ExoSym 4-year Anniversary: A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Beth,

I write to you from four years in the future. I know you’ve been through several unsuccessful ankle surgeries and years of treatments, even reaching the point of contemplating amputation – hang in there, hope is coming.

You don’t know this now, but your life is going to change. You’re going to go from hobbling to running, jumping, and most importantly, for the first time in over two years, you’re going to feel what it’s like to not live in debilitating pain. The soccer injury that changed it all will no longer own your life. You’re going to meet the most amazing team of people at the Hanger Clinic in Gig Harbor, WA and they will change your life forever with a device called the ExoSym – there will be no words to thank them enough.

Day 1

Ryan & Koreen (before Gig Harbor facility was built)

Upon returning home, you will begin setting goals for yourself – feeling determined, inspired and charged for life. People around you are going to be so happy to see your progress and many won’t believe the transformation. Getting back to an active lifestyle will be an amazing feeling and you’ll feel so grateful just to be able to stand, walk and sleep without pain. There will be ups and downs, and learning curves along this journey, but you will keep pushing through.

Pure joy

As you progress with your ExoSym, you’ll begin running in races again and along the way find the person you once were. The device will become a part of you and you with it. You’ll named it Old Faithful for its durability and dedication to get you to places and milestones you couldn’t reach without it. You and Old Faithful will move to three different cities, enjoying life and trying a bunch of new things from Camp Gladiator to CrossFit to adventure racing, distance cycling, running and more. You will become really strong and fit – nothing will hold you back. People will underestimate you and that’s okay because you’ll prove them wrong. ☺ You will push yourself really hard and at times Ryan and Jared will tell you to slow it down. Listen to their advice. You’re going to feel super pumped about life, but remember to put the breaks on sometimes. The ExoSym will make you feel invincible, but you’ll have to remind yourself from time to time to chill and take more rest days. Remember life’s a marathon, not a sprint.

CrossFit competition

Jared (PT)

You’re going to start a blog to help other patients and along the way, you’re going to meet the most amazing community of people – Team ExoSym. You’ll travel to meet other ExoSym buddies and even do races with them! You will get a second ExoSym to help you get around when Old Faithful needs to be mailed back for adjustments and also to alternate devices for equal wear, and you’ll name it The Jaguar. Together, with your pals Old Faithful and The Jag, you will conquer whatever comes your way. You’ll travel the US competing in events and hiking mountains, pushing yourself further than you can imagine – it will bring you to tears with your heart so full of gratitude for how much the ExoSym has changed your life. ♥ You’ll go through a lot of running shoes and socks, but in time you’ll learn how to make them last longer. You’ll get asked “What happened to your leg?” more times than you can count, and sometimes you’ll wish you didn’t have to explain, but you’ll figure how to deal with this. Challenges will be a constant in your life and things will happen to you that you can’t plan for, unexpected ups and downs, but you’ll learn to take it as it comes.

Hiking mountains

About three years into it, you’ll get into a major car accident, and your life will once again change forever. You’ll go through months of therapy and many dark days, finding the road back to normal, but Team ExoSym will be by your side to support. Many months later you’ll work yourself back to running a half-marathon again and return to Gig Harbor to run it alongside your ExoSym family. You’ll continue to face some setbacks along this recovery, and have to take a step back from priorities, but you’ll never give up.

#nevergiveup #hangerclinic

When you look back over these last four years you’ll see how God brought you closer to him through your injuries and how much your faith has grown. The staff at the Hanger Clinic will become like family and every time you head back it will feel like returning home. As you reflect on this four year ExoSym journey, you’ll remember how Ryan always said to “trust the process” and to take it “one step at a time” and you’ll thank him because in these last four years that advice has rung true.

Thanks Ryan

So, as you take this journey to Gig Harbor to try the ExoSym, never forget that God is always with you. Believe and trust that this is the next step. I am here to tell you that you are stronger than you know. The ExoSym will change your life.

Good luck,

Beth

Race for a Soldier #mindbodyspirit

Hi Team ExoSym,

It was awesome meeting so many of you last weekend at the Race for a Soldier in Gig Harbor. So proud of everyone who came out to take part in the 5k and 1/2 marathon – we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day! (I even clocked a faster 1/2 marathon finish, so was pretty happy with that. ☺) But most importantly, I was filled with the blessing of the people I have come to know through this team – across ages, abilities, injuries, conditions, and length of time in the device – we are all a family, united by the will for a better quality of life and the determination to fight for it. We are #TeamExoSym.

And without a doubt, a huge thank you to Ryan Blanck and Jared Williamson – whom without these two men, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today. Few people are as dedicated and caring as these two – enough to even spend their Sunday with us taking part in the race, not just as spectators, but as friends and coaches – helping us through.

Below are a few pictures from the event:

#nevergiveup

Team ExoSym (how many ExoSym’s can you count?)

For many including myself, 2017 has been a challenging year and while it’s not always easy to do, sometimes we just have to stop, breathe, and honor our own self-care. With that being said, I’ve decided to take some time away from ExoSymplyAmazing. My hope for you all is that you continue to keep the faith, believe in yourselves, and cherish the gift of today. Know I will be doing the same. ♥

May this blog continue to be a resource for you along your journey and may your ExoSym always be a reminder that even on your hardest day, you are stronger than you know. #nevergiveup

All the best,

Beth

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

ExoSymplyAmazing Update (Sept. 2017)

Hello, again!

As many of you know, I started my job with the Hanger Clinic last month, and what an exciting time it’s been! I also moved during Hurricane Harvey, have been training for the Race for a Soldier 1/2 marathon (less than 2 weeks away now!), and have been continuing to work on my recovery. Fair to say it’s been a little busy over here… ☺

With my new role at Hanger, I wanted to share a few thoughts with regards to ExoSymplyAmazing. The blog/Insta will continue to be something I run outside of work hours (in my own free time), as it always has been since the start. While my job at Hanger involves running their social media (@HangerNews), ExoSymplyAmazing will remain a personal blog/Insta, run by me as a patient, not as an employee and is in no way affiliated, or influenced by the Hanger Clinic, and is not something I am paid to do; simply a blog/Insta I run out of the pure love from my heart to help my fellow ExoSym buddies (and future ExoSym patients) find hope, inspiration, and motivation.

With that being said, in the last few weeks, I have been pouring myself into my new role at Hanger, and am realizing that I may have a little less free time than I have had in the past to devote to the blog. But fear not, ExoSymplyAmazing will continue on! My heart remains tied to all of you – I’m just still figuring out my life right now and how to fit everything in. ♥ #findingmybalance But, I would love to get back to writing more patient stories, so please reach out to me if that’s something you would be interested in sharing! I’ve always believed that we each have a special story to share and I would love to help you do that if that’s something you would be interested in. Also, in regards to the Instagram, I know I’ve stepped away for a bit there, but will be returning soon and am planning to try moving to a 2-3x a week schedule and see how that works – see you all there soon!

Lastly, a big hug to all my ExoSym buddies reading this – keep believing in yourself, trusting your device, and taking it day by day. In two months, I will reach my 4 year anniversary in the device, and I, without a doubt, can say this journey has been and continues to be an amazing ride. My best advice is to be thankful for where you are today (wherever you are in your Exo journey), never lose sight of how far you’ve come, but never stop pushing yourself to be better, and never stop looking up. Also, never forget that we are a team. If you need support, reach out. Be a friend to an Exobuddy – we are here for each other. To live ExoSymplyAmazing is to not be afraid to be the amazing YOU that you are, to believe in yourself, and most importantly, to never give up – life is a journey after all – don’t give up the fight. Love to you all – be strong, be courageous. #nevergiveup

PS – Yay for fall! In my opinion, the best time of the year for Exo wear. (aka leggings and lattes ☺)

Looking forward to seeing some of you soon at the Race for a Soldier!

XO – Beth

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

 

Tips to Motivate Yourself

Getting back into shape can be challenging for anyone, especially if you are used to a certain level of fitness you once had or have a set goal in mind of where you want to be. In my own personal life, it’s been only within the last few months that I have been able to start working out again… so today, I want to share a few tips for those trying to get back into it or into it at all. I may love running and working out, but doesn’t mean it comes easy… so let’s review what we can do to motivate ourselves to keep going! #teamexosym

Set a goal.

For me, this is everything. Maybe it’s my Type A personality ☺, but goals give me structure and something to work towards. If you feel like you are lacking motivation in your life, try setting a challenging goal for yourself – something you can work towards and something that you really want to be able to do.

Here’s an example: After my car accident this past December, I really struggled a lot in those first few months. One thing my PT had me do was set goals. Not to just be able to walk a straight line, restore balance, etc. (those were important and necessary goals), but in addition to the medical based goals, I needed a heart based goal… something that would help to remind me of myself, so as I progressed, we set a long-term goal for me to be able to run a race again. At the time, it felt impossible and many people didn’t think it would be possible. How could I do this with my back and head the way it was… it was a really dark time in my life, but little by little… month after month, with patience and hard work, I achieved that goal (the 10K race) last month and along the way found myself again. ♥

The importance here isn’t so much the number of goals you have, but the value of what they mean to you. Set a goal that means something to you and you will be motivated to achieve it. Also, think about putting your goals up on your wall or mirror so you can see them every day. The key is to have it be a visual reminder of where you are and where you want to go. #goals

Log your workouts.

I used to think, “Oh, I’ll remember what I did last week, etc…” Well, let me tell you, after a few days, no you won’t. ☺ And unless you have an amazing memory, you certainly won’t remember how you felt during and after the workout too.

I’ve started logging my workouts on a poster board that I got from Michaels. Just a simple white $0.50 poster will do just fine. Take out a ruler and write in the calendar for the remaining of the year – leaving yourself enough room to write something in each day. Then, you can log your workouts, rest days, how you felt, what shoes you wore (so you know when to rotate), etc, and then you can look back each week/month and see progress – it’s awesome because you can see it in one place all at one time! This has also helped me a lot with my head injury — it’s a great tool to track progress. I have a Polar M400 watch that tracks my workouts in details, but I’m kinda old school and like to write it down as well. I also like to write a positive quote at the end of the month to summarize how that month went… just an idea. ♥

Surround yourself with inspiration.

We’re pretty lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people with Team ExoSym. I feel truly blessed to know so many of you! (big hug) If you have an Instagram, make sure to check out @exosymplyamazing to get connected with other patients or the Facebook group (link in Helpful Links above) is also a great place to connect too. If you don’t have any social media accounts, no worries – try looking up motivational and inspirational quotes on Google. Print a few off, put them where you can see them. Read inspirational stories… surround yourself with uplifting words and images – it’s the best way to live! An inspired life is a motivated life!

@exosymplyamazing Instagram

Celebrate little victories.

It’s important to honor your successes along the way. When I first started trying to run again a couple months ago, I started over from scratch. Literally was starting over again so being able to jog 1 min, walk 1 min for several minutes was something to celebrate. Sure, it may seem small, but at the time it was a huge victory. Celebrate the victories along the way – that’s what makes the journey special. Think of it as mini goals within your goal. If your goal is to run a 5K, start with being able to run a mile. It can be a really fun process to look at it this way.

Live with gratitude.

One thing that keeps me motivated and inspired is living gratefully. If you are trying to run, be thankful for that gift you once perhaps didn’t have… smell the fresh air, feel the sun against your skin, see the sweat on your shirt — these are all things to be thankful for! For me personally, I love running more now than I ever did before my ankle injury in 2011 and probably even more since my recent accident… because every step reminds me of what a true gift it is. Be inspired by opening your eyes to see your life with a new perspective. I may not be the runner I once was, but I am grateful to even be able to lace up my shoes and get out there. ♥ #blessed

Put your game face on.

Let me be the first to tell you this is not going to be easy. Life isn’t easy. Goals aren’t easy. Challenges aren’t easy. This is when you have to dig deep and put your game face on. Yesterday I went out for a long run… there were a few times I wanted to stop and call for an Uber, but you know what? I didn’t have my wallet. haha just kidding, don’t worry I didn’t quit and call for a ride (although a few people stopped and asked if I needed one when I finished the run and laid down on the sidewalk to recover haha). ☺ But, no I walked a little, sipped some water, and then I continued on my run again. Make a decision to never give up. “Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.” – Dean Karnazes

don’t let the smile fool you 🙂 #nevergiveup

Listen to your body – we all have off days.

Here’s where I probably shouldn’t be talking haha. I’m the first to admit this is not my strongest suit. For various reasons (probably all the injuries in my life), I’m pretty good at tuning out my body and just pushing beyond how it feels. But as time has gone on, I’ve learned it’s important to listen to your body. It’s always sending us messages… we just have to be willing to listen. A week or so ago, I had a really off week. Just felt like nothing was left in the tank. I was so tired… so I decided to listen to my body and give it a rest… which it really turned out to need. My advice for you is to try to be more open to listening to your body. I think with a lot of us, we are so used to tuning it out because we had to tune out pain for so long with our injuries (it was the only way to get through the day)… but we need to find a way to bring that balance back. What has helped me is meditation and yoga… through these practices I’ve learned to listen and that it’s okay to feel again. Don’t be scared to listen. Don’t be afraid to try.

Love yourself the way you are.

I think this last piece of advice is most important. Love the person you are. You didn’t come this far to just come this far. Be proud of you who you are in this moment and every challenge that pushed you to where you are today. You only get one body… love the one you have. It’s pretty ExoSymplyAmazing, after all. When people ask you, “What happened to your leg? What’s wrong with it?” Understand that people ask from their own point of view. We all live within our own worlds, seeing things from our own perspectives. Don’t let it hurt your feelings. (Take it from someone who has been answering this question for several years now haha.) A lot of times, I think people just don’t realize what they are asking and how that could make someone feel. The key is to love who you are and answer with confidence – be proud to be YOU. Rock the ExoSym. Believe in YOU. Embrace yourself. Be yourself. Accept yourself. Motivate yourself. (You and your body on the same team after all!) Treat yourself. My personal favorite is getting new workout shorts and headbands… ☺ (do I have too many headbands??)

pre-workout pics. love me some headbands…

So as you wrap up the weekend and start a new week, decide what steps you can take to motivate and inspire yourself. I believe in all of you! You can do anything you set your mind to – it just takes time and hard work! It’s not going to be easy, but who likes easy? Be willing to try new things. Open yourself to new possibilities. See the world with a positive attitude. Set a goal. Spread the light to those around you. Make a new ExoSym buddy. Enjoy the journey. It may get hard sometimes and that’s okay. The point is to just keep picking yourself back up. Say no to the Uber ride and make a decision to never give up. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

A New Journey

In his heart man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. 👣

In 2011, when I injured my ankle and surgeries went from bad to worse, all I wanted were two things: (1) to find a way to live an active, full life without pain (whatever it took) & (2) for God to use my injury for something good; to make a difference with my life. In 2013, I received the ExoSym through the Hanger Clinic which changed my life – answering prayer #1. About a year later, I started this blog with the hopes of inspiring fellow ExoSym patients to always believe in themselves & never give up. I am honored to call these patients (you all!) my friends. 👫

Today, I’m super excited to say… I’ve accepted a full-time position to run Hanger Clinic’s social media platforms company-wide, supporting and connecting patients across all devices, further fulfilling dream #2: to make a difference in people’s lives through what I believe is lifting patients up & giving them the inspiration they need to carry on.  Life is crazy isn’t it? Never once did I imagine this year turning out as it has (what a year it’s been…), but God continues to pull me through time and time again. Looking back in 2011, I never thought a leg injury would change my life forever either, but we never know what God has planned, which is why we must always keep the faith even when we don’t understand. 💗 As I step forward in this new journey, I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and for everyone who has touched my life along the way – namely, Ryan Blanck, who from the moment I reached out to him about the ExoSym, was the first person to give me a chance when all hope seemed lost. This is the heart of the Hanger Clinic – empowering human potential – giving people a second chance at living a full life – I am honored to continue spreading the light for a company that has impacted my life so greatly.

Stay tuned… and keep going strong friends. PS – Hope to see you all at the Race for a Solider in September! If you haven’t been before, it’s a really fun time to meet other Exobuddies (🤗) and support our veterans! Hope everyone has a wonderful week. Never stop believing. xo

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Back on Course.

Hi Exo Fam,

I’m excited to say that I am back on course! This past Sunday, I ran my first race (a 10k) since my car accident in December! (*happy dance*) I’m actually still laughing because I thought when I signed up it said the race was a road course, but it ended up being a hybrid trail race… luckily ExoSym likes a little rocky dirt action. ☺ As I look back at the last eight months, it’s no doubt been a tough year and in some ways I don’t know how I made it through this time, but to say it was Christ’s strength and not my own that carried me through. The journey back from life’s challenges is never easy, but we never walk alone. ♥

First race back!

A couple weeks ago, I also wrapped up my therapy thanks to my amazing therapy team at Texas PTS. For 7.5 months, this team stood by my side pushing me through my recovery. They got me so far and I am forever grateful for their dedication and compassion. This team never stopped believing in me. In life, we never know what challenges we will face, but I believe and have seen it throughout my life, that God always puts the right people on our path when we need them the most. (#ryanblanck)

My PT Team 🙂

My wish for each of you is that when you face hard times, you look to the strength within you and never let someone tell you what you can or cannot do. If I had listened to the doctors who told me I would never run again, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They may know the odds, but they don’t know you. ♥

#exostrong

A big shoutout to all my Exobuddies and the Hanger Team who have encouraged me throughout this year as I recovered from my accident. The ExoSym group is truly a family of its own. Thank you is not enough for how much your support has meant to me. Big hug from Texas! Love to you all. I am back on course! TEAM EXOSYM. NEVER GIVE UP.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

ExoSymplyWork Fashion

Hi friends,

Happy early Fourth of July! Today, I want to get back to my ExoSymnista roots (☺) and talk about summer style tips for the workplace. I haven’t taken a lot of photos in the last seven months… but captured a few in the last couple weeks to talk about today. Who says tennis shoes can’t look cute for work?! Not me! Be fearlessly YOU.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am a big fan of skinny pants with the device and have always been an Ann Taylor LOFT girl — so I’m excited to share with you that LOFT has a new line of skinny pants that are great for work with breathable fabric for the hot summer months! Check em out here. I have them in several colors (grey, green, blue, navy, & black) and they are perfect! Are you looking for a new pair of summer jeans? Look no further — LOFT has a great line up of regular and colorful skinny jeans to select from too. Check em out here!

Shoes: Men’s Brooks Glycerin, ExoSym Compression Sock: Swiftwick & Zensah Knee Sleeve, Skirt & Tops: LOFT, Non-Exo Sock: Feetures

Enjoy wearing skirts? Have fun by matching a colored skirt with a pop of color in your shoes or shoelaces. (Skirts and tops also from LOFT ☺) Do you work in a business casual environment? Keep it classy with a neutral colored shoe, black socks and a splash of color – you’ll look great and feel cute too! #rockitsista

#exosymplyskirtfashion

Don’t dread dressing up work – make it fun, make it comfortable, make it YOU! Show off your exobody, wear what makes you feel beautiful — feel strong in who you are.

Wishing everyone a great week. I’m pushing through therapy over here and working on my running… it’s been a journey — one day at a time. NEVER GIVE UP! We are Team ExoSym.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Patient Spotlight: Eddie Holmes

My Journey 

Hello everyone, my name is Eddie Holmes and I am from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I am relatively new to the world of the ExoSym, but certainly not new to the world of ankle pain. I have always been very active and into sports – always playing on some team or running a 5k.  My injury happened in 1985 while playing softball.  On a close play at home plate,  I decided to slide in and my cleat got hooked on the plate. I snapped the deltoid ligament loose in my right ankle. This is the very moment in time when my journey started. This happened at a terrible time, at the time I was a 30 year old physical education teacher and high school soccer coach. I was scheduled to drive 50 students to a big 10k race the following weekend. My personal plan was to try and beat my previous time of 38:40 from the year before.  However, I knew while laying on the ground waiting on the ambulance that neither of those things would happen this year.  After an x-ray at the hospital, I was told that I just had a severe sprained ankle. I was familiar with what a sprained ankle felt like and this was not it. So upon my request another x-ray was taken and it was decided that I would see an orthopedic doctor first thing Monday morning.  That Monday morning it was determined I would need immediate surgery to repair the ligament.  This was a long and painful recovery process but after about a year I was moving around ok. Actually, as the years went by I was able to do pretty much whatever I wanted to do. My ankle had limited mobility, but no pain.  Several years went by and I started running again. Once again I was competing in races all around my area and in neighboring states. While training, I would run 20 to 30 miles a week. I absolutely loved to run but I knew cross-training would be good for me too, so before I knew it, I was doing triathlons.  

Fast forward several years, I had run 100s of races from 5ks to marathons. I had also completed over 40 triathlons including 6 Ironman events: five 70.3 races and one full distance of 140.6. In 2014, my ankle just got worse and I decided to see a specialist in Houston, Texas. In January of 2015, I had my second ankle surgery. This time the deltoid was tightened and two bone spurs were removed. Although the pain level was better, my range of motion was significantly reduced. Running was out of the question. In fact, walking without a limp was also difficult. If I was on my feet for a long time, the pain returned. During my last trip to the doctor, I had an new MRI and was told that my ankle was bone on bone with arthritis. This was devastating news for an active person. It just so happened that a friend of mine, who has a similar ankle issue, had a brace called the ExoSym (IDEO). He has been doing very well with it and suggested I look into it. So I began the process.

I started going through the questions in my mind:

First, is this brace right for my injury?

Second, will insurance help with the cost? 

Third, what will I be able to do after getting the brace? 

From the first time I walked into the Hanger Clinic, it was obvious that EVERYBODY there really cares about people. They go out of their way to help and make you feel at home. I’ll never forget being told by Ryan that now I was part of the ExoSym family!  That’s pretty comforting when you are so far away from home (in my case 2600 miles).

My first trip for the fitting was great and I was very excited about getting the real thing. After a long three week wait, I went back to get my ExoSym and to go through my week of PT.  After putting the brace on for the first time, Ryan had me do a few drills in the clinic. We went outside and within a few minutes, he told me to run up the little hill in front of the clinic! To my surprise, I did it again and again and again! All I could think about was sending a message home to my wife and family. Each day I was there was a valuable learning experience. The clear cut message I got while there was that I hadn’t gotten where I was in 5 days. Meaning, it would take longer than 5 days to completely figure out how much I could do using the ExoSym. In the months that followed, I have come to understand that it is probably going to be a continued learning experience. To my surprise I have had almost a complete change of priorities. I have come to realize that although I love running, I also love being able to walk without pain. My ExoSym has helped me do normal day to day activities with little to no pain. 

#exosymplyamazing

When I came home from the clinic with my brace, after 3 weeks or so, I had some rubbing around my knee. While at the clinic I never had my brace adjusted. As I look back on it, I think I must have been thinking that it was something I would get use to. It was when I saw my leg bleeding I realized that I was wrong. So after talking to Ryan, we decided I needed to ship it back. The first time I put it on after the adjustment was amazing. A small adjustment can make a world of difference in the fit and in turn allow you to do more than you ever thought possible. My device truly fits like a glove. 

I can’t say enough about Ryan! I am amazed by his caring attitude and work ethic. I have sent him videos of me running on the treadmill and outside in my yard. He responds every time. Jared was also awesome and so knowledgeable. These are special people who help others everyday. I wonder if they know the depth of what they do, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of lives they have touched. ❤

While at Hanger you will meet people that will probably be life long friends and you will see amazing things happen. I can’t imagine anything but positive things happening to all those who spend time there. 

This is the condensed version of my journey or at least my journey so far. I still have lots of things I want to do. My wife Angie and I celebrated our 40th anniversary last summer and our plan was to hike 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail, but because of my ankle injury I couldn’t make the distance, so I want to complete that distance with Angie.  Also on my list is Ironman Chattanooga! It’s down the road but it’s on my list.  I would have to say that the number one thing on my list is to be able to be active with my 3 year old grandson, Bentley for many years to come! 

Eddie & Bentley

It has been my honor to share my journey with you. 

One thing I didn’t mention is that I will be 62 in a few weeks. If I can have success at my age, imagine what you can do!

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

The Importance of Cadence

Hi pals,

Just a little update on my recovery from the accident in December, I’m continuing to make progress with my therapy and have slowly started getting back into things. I’m super determined to make it to the Race for a Soldier in September and hope to see you guys there! Such a great cause and always fun to meet other ExoSym buddies in person. While the last six months have been some of the most challenging months of my life, I grow stronger in spirit and faith every day. I want to thank everyone so much for all your love and support. I am determined to find a way to keep moving forward from this accident and I’m not giving up. It’s been said it’s always darkest before the light and I think that’s something important for us all to remember. It may be dark for a time (and sometimes longer than we’d want), but the sun always rises again. Never forget that. Challenges in life are not meant to destroy us. They are the means by which we rebuild ourselves – and rise like the sun again. 

So in the spirit of the sun, I want to share a bit of ExoSym wisdom for those looking to rise and run with the ExoSym.  Namely, focusing on the importance of dialing in your cadence when running in your device. Keep in mind, this is just my opinion on what’s worked for me. If you are new to running in the device, make sure to check with the Hanger team before getting started.

Simply put, cadence is the number of steps you take per minute. When you first get the device, the Hanger team will likely train you with a metronome on the treadmill to get you used to the quicker steps. I used to think “Okay, I got this. I need to take quick steps. I can remember that.” But, what I found over time is that I fell back into old habits of longer strides and in peak training periods with longer runs would end up sometimes with tightness on my non-device side of the body (i.e. my ITB and hip flexor would get super tight). Thinking back about the first several years in the device, I recognize that I ran with pure joy just so happy to be able to run… and what I want to pass on is how important it is as times goes on, to be diligent about your form = #runhappy AND #runsmart ☺. If you think about it, the device pushes off the ground so quickly with the energy return of the struts — you’ll want to mirror that return on both sides of the body. At first, it may not feel entirely natural for you to take quicker steps for an entire run, but if you truly commit to it, it will become natural and can make a huge difference in how your body adapts to running in the device. I can speak from personal experience that my Exobody favors this approach. Quick steps over the entire run – not just while sprinting. To keep you honest with your cadence, I’ve found it’s best to download a metronome app that you can use while running (aka Jared in your ear). Essentially taking what you learned at the clinic and applying it every time you run. There are a lot of apps out there, but my personal favorite is RunTempo. I set it to 180 (90 steps per foot), click play, and then it beeps on a high/low beat as my music plays in the background. You can have it set to play for a certain amount of time (like let’s say the first 5 min of your run, etc) and then automatically turn off or you can do what I do… which is play it the entire length of my run. You can also adjust it. So let’s say 180 feels too quick, you can dial it back. I also use my POLAR M400 watch which records my cadence and helps me see how well I did over the course of the run. Like anything, cadence is not a one size fits all (180 is right for me, but you’ll have to determine what’s best for you) and you certainly want to give yourself time to adjust (you wouldn’t want to overnight make your entire run at 180), but with practice you can increase it to where it feels right for you. Improving cadence is not difficult, but it takes time.

There are some great articles out there that go over why cadence is important, how to determine your optimal cadence and also how to increase it over time. I’d definitely recommend reading up on cadence before getting started. Just google “running cadence” and you’ll find a lot of helpful information to get you going.

Here are three good articles to get you started:

  1. Running Cadence: Why it Matters & How to Improve Yours
  2. Three Ways to Increase Running Cadence
  3. What is my Running Cadence and Should I Care?

RunTempo App

Even if you don’t download a metronome, just try to be conscious of how your body moves when you’re running. Think symmetry and while it’s tempting to just “run” because you’re so happy to be running again, remember to keep in mind everything you learned at the Hanger Clinic. I’ve found this to be key to success in the device over the long haul. Keep your core strong and apply what you learned at the clinic in everything you do.

As you face challenges in your life, never forget that every dark night gives us an opportunity to rise and shine again. I may not be back to where I was before the accident, but I’m not giving up. We must always keep the faith and find a way to keep going. Find the courage within to press on. And when you feel like it’s too much to bear, let the strength of the Lord be the light that carries you.

Here’s to re-learning to run again for the… 3rd time in my life! #teamexosym #nevergiveup

The head may forget, but the heart never does. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

From My View (By: Jo Paluzzi)

Patients Stories & Advice

Written By: Hanger Clinic ExoSym Patient Jo Paluzzi (dual device user since October 2016)

After six months in my bilateral ExoSyms, I have the “dealing with the stares” routine down. I love it when people engage with me with genuine curiosity. But often, as strangers walk towards me, their eyes catch sight of my legwear and they immediately look away. We are programmed in our society to not stare at something that may make us (or the ‘staree’) uncomfortable. We pass each other silently but I know that if I turn around quickly, I’ll see them staring at my legs. On a long, hard day (those are getting less frequent, thank you, Ryan) I can almost feel their eyes; with the passage of time, I often no longer even register the stares. On some days, what I want to do is stop them and say, “Let me tell you about these amazing devices so you know what you are looking at.”

I am a medical anthropologist and I work in a medical school. I regularly give mini-lectures in halls and classrooms (fortunately medical students have no problem asking questions when they think they can learn something). My favorite exchange is with kids between 3-5 years old who, at least until their mothers intercede (“don’t stare!”), are openly and happily curious. I once had a 4 year old race across a clinic lobby, stop in front of me to stare in wonder, and then gently reach out to touch my ExoSym. It felt like a benediction. Of course, it helps that I have really cool Wonder Woman stickers on the back of both of my ExoSyms. Hey! No judgement, guys. Wonder Woman has been around since 1941, like, I could be the first Wonder Woman’s daughter who took over when her mother retired which would make the current Wonder Woman my granddaughter…just sayin’ it COULD be true.

But my all-time favorite exchange went something like this after a woman came up to me while I was shopping:

Oh my, you poor thing! What happened to you?”

I was in an automobile accident.

Oh, how really…”

Wonderful, right? Aren’t these the most amazing braces you’ve ever seen!?”

But it must be so…”

You’re right, I am SO lucky that my doctor knew about these and connected me to the man who invented them.

But you must feel…”

Oh absolutely! I just feel so fortunate.”

She gave it a couple of more tries and finally realized I was not going to let her find a landing place for her pity. I know her primary motivation was vaguely kind (and indirectly curious) but I no longer feel obligated to let a stranger control the discussion when the discussion is about my life. ♥

– ExoSym Patient Jo Paluzzi

Wonder Woman (aka Jo Paluzzi)

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing