down, suspended from my seatbelt. If the seatbelt released in that position, I would have landed on my head with the risk of a serious neck injury. Because I am flexible, I was able to get one leg on the ground, hold myself with my arms in an upside-down position and release the belt without further injury. I am thankful for CrossFit stretching and flexibility skills, upper body strengthening, and handstand pushup movements. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that handstand pushups would help save the day!”
Carol sustained a deep knee laceration that required surgery, along with multiple bruises all over her body and painful lower leg bone bruising and swelling.
“As a nurse practitioner, I know very well that with this mechanism of injury, the incidence of neck and back injuries are very high, and usually result in prolonged pain and loss of quality of life. I am positive that because of my core body strength and ongoing training, that I did not have neck and back injury at all. Again, I have CrossFit to thank.”
After her knee surgery, Carol wore a full leg brace that did not allow for any bending of her right knee. For most people, this results in the inability to sit down on a chair or the lavatory, or stand from sitting position unassisted.
“Once again, CrossFit, and the benefit of a pistol squat movement came to the rescue! In addition, I was able to lift and slide my whole body onto and across a car seat using only my upper body strength. My well stretched hamstrings allowed me to reach the ground to pick up items and put on my shoes. Little tasks for independence were made easy because of CrossFit.”
Remarkably, Carol was back to work within two weeks, and finished physical therapy in four out of a prescribed six weeks, much to the amazement of all her healthcare providers.
Carol returned to Hardbat two months after that devastating crash, with some trepidation. She met with me and discussed her fears of re-injury and failure. I assured her that we would assess her endurance, strength and knee and body stability, while scaling her movements to advance her gradually. She also met with our athletic trainer, Casey Niemela, who reviewed Carol’s basic movements and discovered that Carol was favoring her bad leg.
“Casey showed me how to correct my movements and was very knowledgeable about the overall weaknesses I developed in that short time period of recovery. She gave me assignments to work on my weaknesses as well as encouragement that time will heal, and that strength and stamina will return. Most importantly, she helped me acknowledge that overall weakness and reduced endurance is not uncommon after a major trauma.
“I am very lucky to have survived a helicopter crash, grateful that I survived without life threatening injuries and most importantly without loss of quality of life. Thank you CrossFit -- I’m back!”
It is stories like this one that give us validation as coaches. We want the world to know that CrossFit is bigger than just another exercise regimen. Preparing for situations like the one Carol experienced is not easy, but by exposing ourselves to a greater variety of movements, and a spectrum of intensities, we can put ourselves in the best position to be capable even in the most dire of moments.
By Derek Batman, Hardbat CrossFit Owner and Coach
Meet Jean. Jean has been a member at Hardbat CrossFit for over 3 years. We know that CrossFit has had a remarkable impact on her overall health and fitness but now we have some concrete numbers to show for it. Jean was diagnosed with osteoporosis in June of 2010. Imaging along with other tests confirmed a moderate amount of loss in bone density in both of her hips and her spine. Jean has always gravitated towards exercise, but knew that she needed to reevaluate her training if she had any hope of halting her osteoporosis. CrossFit has provided Jean with weight bearing exercise in the form of bodyweight movement, but also with a combination of compound movements derived from powerlifting and olympic weightlifting. While these movements are extremely complex, Jean has drilled them hundreds if not thousands of times with very light weights. Exposing Jean to these challenges has not only had a positive impact on her range of motion and joint stability, but also an unbelievable reversing effect on her osteoporosis. Jean just recently went back to her doctor for follow up imaging and tests regarding her osteoporosis and the numbers came back better than we could have hoped for. Her left hip bone density has improved by 15.9%, her right hip has improved by 12.4% and her spine has seen a positive change of 17.7%! Jeans success is paramount to understanding the need for older populations to welcome strength training rather than writing it off. While Jean gets 1 year older like the rest of us, she is actually physiologically getting younger through CrossFit. We couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments and hope that this sends a positive message to others who are on the fence about CrossFit because of fear and current limitations. One month, one day, one exercise at a time, we can help!
1) Take the warm up seriously.
Developing a warm up that starts out as general dynamic movement and progresses into sport specific movement patterns to ensure your body is adequately prepared for exercise is imperative to avoiding injuries during training or game play. While it may take less time to sweat in the summer, it is still just as important that these drills are done prior to high intensity training. YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE, WARM UP THE RIGHT WAY!
2) Nutrition is literally your fuel.
I find it hard to believe that this area in 2017 is still neglected at times but sadly it is the truth. The only way our body is able to produce any energy is directly related to the food that we put into our bodies. Creatine stores and fat usage for energy may hold on for a little while on a bad diet, but glycogen stores need to be restored daily through carbohydrate intake. I have written about how and what to eat in previous blogs so I will not go into detail, just make sure you are eating enough before and after training, and your diet as a whole is meeting your caloric needs and energy demands. EAT, EAT, EAT!
3) Listen to your coach
If you do not have a coach, that is the first problem. Even if you are highly educated in whatever sport you play, there are endless and undeniable benefits to having a coach hold you accountable. Almost every great athlete that has played any sport would agree that a coach/mentor helped them get to the level of play they have achieved. A great coach has a plan for you, not just for today, not just for tomorrow, next week, next month, but for the year and beyond. Everything that is written down for you, all the talks that you have, and every audible that is called during training is well thought out. Keep in mind that your best interest is your coach’s best interest. If a coach wants to be successful, he or she needs to generate successful athletes. I know a lot of athletes who think they are invincible and can just throw in extra workouts, miss training days, or switch days around, and it almost always ends in injury or lack of progress. STICK TO THE PLAN!
4) Fix the small things.
Minor injuries and setbacks are unavoidable in training and in sport. Part of the nature of testing the physical limits of your body is dealing with problems (especially as you age). While training through soreness and minor aches is the reality of being an athlete, addressing lasting aches and acute pains through a variety of recovery methods can prevent them from becoming larger and more chronic issues down the road. Chances are your coach has a team of people ranging from physical therapists to chiropractors readily available to help fix problems. Do not try to be a superhero and fight through pain that is worsening, limiting range of motion, or requires you to take over the counter pain medication in order to train through it. Most problems are fixable in less than a week with the right treatment and recovery tools. DON’T BE LAZY, FIX THE SMALL STUFF!
5) Rest and listen to your body
Athletes have a competitive drive that is unparalleled. They will do whatever it takes to have an edge on the competition, so you can imagine how hard it is to tell an athlete to sit still for a day while they scroll through Instagram and watch everyone else training hard. I don’t care what ANY other coach says in regards to rest, it is necessary regardless of the sport that you play. There are times where you may go 16 weeks without a backoff week, and there are times where you may take off 2-3 weeks depending on your training year, but at the end of the day it needs to happen. I have seen countless coaches run their athletes into the ground swearing up and down that their bodies will adjust to the volume, and the athletes either end up mentally checking out or they get injured. The better you adhere to the first 4 steps to avoiding injury, the less time off you will need to have. Staying disciplined with recovery tools, sticking to the plan, eating correctly, and warming up properly will keep your body healthy through rigorous training cycles. Backoff weeks allow the body to heal and for the mind to recharge, athletes typically come back even stronger and with less problems following deloads. Never be afraid to talk to your coach if you feel your body is breaking down in the middle of a training phase, a good coach is aware that not every athlete is built the same and will be willing to make audibles when they see fit.