Abbie Vos is passionate about skiing and running and enjoyed an injury-free life, until she was faced with a devastating ACL tear, followed by a broken toe on the same leg. Despite this, she continues to be positive, and shares how this injury has changed her mindset for the better.
follow her on instagram: @apegan.
Q&A with Abbie Vos
1) Can you share your ACL story?
In February 2018, I was in Davos Switzerland enjoying the gorgeous ski scene when a snowstorm popped up, making visibility difficult. It was scary as the runs are much narrower than in the USA so I was really scared about making it down without tumbling off of the side of a cliff. Since I was scared, I tensed up and fell – hearing a “pop” in my knee on the way down. I knew enough to quit skiing right then and there, but didn’t think much more was wrong other than the need for ice and rest. Fast forward two months and I noticed I was still having trouble sitting in certain positions and while stretching, but I was continuing my four-day-a-week workouts. I went to the doctor, not expecting much to be wrong when I found out my ACL was 80 percent torn. I was devastated because I knew enough to realize that there was a loooooonnngg road ahead of me. I opted for a donor ligament total ACL reconstruction and the surgery took place on May 9th. Until this point I’d never had a medical issue or surgery aside from my wisdom teeth. It was surreal not to be able to walk and to rely so heavily on my husband and family. I was used to being strong and not needing anyone. All of that changed.
The first two weeks after surgery I rarely went outside. Showering was difficult and the fact that we’d recently moved to a third-floor condo without an elevator certainly didn’t help. I spent most of the time icing my leg or stretching it in a CPM machine for five hours per day. I took full advantage of the pain medicine – it really made the process so much less painful and took the edge off of being couch-ridden. But I was quick to wean off of them because they’re really addictive.
Within two weeks I was up walking around and looking back I probably pushed it way too hard and should have rested more. At the one-month mark I travelled to Portugal and spent the week trekking around the hilly streets of Porto and Lisbon. All-in-all it wasn’t too bad! Around this time I also started three days a week of physical therapy which helped immensely in getting my balance and strength back. At the two month mark I was climbing Chimney Rock and hiking around in North Carolina!
I was feeling pretty great about my progress and about ready to start running again when I ended up breaking my toe by walking into a chair while I was attempting to meditate in the sun. It took another four weeks but I was finally able to get back into running. I’ll admit that I was doing pretty well throughout the entire process but once I broke my toe I fell into a bit of depression. It was tough to have one small body part put my progress on hold. The broken toe may have been the worst part of it all!
2) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?
The hardest part of the experience was losing the function and freedom of my body that I’d taken for granted my entire life. It’s amazing how profound and humbling it is not to be able to do the things you once did.
3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?
I stayed motivated by trying to be nice to myself and allowing myself to have patience throughout the process. Physically active people are used to pushing through pain but when you’re recovering it isn’t an option. It is a long recovery so focusing on small victories will keep your mental attitude way more upbeat than having one giant goal (like running your pre-surgery mile time).
4) What advice can you share with other athletes recovering from ACL surgery? Do you have any tips/tricks?
Make sure you have a built-in support group of family and friends to help for the first two weeks as you’ll be pretty much bed-ridden. I also kept a journal to note my progress and track my activity, medications and nutrition during the healing process. It made me feel like I was doing something while I was doing nothing! My biggest advice is to be patient with yourself. This isn’t the time to prove you’re superhuman – right now its about healing and that’s perfectly okay!
5) Do you feel that this injury has changed you in any way?
Yes as I’m so much more humble and careful with my body. Before I’d cater to my ego by attempting ski runs above my level, hiking a scary ravine or cliff diving. Not anymore! I’m much more protective about my body now and willing to admit that I’m not in my 20s anymore without any shame. I’m also so much more grateful for the physical activity I am able to do. Before, I’d always have to be at the head of my spin class or lifting more weights than the average person in bootcamp class, now I listen to myself and workout for my own well-being, not for external validation.
Thank you Abbie for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!