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