Editor’s Note: The people I meet are easily the best part of running Born Fitness. Every day I experience inspiration that proves real people can accomplish amazing things. These are their stories. Let them inspire you to live your best life. -AB
People just love playing word games with themselves and each other. When you work in the health and fitness industry, you often encounter the word “change.” You could argue that it’s the most common word you hear.
“I want to change.”
Do it because you can do it. It’s your life, your health, you don’t want to not try.
“I need to change.”
“I’m afraid to change.”
“Why is it so hard to change?”
Change in habit. Change in physique. Change in health. Change in mindset. Change is hard for a lot of people because admitting you need to change is admitting failure.
In other words, you were wrong.
Now there’s a word, “wrong.”
Some folks have a serious problem with being wrong. You can also add that change is all sorts of unpleasant words, from “painful” to “intimidating” to “[insert preferred profanity here].”
Simple words dictate our actions, and that explains the lack of change we see again and again. People start, people quit. Some never start at all.
If you’ve had a hard time getting the change you want – in habit, physique, health, and mindset – it’s time you met Lindy Cunningham and her husband, Chad. She’s thirty-two, he’s thirty-one. They have a two-year-old son and live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Not long after their son’s birth, they decided together to make some changes.
Lindy wanted to dump the baby fat and get back to her pre-marriage weight. Chad wanted to gain weight and get back in shape; he’d had a recent bout with mono and had lost 30 pounds.
Like most folks, they were jarred by the sudden change – adjusting their eating style, upping activity, logging workouts. But both of them had been athletes in high school. They stuck with it.
Chad found it amusing that he had a harder time gaining weight than Lindy had losing it. Six months passed. Their son grew. Their bodies changed. They found change – or dedication to change – to be a good thing. Lindy was 5 pounds away from her goal weight.
Then everything changed.
Falling Down and Getting Up
On a ski getaway in Jackson Hole in January 2013, near the bottom of a long run where several trails filtered together, Lindy hit an ice patch or caught an edge – no one is quite sure – and she fell. She slid to the edge of the trail and hit a signpost, back-first.
“Nothing crazy,” Chad says. “Nothing fast. It just happened.”
“It” was a life-altering moment: Lindy had a burst fracture in her C5 and C6 vertebrae, which is technical terminology meaning the bones in her lower neck shattered and damaged her spinal cord.
She was paralyzed from the armpits down.
Lindy sums it up this way: “Being young, being married to someone I was just crazy about, having a baby, being close to a six month goal when it happened, the only word that touches it would be sorrow.”
Lindy, however, would not stand pat on that word. She had lung function, so she didn’t need breathing help. Her brain was fine, as well. That made everything else a work in progress, and a goal to strive for.
She has impaired arm function – her biceps work, but her triceps run at about 10 percent. Her finger dexterity is sketchy, but she can grasp things.
In July 2014, after 18 months of almost daily PT, she graduated to walking therapy assisted with harnesses. But no one knows if she’ll ever truly walk again.
“Who can tell how many thousands of hours she’s worked just to get to that point?” says Chad. “Or earlier on, to eat with an adapted fork. I don’t have anything to compare it to.”
But an interesting thing has happened in the last year and a half. All those negative terms we attach to change are still there, of course, and always will be.
Find Your Pulse
It turns out that Lindy’s approach to a new and difficult daily life isn’t all that different from the approach she first took to lose her baby weight and get results. And that fact alone has made a monumental difference not just to her own well-being, but the mindset of everyone around her.
You can hear the marvel in Chad’s voice as he describes it all.
“From the whole time it happened, the moment I found her, to the hospital, to now, Lindy’s never freaked out, never panicked. She was always good. She’s been kind and pleasant and positive and hopeful as you could ever want someone to be. She has bad days and bad times like anyone, but every day she works really hard, she’s good to whoever’s helping her, she’s nice to all her doctors and therapists and nurses. She does what they say and tries to do anything she can. She tries to help other people who have her injury. She tries to make the absolute best of it which for me and everybody else around her makes it doable.”
Lindy, true to form, deflects credit.
“How you approach a spinal injury depends on where you are in your life at the time – how are your relationships, etc. Fortunately, at the time I was surrounded by so many wonderful people. There was an incredible outpouring of love, support, and encouragement. That made it easier than a lot of people have it.”
Part of that support came from the man, who, despite her accident, still finds himself as Lindy’s trainer.
Immediately after the accident happened, Bornstein was interacting with Chad offering support and trying to find answers. And within a week of hearing the news, Bornstein wrote a bog post about her accident – ending with the hashtag “#BelieveInLindy.” It went viral.
Suddenly there were fundraisers. T-shirts. Posters. A Facebook page and endless hits on social media. And the Cunninghams found themselves buffeted on a wave of incredible and constant positive energy.
“It was a rallying central theme, what everyone circled around,” says Chad. “It was a really big deal for her recovery. Something like that helps you move forward, head towards something, and try to make things better.”
Bornstein still acts as a trainer and motivator, culminating in the Cunningham’s visiting Los Angeles when they were finally able to spend time together, after 2 years of interacting without ever meeting face-to-face.
Lindy’s workouts are a little different, of course. Each day, in fact, is one long workout. But Lindy says that one piece of advice from Bornstein stands out from the rest.
“Be strong and be relentless.” she says.
“That translates really well into a rehab situation. Do it because you can do it. It’s your life, your health, you don’t want to not try. You have to do everything you can to get the max, you know?”
As if that by itself isn’t enough, Chad puts her effort into even clearer perspective.
“You have to understand, the injury is like a nonstop 24/7 assault on your body between therapies and the sicknesses and infections and skin problems and urinary issues. It’s something all the time. To be able to work through all that and stay positive, it’s impressive.”
“For spinal cord injuries, so much of it is an emotional and mental battle,” Lindy says. “What Chad and I have discovered is we have so much to be thankful for. I’ve had positive results in my therapy and I’m learning to walk again. There’s so much joy to be had and things to look forward to.”
Their two year old son is a big part of that. “He’s an inspiration point for Lindy,” says Chad. “We laugh a lot.”
Building Unstoppable Motivation
Now … take a pause.
Let’s let some of this sink in.
First, we state the obvious: Lindy Cunnigham’s tale should serve as an inspiration to all, especially those perfectly mobile humans who use word games to get in the way of discovering real, positive change.
Second, and less obvious: Finally admit what’s really holding you back.
It’s not a word or collection of words.
It’s an emotion.
A corroded piece of consciousness. Fear? Resignation? Self-loathing?
We’re not regressing into word games just now. All people have their reasons and the real tragedy is allowing those reasons to rule. You can change.
Do it because you can.
Be strong. Be relentless.
And #BelieveinLindy. Doing so means that you believe in the power of you.
What’s Your Story?
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