My Motor Vehicle Accident: How it Changed my Life and my Coaching Style
May 15, 2010, two friends and I had decided we wanted to see a friend play live at one of the local clubs. On our way there, we were sitting patiently at a red light, when all of a sudden my car went flying. I turned to see if everyone was okay and I watched the driver continue to hit us 3-4 more times before he drove away. I hadn’t realized until after that my car seat was broken and when I got out of the car I needed to crack my back. I immediately called my parents because I was in a state of shock and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t realize that I was limping either. The police were on the scene very quickly as witnesses called 911 immediately. The police were able to catch the guy that night and my car was towed back to my house.
The next day I was taken to the hospital because my back and neck had stiffened up and I couldn’t put any weight on the leg that hit the steering wheel. I was told to take a couple of days off of work and to take Tylenol.
Why am I telling you this? Like most of my clients, they have been in a car accident, which has affect their mental and physical state. I worked with MVA’s previously to my car accident, but now I know how much a car accident can change one’s life.
Being part of the fitness industry and being a young, fit and healthy female a lot of people will tell me, “You’re fine”, “But you’re young”, “You don’t look injured”, etc. But pain is not a visible injury and when you live with injuries every day you learn how to cope. I have learned to watch client’s facial expressions and body language when working with them. I listen to how they feel and try to adjust their exercises so that they can still work on improving their strength without hurting themselves, which is what I call “working within the pain free zone”.
Plus symptoms can come on randomly, picking something up and all of a sudden you can’t stand up straight due to back pain, turning to look at someone irritates your neck, reading is difficult because of constant headaches. I understand that clients who have injuries are not always going to be as productive as I would like during a training session because they are experiencing flare-ups and pain.
Mentally clients are fatigued because they are tired of dealing with their injuries, they are not sleeping well at night because their pain makes them restless and they are frustrated feeling the way they do. I understand exactly where they are coming from, I was there and still have my days. At first, I would have tantrums about how much I hated the drunk driver who hit me. How I wanted him to suffer because I was suffering from a situation that I could not avoid. There was no sign that the accident was about to happen, no squealing tires, no horn because the breaks did not work on the driver’s car. I could not protect myself in any way, but at least I was relaxed, if I was tense I could have done greater damage to my body.
I have developed car anxiety and constantly visualize car accidents because I don’t believe people are going to stop or that they are not paying attention to the road. My clients appreciate the fact that I can relate to them and I don’t think they are crazy.
At first, I could not carry more than 15 lbs. in my hands without irritating my neck and being out of commission for several days. I was determined to get back to work and to recover. I also decided to go back to school since teaching Pilates full time was not an option any more because getting up and down on the floor and flexion irritated my neck and often gave me headaches. I wanted a physical job, but it needed to be vertical so I decided I would go to school for massage. I did not want my injuries to prevent me from being successful in school and making changes to my life so I changed my workouts to more strength training. I focused on strengthening my upper body, but had to adjust my exercises until I could lift weights over head and also make sure the weight in my hands was not over stretching my traps. I started light and worked my way up, modifying when necessary.
Another factor that often affects clients and that I experienced was being forced into a sedentary lifestyle to heal. You are sore, you are exhausted from the pain, you sleep more than you are use to and this chips away at the hours of the day. Before you know it, you have been on the couch all day, you are miserable because you feel like a slob from eating and not moving all day. You start to be hard on yourself when you look in the mirror and you see yourself gaining weight.
When I first was injured I lost my appetite due to being in so much pain, I was mostly immobile except for my doctors appointments and quickly lost muscle mass. I dropped 10 lbs. in the first month; people were complimenting me and saying how great I looked, until I started to look ill because the weight had come off so quickly. I knew I didn’t lose the weight in a healthy manner and I wasn’t feeling good about my body. I needed to work on improving my body composition and weight. Now not all people are “so lucky” if you consider the weight loss lucky. After that first 10 lbs., I plateaued. I started to be a little more mobile and was working on improving my condition. But when I would have flare ups, I would lie at home for several days and eat horrible and feel horrible about my situation. I try to use this experience to help my clients push through the hard times and let them know that they have my support along this long and difficult road.
My strength has improved tremendously, but that amount of time, dedication and tears it took was surprising and humbling. Mentally, I still thought I was the same strong fit girl. When my trainer told me to do preacher bicep curls and the signal was not going to my muscles, I started to cry during my session. I was thinking it but my body was not responding. I now try to help my clients realize what kind of effort and time it will take to see these improvements but also that they are not alone. I am there for them during these hard times so that they can see the changes they want. It will take longer than the average person because they have a barrier that is preventing them from working on a regular basis. But it is achievable.