March 5, 2018

From smashing Bootcamp sessions to relearning how to walk

Michelle has been a familiar face within the UFIT Bootcamps and personal training community for the last couple of years. In the middle of last year, she suffered an unfortunate accident that ruptured her Achilles tendon and temporarily put her out of training. Initially Michelle could not train and had to relearn the mechanics of how to walk again. This is her story of how she regained her fitness routine with the support of the UFIT family.

 Michelle (second from right) is a familiar face within the UFIT community for the last couple of years. Michelle (second from right) is a familiar face within the UFIT community for the last couple of years.

"There was a mild state of shock at the time of the injury. I started the morning at a UFIT Metcon class, and by the afternoon of the same day, was in an operating theatre undergoing surgery to reattach my Achilles’ tendon. The injury had nothing to do with the class. I wasn’t doing anything complicated nor particularly strenuous, it was just horrible bad luck and timing. The CrossFit Bukit Timah crew quickly got me off the CrossFit floor, into a car and immediately to the hospital.

It was awesome to have the support of the team with my injury.

I hated not having the option to train but UFIT Orchard’s gym manager Nathan motivated me with text messages about returning to the gym in good time. UFIT Clinic's senior physiotherapist Declan immediately offered physio support and a friendly reminder to eat well.

The initial physiotherapy work was challenging psychologically. The exercises were basic compared to pre-injury, and that felt a little frustrating. Declan had to teach me the mechanics of how to walk. It might sound silly, but no one thinks about the mechanics of walking, it just seems to happen automatically. In Declan’s usual super patient manner, he broke down “the steps”, and after a few shared laughs I eventually got the hang of it.

A big part of the initial recovery was on keeping a positive mindset, as it would have been easy to slip into a mini bout of depression. It sounds dramatic, but having spent a great deal of time dedicated to physical activity and then to suddenly and unexpectedly have that taken away was difficult to accept. Anyone recovering from an injury hopefully understands what I mean.

 UFIT Clinic's senior physiotherapist working with Michelle. UFIT Clinic's senior physiotherapist working with Michelle.

What I appreciated about Declan was his belief in my physical capabilities beyond what I thought was possible, and his support to get me there. On multiple occasions during my recovery, he would suggest we try something new post-injury, like a box jump. My reaction would usually be a quizzical look in response. But I would take a deep breath, a huge leap of faith, and trust in Declan’s professional wisdom. The first box jump was pretty daunting, but he’s always proved to be right.

The rehab exercises have names such as the ‘Jane Fonda’ and the ‘Stevie Wonder'.

Declan (otherwise known to me as the ‘Achilles Whisperer’) kept things interesting and challenging. The rehab exercises were named the ‘Jane Fonda’ and the ‘Stevie Wonder’ – how could that not be interesting? In between sessions he would respond to my random recovery-related text messages, so there was no doubt about his commitment to the recovery process.

Three weeks after my surgery, I was cleared to go back to training at the gym. Training has always been part of my routine so I couldn’t wait to get back to it.  It is fortunate, or unfortunate that I am stubborn and determined by nature.

 Strength training has always been a big part of Michelle's life. Strength training has always been a big part of Michelle's life.

Going back to training was only a matter of time.

Nathan and I had been training regularly for a couple of years prior to my injury, so I couldn’t wait to get back. He even offered to carry me down the stairs to UFIT Orchard to get me there! I was still wearing a protective boot and on crutches when I returned to the gym. It must have looked highly unusual to other clients, but I was determined to not let the injury get the better of me.

Nathan is amazing. He immediately adapted the workout to my physical progress. Given that I wason crutches initially, Nathan would move the equipment to physically surround me for circuit training, minimizing my “travel time” around the gym. We did a lot of upper body work and modified cardio exercises, such as battle ropes seated on a box.

 "There is no elevator to success."

Nathan was aware of my fitness ability before I got injured, and we trained with the goal of getting back to that level. He plans our sessions carefully so there is steady progress, and along the way there were short term goals we have continued to meet and reset. He pushes me with good natured encouragement and I never want to disappoint him. Our conversations between workout sets revolve around nutrition, the choice of workout music, or just sharing a good laugh. There is never a dull moment! With Nathan’s broad knowledge of fitness and nutrition, hardly a session goes by without him sharing a nugget of his wisdom.

We have reintroduced more complex movements back into my workout, slowly increasing weights to restore strength and stamina. Nathan and Declan stayed in contact about my recovery progress, so there is a consistent approach in both physiotherapy and strength work.

Prior to my injury, I also trained regularly at the East Coast UFIT Bootcamp, where the gang have become good friends. During rehab, the WhatsApp group chat became a motivation to return to Bootcamp. As soon as I was stable on my feet, I rejoined Boxfit. Being among the strong and sassy East Coast group continues to inspire (as well as entertain) me. Bootcamp trainers like Marcus have also been hugely supportive of my progress. Exercise variations are always offered to compensate for limitations – although it is no less challenging to do burpees in lieu of a run around the carpark!

 The strong and sassy East Coast UFIT Bootcamp gang. The strong and sassy East Coast UFIT Bootcamp gang.

The recovery process has been an emotional journey.

Doing more and more physically are milestones of progress. My goals now are to achieve a target weight for a deadlift and bench press that will get me on the gym whiteboard. Within the year, I also want to complete a 5 km race, and finish the certified program on sport and exercise nutrition. It’s a personal mission not to take my physical capabilities for granted. UFIT has been a huge part of the process and I couldn’t be more fortunate and grateful for support from the entire community – the staff and the fitness buffs.  Its been tough, but also a great deal of fun. Thank you!"

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