The Other Way Fitness Makes You Strong

“Can I start walking?”

Eight weeks after the accident, Ava was meeting with the surgeon. This was the appointment we both had been looking forward to for eight weeks. If the x-rays looked good Ava would get the green light to put weight on both legs and start walking.

Her progress in the weeks before this important appointment was pretty amazing. One month after the accident Ava was allowed to put weight on her left leg. That allowed her to leave the wheelchair and use a walker if she wanted.

While Ava was still primarily in the wheelchair, the walker allowed her to do a few more things on her own. For example, Ava could now stand on her left leg at the kitchen counter, using the walker for balance, and make a cup of coffee. 

But still, doing even these simple things required a lot of energy…energy her body was also using to heal and recover. The amazing part of the past few weeks was watching my wife not give in to the tiredness she always felt, but keep pushing forward. While the progress in real time was slow, the difference between what she was able to do in those first few weeks at home and what she was able to do eight weeks later was pretty impressive.

The real work of recovery would happen after she could start walking again. That’s when Ava would also begin preparing to run again. My wife is an athlete. She loves running far and running fast. Ava takes fitness to a different level than me. I say that not because running is better than walking. For Ava, fitness is simply the foundation that allows her to keep pushing herself further…much further than me.

Ava’s commitment to fitness would be key to her post-accident recovery. And, while there are certainly physical benefits to being fit before the accident happened, the greatest benefit for Ava will actually be her mental commitment to fitness.

Thursday, February 18 was the date for her eight week surgery follow-up. We arrived at the appointment early. Ava was taken back for the x-rays and then we waited to meet with the doctor. Ava had prepared a list of questions she wanted to ask. The doctor entered the room at 1:43 with pictures of the x-rays. 

She carefully explained what she saw in the pictures saying several times that everything looked great. Ava started rolling through her list of questions. She wanted to know about the second surgery to remove the metal holding her pelvis and right leg in place while the bones healed. When would that happen? How long would it take? What did that recovery look like?  

Ava also asked if people like to keep their metal after it’s removed. The doctor said, “Yes, most people do.” In that moment Ava realized she could use the longest metal rod that was holding her pelvis in place as something on which to hang her post accident running medals. I think that’s perfect.

My major in college was Mass Communication. Our journalism professor taught us to NEVER BURY THE HEADLINE. Don’t make people wait for the most important part of the story. We were 15 minutes into the appointment and the headline was buried. Ava hadn’t asked and the doctor hadn’t disclosed. Finally, after all her questions had been answered, except one, Ava finally spoke the only question that mattered to me as I sat in the room waiting.

“Can I start walking?”

In 2015 Ava had a knee injury that required her not to put any weight on that leg for six weeks. Once she was given the “all clear” she began a return to running rehab program that took another couple months. I was inspired watching my wife’s focus and determination. I realized just how much fitness is way more a mind game than it is physical. 


Here are five observations from Ava’s commitment to running and fitness that I believe will be the difference makers once she begins her post-accident rehab:

  1. She found a fitness activity she loves. Ava loves running. And, I don’t simply mean she loves the benefits of running. She loves the act of running. It brings her pleasure. It’s the same way I love walking. I have a dear friend who has finally discovered bike riding is a fitness activity she loves. Find a fitness activity you love and it’s harder to not do it, than find the motivation to do it.
  2. There’s always a future goal. Ava loves running in races. She loves the competition with herself. She loves the camaraderie with other runners. Those races give her “regular” runs a bigger why. When you combine the love of an activity with a bigger why motivation is much easier.
  3. She embraces the challenge. My wife has always had a thing about doing hard stuff. Give her the choice between the easy button and the hard button and she seems to always choose hard. I don’t get it. I’m not wired that way, but watching her has inspired me to strengthen my ability to do hard things. And, isn’t that where growth and progress really happen?
  4. Ava is not afraid of discomfort. Two weeks after she had breast cancer surgery she ran a half-marathon in a cold Nor’easter in Massachusetts. She loved it. Ava doesn’t wait for circumstances to get just right for a run. In other words, fitness is not contingent on whether or not she is comfortable.
  5. She does only what is needed for today. Too many of us try and do too much when we decide to pursue fitness. Our motivation is fueled by our emotions and we want to DO IT ALL today. That can be dangerous because our bodies can’t cash the fitness check our emotions write. Ava knows rehab is a long game and she will pace herself.

More than a few times during those eight weeks, I heard doctors, nurses, and therapists mention how much ahead of the curve Ava is because of her fitness level before the accident. That was gratifying to hear, but she lost quite a bit of that fitness because of her extremely limited mobility and lack of energy. It will take a long time for Ava to regain that fitness and physical strength. 

What Ava didn’t lose is the mental commitment to fitness. Just like the physical component of fitness, the mental component didn’t happen overnight. She worked hard for that. And, now it will be the most valuable part of her upcoming rehab.

And, yes…I really buried the headline.

The doctor leaned forward and with a big smile on her face said…

“Yes, you can.”

And, so it begins…


We never know when life could change in an instant and our fitness level, both physical and mental, will be challenged. That’s not the day to begin. Today is. 

I recommend you turn your walking into a fitness activity. If you’re already walking for fitness, how about pushing it to the next level. This 30 Day Walking Challenge is a guide to both. Whether you’re just getting started or you want to increase what you’re already doing this 30 Day Challenge has three different levels. Choose one that works for you and get started.  

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

I also recommend subscribing to this blog for weekly encouragement and motivation. Establishing and maintaining a fitness habit is not easy. Receiving a regular article to help you keep moving forward might be the difference maker you need. To subscribe simply click FOLLOW (to the right if you’re reading on a computer or below if you’re on your phone)

One comment

  1. Thank you Dave for sharing Ava’s journey. She is inspiring. I am so happy to hear of her progress. Thanks for giving us motivation and goals to fuel our journeys!

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