Smutty Fitness: Balancing Physical & Mental Health

January 27, 2016 20:38:25 Posted at January 27, 2016 20:38:25
Hayley Posted by Hayley
LA Photo Lab/ Splash News

Dear Hayley,

I love(d) being outside - rock climbing, skiing, hiking, paddling. That's what I did to escape, have fun and be with friends. But the last few years I have spent most of my time sick or injured or recovering.

In 2012, I tore the vertebral artery in my neck in a freak ski accident (getting off the chairlift) and had a stroke. In July of 2015, I was millimeters from being paralyzed and had urgent back surgery. One month after I was cleared to ski and climb, I tore my ACL in another freak ski accident (flat terrain skiing to a chairlift.) I am in an emotional tailspin. With the stroke and back injury, I was motivated physically to rehab. But I don't want to get off the couch now.

I am at a loss right now how to think positive and get motivated. Wondering if you have any suggestions?



You seem like one tough cookie! And you seem like nothing can hold you back, not even a stroke! So why is it that you can’t get off the couch after an ACL tear? After all that you’ve come back from it would seem like you would be more determined to get yourself moving again.

Here in Canada, January 27, 2016 is Bell Let’s Talk Day. A day that I am very passionate about. The more we talk about Mental Health, the more we can end the stigma around it. I do not want to assume that you are struggling with your mental health right now, but there is a huge correlation between physical and mental health and we need both to be healthy. 

I am an athlete and I understand what a terrible down-spinning spiral our lives can fall into when we are unable to be active, especially if it is something we are so passionate about. When I lost my father suddenly, I took to exercise to help deal with the anxiety that it brought. However, when I was in a car accident just a few short weeks after his passing and my ability to move was limited, my depression quickly increased, as did my anxiety because I had lost my outlet. It wasn’t until I could move again, even at a much less intense level than I was used to, that I started to feel better and that I began to want to heal, both physically and emotionally.

Why do you love to do what you do? I bet it is because of the challenge it brings to you. How exhilarated you feel when you accomplish something that you did not believe possible and when you do something you have not done before.

Rehabilitating your knee is no different. It is a challenge. It is a road block that is pushing you mentally to overcome. It is diversity that is making you stronger.  When you are ready, look at this challenge like any other challenge you have encountered and believe that you can beat it. Know that it won’t stop you.  Sure, doing one legged squats in a physiotherapy clinic is not comparable to rock climbing or hiking or paddling, but each day as your knee becomes stronger and its range of motion becomes greater is not unlike reaching the top of the mountain or the bottom of a ski slope. 

I have worked with so many athletes like yourself who are struggling to overcome an injury. All of them have felt like you do right now, but once they took the first step to get better they were on the path to being the adventure seeker they once were. 
I hate to say this, but this may not be the last injury you encounter. When we are active and athletic and we challenge ourselves beyond our limits, accidents and injuries happen. I hope you can get to a place where you are physically and mentally ready to challenge yourself again. And that you will be able to take the first step now and keep moving towards the end result: a strong, rock-climbing, skiing, paddling, hiking kick ass chick who overcame a stroke and torn ACL!

Click here for more information on mental health resources and support.

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