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

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

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

Trust the Journey.

Hey guys! It’s been a little while since my last post, but I’m back with some updates. To make this as concise as possible, it seems as though I sustained an injury to my ExoSym heel earlier in the year (falling from a rope) that I let go on for too long (oops…), then inadvertently for months now, I adapted my gait incorrectly to overcompensate and therefore caused some overuse issues in my ankle & flared up some things by not activating the device correctly. I was able to get by for awhile without any issues, but then as my training & events added up this year, it finally became apparent I needed to do something about it. I was back at the Hanger Clinic (the mothership) last week where the Dream Team got me back on track, but I’m really going to need to focus on the basics to get better again. So, I will be taking some time off for the next several months to recover, rebuild & refocus. With that being said and the holidays just around the corner, you may see me posting a little less. Have no fear, I’m still here — don’t hesitate to reach out ☺, but just going to use this time to refocus my energy.

If you’re able to learn something from my experience, that would be a blessing to me. I want you to see that even three years into the device, it’s really important to make sure you maintain proper form and technique with everything you learned when you first received the device, listen to your body, and understand the importance of channeling this new energy for life that the ExoSym so profoundly provides into a longer ranged view instead of wanting to do everything all at once. (hehe) I think in many ways after receiving the device, (whether I realized it or not) I have been trying to make up for lost time from everything that my injury took away in those years I was down — and in some ways control what I didn’t have control over for the years I was struggling in pain — which I think is only natural when you receive the gift of mobility again and there is nothing wrong with pursuing life at 110%… but I’m learning there has to be some balance.

I’ve said it before, but the ExoSym is truly a journey. Take a person who has been through some really difficult times to the point of considering amputation, give them a life changing device, and watch their spirit and mobility soar as they learn to embrace life again. It’s a jolt of energy that’s hard to describe and it’s a journey that I’m learning can be spread out. ☺ I think life sustaining injuries and illnesses teach us that life is precious and in a moment everything can change and that our bodies often let us down — but I think one of the most important lessons the ExoSym has taught me is that it’s okay to trust again. And it’s taken me three years to learn that. Waking up grateful every day to be able to walk and live life fully because of my ExoSym makes me eternally grateful and want to do more and more, but I’m learning to trust that it’s not all going to disappear if I take a rest day. Maybe I needed to devote three years to proving to myself that I could make a comeback, but as I move forward in this journey, I’m planning to channel this energy for life into some different avenues. Maybe get more involved in volunteering, church, practice mindfulness, possibly get a puppy… who knows but what I do know is that looking back I wouldn’t change how I approached this journey — in fact I think I needed to accomplish all these things for myself but as I step forward, I step forward in trust knowing that with my ExoSym I can live gratefully and purposefully without fear that it will disappear.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season. Make it ExoSymplyAmazing by allowing yourself to trust the journey. Find balance. ♥

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#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Pay it Forward

Aloha! I recently returned from an amazing trip to Hawaii where I visited ExoSym (IDEO) device patient, Dominique! As some of you may remember, Dominique and I took part in the Project Athena Foundation 24hr Santa Barbara Adventure Race back in June so we were super excited to meet up again! ☺

From kayaking to biking and hiking, every single day was filled with some pretty ExoSymplyAmazing adventures. Take a look at a few of the pics below! (*Dominique has come SUCH a long way since my first IDEOnista Spotlight with her on the blog a little over a year ago. What an incredible transformation the ExoSym device has had on her life – she recently completed a half century ride and can be found hiking nearly every weekend! Go Dominique!! So happy for you.)

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Kokohead Hike

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Pillbox Sunrise Hike

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15.5mi Kayaking Adventure

As the week sadly came to an end and I boarded the plane to head back to Texas, I remember passing by a magazine in the airport that caught my eye. The headline read “The Ripple Effects of God’s Love” and I couldn’t help but think about the ripple effects of receiving the ExoSym. Seems like a gift that keeps on giving! I think if I was to draw out a diagram on how the device has changed my life and that of others, it would be pretty amazing, I mean ExoSymplyAmazing. ☺ If you wear the ExoSym, I encourage you to stop and think for a moment about the blessings that have flowed from receiving the device, maybe take a moment and write them down so that you can see. Then, think about the blessings you can bestow to others. Whether that’s a friend or ExoSym buddy or even someone in your community who is going through a difficult time, think of the hard times you went through, perhaps you can be the light to them in their dark times. We may never understand why we go through difficult circumstances, but I think what’s helped me in this journey is finding a way to pay it forward. I touched on this a little in my last post in connecting with other ExoSym buddies, but I think it’s really important, especially if you are struggling to find meaning in the hardships you’ve been through. Keep the ripple effects of receiving the ExoSym flowing. ♥

In other news, I’m currently competing in the Wodapalooza Miami CrossFit qualifier. If I make it in the top five in my division by the end of the preliminary rounds, I’ll be traveling to Miami in January to compete in the actual competition! (Fingers crossed! I’m giving it all I got!) & Next month, I’m headed to Maryland to compete at the Working Wounded Games with ExoSym (IDEO) patient Lisa! Should be awesome! Stay tuned for that. ☺

Make it a great week everyone and remember to pay it forward. If you feel like you need help getting connected in the ExoSym community, don’t hesitate to reach out! #teamexosym

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Mobility Tools: Your New Best Friends

Looking for a new best friend? I have one for you, actually I have a few for you. ☺

May I introduce… foam roller, lacrosse ball, the stick and floss band.

Foam Roller: I’m sure you’ve seen one of these before. Foam rollers come in all shapes, textures and sizes. I have the Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller (in pink) and I love it. From rolling out tight hamstrings and quads to honing in on the ITB track – this guy is a very good friend. You can also rollout your back and shoulders or anywhere you feel tight. I try to get in some foam rolling everyday (sometimes 2x a day). Do a quick search online for “foam roller” and a lot of variations will come up, so do a little research to see what type of roller works best for you, but I guarantee you that you won’t regret it! Using the FR is pretty self explanatory, but once you get yours, you can Google ‘foam roller exercises’ and you’ll find a plethora of information and guides out there. (Estimated cost: $35-$60)

pink foam roller

Lacrosse Ball: In my opinion, golf balls are a little too small & hard (try laying on one!), baseballs are a little too big, and tennis balls are a little too squishy. Lo and behold the lacrosse ball – just right. By far, my BFF of all mobility tools. ♥  I tend to get extra tight in my non-ExoSym side hip flexor and glute and have found that rolling out / laying on my lacrosse ball allows me to really hone in on the tight areas and release the fascia. I even carry my LB with me to work sometimes. This is definitely a tool I use everyday, if not multiple times a day – I LOVE it! (& they make good presents. I even gave my mom one for Christmas!) You can purchase a lacrosse ball from nearly any sporting goods store or online sports retailer. They also come in lots of colors. Google ‘lacrosse ball exercises’ and you’ll be on your way to a happier glute and hip – or any tight area you want to reach! (Estimated cost: $2-$5)

green lacrosse ball

The Stick: Also known as the “toothbrush of muscles” is a pretty close friend of mine. I picked one of these up during a race packet pickup and it’s been most useful for targeting the ITB, quads, calf and glute. I like it because it’s easy to rotate and perfect for those days when you want to apply a little more pressure than what you can achieve with the foam roller. Also, a super easy travel buddy. The stick comes in different sizes and flexibilities, so check out this page when deciding on what’s best for you. There are of course other brands out there, so just google “mobility stick running” if you’d like to shop around. (Estimated cost: $25-$35)

the stick

Floss Band: Think of this as a temporary compression band. Perfect for compressing tissue to aid in workout recovery. When I feel a tight hamstring coming on or happen to pull it during a workout, I wrap it up in my sassy floss band and squat up and down for 30 sec or so and then release the band and repeat a couple times. Really seems to help. I’ve also used this for my non-ExoSym calf – when it gets tight or I happen to pull it. I basically wrap the floss band around my calf, move my ankle up and down for 30sec or so and then release the band & repeat. It can also double as a wrap to tie ice packs onto your body. ☺ I’d say this is a friend you don’t necessarily need to have, but if you are working out a lot and have sore muscles, you might take a look into the floss. These can be purchased through CrossFit stores or online retailers like Amazon. Just be sure to read about how to use the bands and the pressure to apply before using them. (Estimated cost: $20-$30)

floss band

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting my mobility friends, but know there are a multitude of other fabulous mobility friends out there, so don’t let my four buds stop you from meeting more! Check out your local running store to try a few before purchasing. If you aren’t sure where to get started, I’d say the foam roller and lacrosse ball would be a good place to start. The more you get to know your mobility friends, the better! #mobilitymatters

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Ten Ways to Make Everyday an ExoSymplyAmazing Day.

    1. Practice Gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself of the days you prayed for what you have now. (pretty amazing when you stop & think about it…) Reflect on your journey. Remember the people who have helped you get to where you are today. Count your blessings. Send a note to someone who has impacted your life. Thank life and life will give you things to be thankful for. ♥ #LiveExoSymplyGracious
    2. Pursue Your Passion. Whether that’s getting out in nature, learning a new skill / sport or helping others – challenge yourself by living life BIG. Bring your passion to everything you do. Do what you couldn’t do a year before – follow your dreams! Anything is possible with the ExoSym. Find your passion and let it guide you. This is what living ExoSymplyAmazing is all about!
    3. Set Goals. Start small, but challenge yourself. Every day is a new day to rise higher. Always have a goal on your calendar – life is about growing. Open your eyes to the adventures made possible by the ExoSym.
    4. Share Your Journey. When you’re stopped on the street by someone wanting to know what the device is, use it as an opportunity to spread the light. If you feel comfortable, share how the ExoSym has changed your life. Help others to understand the amazingness of the device. Let your attitude and passion for life inspire others to never give up.
    5. Connect with other ExoSym buddies. We are a team. Send an encouraging text or message to an ExoSym friend. Share your advice and wisdom. Be there for someone as a listening ear. Reach out if you need support. Live in community. Know you are never alone. #TeamExoSym
    6. Be YOU. Find the beauty in your strength. Wear bright colors. Show off your ExoSym. Be proud to be you. Embrace your uniqueness and everything that makes you, YOU! ☺
    7. Live Positive. I’m a firm believer that you can always find something good in every day, if you are willing to see it. (+ it’s a more fun way to live!) Choose to see the glass as half-full – and watch your day unfold. Keep looking up!
    8. Keep the Faith. Trust the path that God has prepared for your life. Choose faith over worry and remember that He is with you every step of the way, every day. He is our strength. Trust Him. #Proverbs3:5
    9. Create a Mantra. Why do you wake up in the morning? What is your drive? Set a mission. Create a guiding mantra for your life. Ask yourself what steps you can take today to improve yourself and the lives of those around you. Live intentionally.
    10. Pay it Forward. Use what you’ve been through to help others. Find a way to pay it forward. Encourage the friend who is going through a tough time, inspire the person at the gym who feels like giving up, help a friend who is struggling with self-confidence to believe in herself again, spread the word about the device – you never know who you might be able to help. Don’t let an opportunity to make a difference pass you by.

Living ExoSymplyAmazing isn’t just a tag line, it’s a way of life. Practice gratitude. Pursue Your Passion. Set Goals. Share Your Journey. Connect with other ExoSym buddies. Be YOU. Live Positive. Keep the Faith. Create a Mantra. Pay it Forward.

ExoSymplyCycling

Life is what you make it. #livehappy

Make it a great week, everyone and never forget how amazing you are! Let me know if you need me to remind you. ☺

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

Not Just Some Brace.

Last night, as I was eating pizza with my friends after a grueling CrossFit workout, a server came up to our table, stared me up and down and said, “Is that the real deal (prosthetic) or is it just some brace?” I’m sure this person meant no ill will with his intent, but words “just some brace” struck a chord. As someone who is going on three years in the ExoSym (IDEO) this fall, this is not “just some brace.” In fact, it’s not a brace, it’s a device and an incredible piece of technology — and it is me. After hearing my reply that I still had my leg, the gentleman turned around and walked off before I could explain further and I thought to myself, “If you only knew…”

To think how far I’ve come in “just some brace” and how it has transformed my life is pretty ExoSymplyAmazing.  Hard to put into words at times. As dinner carried on, I thought to myself: (1) I can let this person’s comment get to me or (2) I can choose to remind myself of who I am and how far I’ve come and will continue to go. ⋆ Here’s the thing: You can’t change what people will say or think about you, but you do have the power to choose your response to them. Instead of letting someone’s judgements rattle you, choose to let it be an opportunity to let that inner light shine. Release your strong overcoming spirit. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of who YOU ARE and it won’t matter what anyone says to you or looks at you like – because you know YOUR journey. YOU are an overcomer and YOU walk that road every day. ♥

So, carry on my friends. Keep your head up and remember who you are.  Stay strong. Be brave. Be bold. Be proud to be you.

{Oh and sir, in case you were wondering, in “just some brace”, I just did 48 box jumps (4 sets of 12),  300 jump ropes (3 sets of 100), 36 kipping pull-ups (3 sets of 12), 800m sprints (4 sets of 200m), 18 power snatches (3 sets of 6), 42 deadlifts (7 sets of 6), 48 situps (4 sets of 12) and 70 burpees (7 sets of 10). And that was just today}. ☺ #letyourlightshine

Next up on the 2016 ExoSym Bucket List, I’ll be competing in the Catalyst Games (a 3-day team CrossFit competition in Austin, TX next Fri-Sun) and only four weeks left until ExoSym Patient Liz E. & I ride in the Hotter than Hell 100mi bike race! Always have a goal. Always believe in yourself.

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAmazing

inspiration for those hard days.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July! Mine was filled with running so it was pretty ExoSymplyAmazing!

I was asked by fellow Hanger Clinic ExoSym patient Liz Edwards, to write a post about how to deal with the “hard days”, because let’s be honest, with our injuries and conditions, we all face difficult days. It’s just a part of life. So whether you are just getting the device or you’ve had it for some time, I’d like to offer up some inspiration and advice for when you face setbacks, struggles or just a plain old rough day. In order to do this, I think it will help if I go back to the early days of receiving my device.

When I first got the ExoSym (about 2.5 years ago), it had been well over two years since I had walked without pain or really walked at all. While extremely challenging to see my life changing that quickly from my injury, it was also very disheartening to be that immobile & living in debilitating pain at such a young age. To get through those times, I always believed for better days, never losing hope. When I received the ExoSym in 2013, I, like many of you, not only had to re-learn to walk with a normal gait, but also how to use the device and develop skills to keep me moving forward. I talk about all the awesome days at the clinic, but I want you to know I, too, had training days where I pushed myself too hard and had to rest (if Jared’s ever told you to take it slow, that’s because of me… ☺). I had aches and pains because of how I had overcompensated for so long and I had forgotten how to walk normally. Because of my nerve condition, my leg is very sensitive to pressure changes and kind Ryan adjusted my device more times than I can count (so thankful for his patience!). At the end of the sessions, I would go back and rest in my hotel room at night and wake up and do it all again the next day. But guess what? I kept moving forward. Little by little, every day, I began to see progress. Ryan always told me to “trust the process” and he was right (/when is Ryan ever wrong?!). I’ll still never forget the day I ran for the first time at the clinic. That moment will live with me forever.

When I returned back home to Texas, I joined an outdoor boot camp to build on my core strength, started gradually running (I was really slow & had to walk a lot, but it didn’t matter to me, because I was moving!), and kept up my daily PT exercises.  I started to see the ExoSym as an extension of myself – not just a device that I wore, but literally as my new leg and with that came the understanding that I needed to learn to be one with it. #weateam As an athlete, I know what it’s like to feel sore & tired and with the device you’re not only learning to walk/run again, but your body is learning to adapt & recover as well. With all the things I began to take part in again – walking, running, biking, jumping, etc, I had forgotten that my body had been dormant & overcompensating for the injury for the last several years and I realized that I really needed to remember how far I had come… and not forget to continue working on mobility and stretching exercises from the clinic and that is something I still take time to focus on today. (love my pink foam roller and green lacrosse ball — colors make it more fun I promise!) From there I gradually increased my stamina & endurance and kept “trusting the process.” Within a year I began training for an endurance multisport adventure, another year later a half marathon, then I jumped into CrossFit and more endurance events which is where I am today. And nowhere along this journey was it a straight line easy ride to the top. I had setbacks and I still do experience them, but I choose not to dwell on them, I keep moving forward.

What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to have hard days. The key is not to get discouraged, but instead keep looking forward. Keep looking up. Keep goals in your future and always have something to look forward to on the calendar – it will keep you motivated. I continue to stay focused with my mobility work & listen to my body and know when I’ve done too much and need to give it rest (well still working on that rest part haha…). I am active six out of seven days of the week working hard & living ExoSymplyAmazing, but it doesn’t mean life is a chocolate covered sprinkled cupcake. I have hard days too.  It’s a learning process. It’s a mindset. I work really hard at my fitness & have accomplished some cool things & I do it because I love it, but I want you to know not every day is sunshine and rainbows. In life, in order to push yourself to new levels, you are going to face hard times, but you can’t let that deter you. There are going to be days when you have pain, your energy levels are low when you’re out for a run, your shoe breaks, people give you weird looks, or you may feel like you aren’t making as quick of progress as someone else, but it’s in those moments when you need to stop and take a moment and look back at how far YOU’VE come. Trust YOUR journey. Trust the process. Overcoming challenges reminds us we can keep moving forward, but hard days remind us of who we are. Never forget that you can do anything you set your mind to as long as you never give up.

Live strong my friends, believe in yourself and keep moving forward. ♥ #TeamExoSym

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

Looking into Getting the ExoSym?

*Updated May 2017

Happy Friday Everyone! I’ve received quite a few emails from people looking into getting the ExoSym and because many of their questions are similar in nature, I figured it would be a good topic for today. If you have an ExoSym (IDEO) device, feel free to add in your thoughts as well!

Note:  The views expressed in this post do not represent the thoughts or intentions of the Hanger Clinic. I am just a patient & these are solely my opinions.

Q1: Is the ExoSym comfortable? Yes! It actually really is comfortable. The device is molded to your leg so it fits like a glove.

Q2: Is the ExoSym durable / long-lasting? Yes! I’ve had mine going on close to 4 years now and it has weathered many an adventure — which is why I named it “Old Faithful”. ☺

Q3: Is the test device a good indicator of how the actual device will feel? Yes and no. Understand that the actual device will be made of carbon fiber and much, much stronger than the test device — but the test device (which will be custom molded to your leg) will give you a good indication of whether the actual device will work for you. I knew after trying on the test device that it was going to change my life.

Q4: Is it worth the cost if my insurance doesn’t approve it? For me, absolutely x100. This device changed my life and I would be on an entirely different path if it wasn’t for the ExoSym. To live without chronic pain is something you just can’t put a price on. If the device works for you, I would recommend doing everything you can to get it. Note: I don’t know much about the insurance side of things so can’t be a good speaker for that, but I’ve met several patients whose devices have been covered by their insurance. I think it depends on each person’s injury / condition and their insurance plan.

Q5: Is there anything you’ve found you can’t do in it? Actually, no! So far in my device, I’ve completed a 120 mile adventure race, run countless 5-10K races, a half-marathon, ice skating, road cycling & mountain biking (including a 100 mile century ride), swimming, CrossFit, Camp Gladiator, hiking, kickball, dodgeball, rock climbing, kayaking, horse back riding…and even a 24hr multisport adventure race in 2016. ☺

Q6: Is running in it hard? It’s different. Since the ankle is locked in place in the device, running is not necessarily harder in it, just different. Before my injury, I used to be a more long-strided runner, but in the ExoSym, it helps to take quicker steps (I strive for a 90 cadence). I learned to run in the device fairly quickly during the physical therapy — it came pretty naturally to me and it’s my favorite thing to do. I’ve even placed in races against uninjured athletes and oftentimes I place at the top in my workouts at my gym (& I am only sharing this to help you see that the device is that incredible! What you put into it, you get out.).

Q7: Can you drive in it? Yes, my device is on my right leg and I have no issues driving with it.

Q8: Do you wear it all the time? Yes, just mainly take it off to shower and sleep. Do you ever sleep in it? Occasionally. I used to more when I first got it, but not as often anymore.

Q9: When I travel to the clinic, where should I stay? There are a lot of options of places to stay in the cute little town of Gig Harbor, WA. I personally enjoy staying at the Best Western Wesley Inn because of the close proximity to the clinic, free continental breakfast, friendly staff and 24hr coffee (#ineedcoffee) but I know others have done airb&b or the Inn at Gig Harbor. I believe the Hanger Clinic has a more robust list of accommodation options in the area so once you get closer to making your travel arrangements, make sure to check with the clinic to get a larger encompassing list (& discounts for local hotels). Gig Harbor is a beautiful town with really friendly people – I love it there. Every time I return for a visit to the clinic I feel like I’m going back to my home away from home.

Q10: What is the physical therapy / training like at the clinic? The physical therapy program is very unique. The onsite PT (he is amazing!) works very closely with the patients from teaching you how to walk & run in the device to everyday encounters like how to jump, get up and down stairs and various elevation changes both indoor and outdoor. The PT program is comprised of core & stability work, balance, mobility exercises, strength training – all tailored to each person’s specific conditions and needs. Everyday will build on itself and it’s really important to come ready to work (aka bring your workout clothes)! The PT program is challenging but extremely important for success in the device. What you put into it, you truly get out. You will learn a lot and Ryan will be around to monitor your progress throughout the week & make adjustments to your device as needed. There may be other ExoSym patients getting their devices at the same time you are there, so you’ll probably get to meet other patients which is always fun. (yay ExoSym buddies!)

Q11: What should I bring? As mentioned above, you’re definitely going to want to have athletic clothes for the physical therapy as well as for the fitting of the test device (shorts, tshirt, etc).

Q12: Should I buy new shoes before I go? You may want to wait on buying new shoes until after you are fitted for the device. You’ll want to see how the device fits into your current shoes. That being said, if you have athletic shoes, make sure to bring or wear those when you initially come so that you have something to start with. Once you get your device, the Hanger Clinic will give you advice on shoes and places to shop in the area. (My personal favorite — South Sound Running!). To add to this, I would wait on buying compression socks too. Ryan will give you some to start with so no need to buy a bunch before you go.

Q13: Can I wear dress shoes with the ExoSym? Some people can! I think it really depends on the person and condition / injury. I personally have to stick to running shoes and hiking boots for the support and sizing but I have met quite a few patients who have been able to fit their device into dress shoes. I think it really depends on each person’s unique situation. (but have no fear, there are still lots of styling options as you may have seen from my blog!)

Q14: What about repairs to the device? How does that work? Even though I live out-of-state, I travel back every now and then to the clinic to get things worked on (I’m a bit extreme on my activity level & I like visiting the clinic ☺) but you can also mail your device if anything ever needs to be fixed (I use UPS). The great thing about becoming a patient of the clinic is that it’s not like you get fitted for the device and they tell you, “Bye, good luck!”. When you get your device, you are a patient for life and the clinic is only a call/text/email a way if you ever have a question or concern. Ryan himself is an incredibly dedicated person and he definitely goes above and beyond to help his patients. The Hanger Clinic is in it with you for the long haul — and they are dedicated to helping you succeed. I’ve never met more caring and passionate people.

Q15: How do I start the process of trying to see if the ExoSym will work for me? Will my insurance approve the device? I would start by contacting the Hanger Clinic to tell them about yourself and your condition. They will be able to help you with your questions & next steps.

Phone: 253-572-7478

Email: exosym@hanger.com

Web address: http://www.hangerclinic.com/locations/Pages/Gig-Harbor-WA.aspx

Q16: How can I get connected with other ExoSym patients? Join the ExoSym / IDEO Facebook group or follow me on Instagram @exosymplyamazing where I highlight ExoSym patients doing #exosymplyamazing things!

Q17: Is the ExoSym available in the UK / outside the USA? As far as I know, the ExoSym is only provided in the USA at the Hanger Clinic Specialty Center in Gig Harbor, WA.

Q18: Where can I find more information about the ExoSym? http://www.hangerclinic.com/bracing-support/adult-le/Pages/Limb-Salvage-ExoSym.aspx

Q19: Now that you’ve had the device for nearly four years, if you could go back in time, would you make the same decision to get the ExoSym again? 10000000x yes.

***

I hope this information has been helpful. I can truthfully say that I wouldn’t have made / continue to write these stories & resources if I didn’t believe in the device so much. Both the Hanger Clinic & ExoSym are truly life changing and I wouldn’t be where I am today without these people and this device. I can speak from experience that if the device works for you, it will truly change your life. ♥

#beYOU #beAMAZING #ExoSymplyAMAZING

The Hanger Clinic - Gig Harbor

The Hanger Clinic – Gig Harbor, WA