Jenny Christman is a 30-year old female snowboarder and mountain biker hailing from eastern Pennsylvania. By career, she is a physical therapist assistant specializing in out-patient orthopedic and neurological physical therapy.
She is a team snowboarder for Big Boulder Park, one of the best terrain parks on the east coast. Not only that, but she is also a brand ambassador for SheShreds, helping to connect likeminded females in outdoor adventure sports.
She is married to her best friend, Jared, who also loves to shred. Together, they have three furbabies: a chocolate lab named Brody, and two cats, Mazie and Lovie.
FOLLOW JENNY ON IG: @jennerrrrs
PHOTOS COURTESY OF: @jaysquatchman
Q&A with Jennifer
1) Can you share your ACL story?
On February 3rd, 2018, one of my biggest fears in snowboarding reared it's ugly head on a beautiful, bluebird day at Big Boulder Park. I had been riding strong all morning and we were lapping my favorite trail, named Love.
I had been rotating off the 30 foot jump all morning without an issue, but as soon as the sun rose above the treeline and settled on the jump, conditions changed slightly and the snow became slower than earlier that morning. I didn't think much of it, and dropped in full speed to spin backwards in 360 degree rotation, also known as a "Back 360" which I had landed plenty of times before.
But this time, I didn't have the speed and ended up traveling in the air way too far to the right, coming up short on the choppy landing. I landed hard on my extended left leg, instantly forcing my knee into abrupt hyperextension and severing my ACL. The intense jolt of pain on impact was deafening, but what hurt the most was instantly knowing in my heart that my season was done. I can't begin to describe the heartbreak I felt having had to realize that, but I decided to own it instead of be owned.
2) What was the hardest part of the recovery?
The hardest part of recovery wasn't the physical aspect. Being a PTA and working in the post-op medical field of rehabilitation, I knew the long process of surgery and healing that was ahead of me. I knew I would be strong enough to overcome the physical challenges before me. Hands down, the hardest part of recovery was the mental aspect and having to accept that I would be missing out on my active lifestyle. Watching all my friends have fun out in the snow was a true heart test, knowing I couldn't be out there having fun as well. It was so difficult to sit on the couch and find other ways to occupy myself when all I wanted to do was be outside doing what I loved to do. My heart ached to be back in the mountains which is, inherently, such a huge part of me and my identity. I was forced to re-identify myself, my relevance, and my self-worth.
3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?
During my recovery, I stayed motivated by celebrating all the small victories. I took pride in being able to stand and weight bear through my leg again, to ditch the crutches when I was able to. Heck, even carrying my own cup of coffee to the couch called for a awkward, one-legged happy dance. Overcoming every little hurdle was a huge accomplishment, and it fueled me to keep pushing myself to get stronger and progress. I exercised every day, cleaned up my diet, focused on healing and found other outlets to pass my time. I read a ton of books and educated myself on everything I needed to know in order to heal properly. Every little step motivated me and brought me closer to my goals of returning to work, to riding my bike, to lifting weights again, and ultimately, to strapping back into my snowboard.
4) What advice would you share with other athletes?
My advice to other athletes going through the same thing is to stay positive and celebrate every small step. I'd read every article, every book, watch every documentary, read every athlete ACL story you can find, and maintain good relationships with your doctors and physical therapists in order to be one step ahead of the recovery process. Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'd find an outlet to help you heal, whatever that may be. You may find out that you are much more than what you previously identified yourself as. Practice perspectivism and gratitude, stay humble and put in the work because you can come back stronger than ever... I am living proof of that.
5) Do you think this experience changed you in any way?
This whole experience did, indeed, change me as a person and for the better. I have learned so much - everything from patience, to humility, to honoring and respecting your body through the healing process. I've learned that you cannot underestimate yourself, your willpower, determination or your heart because if you want it bad enough, there will be no excuses made and you WILL rise above it all. I've learned that nutrition goes hand in hand with healing; that exercising, regaining and maintaining your strength really is a key component in the entire process. Most importantly, I've learned our minds are a fantastic tool and staying positive, adaptable and grateful are the grounding factors in a healthy recovery. You can do anything you put your mind to, and you can overcome any obstacle with the right mindset. Rise above and conquer!
Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story with athletes across the globe!
SPECIAL THANKS TO JENNIFER’S RECOVERY TEAM:
DR. GABRIEL LEWULLIS, ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK
JOEL NINOS, PHYSIOTHERAPIST, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK REHABILITATION
ERIC SEWALD, PHYSIOTHERAPIST ASSISTANT, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK REHABILITATION