We think we have so much control of our lives, and throughout my life I felt I did, never realizing that all of this is part of God's plan.
Had I not been fit at the time of the accident, I would have been paralyzed. I’ve been on a journey of rebuilding my life. My fitness and knowledge in how to move from my muscles has saved me and allowed me to get back to what I love to do. Using the principals and philosophies with which I educated my patients, I was able to rehabilitate myself rather than relying on drugs, therapists, and doctors “to cure” me. And in circular fashion, this additional knowledge on how to come back from my own personal injuries sustained from multiple sports and vehicles accidents, gave me deeper insight into the healing methods and therefore successes of my program for my patients injuries.
Raised a military brat, and traveling all over the world, I moved to Phoenix in 1973 and took my first job as a K-8th grade physical education and English teacher. I moved on to high school as a physical education and dance teacher, and coached multiple sports. My badminton teams won State championships. I developed a premier dance program from the ground floor. And personally, I was playing competitive tennis and running marathons.
At the time, I was coping with the injuries I sustained from being rear ended by a school bus, whose brakes had failed, when I was stopped at a light. As an active athlete, I endured ten years of back problems that started with that accident. With traditional physical therapy for three years that resulted in only temporary relief, I suffered from daily headaches, muscle and joint pain. I had difficulty moving without pain however, I continued to live my active lifestyle. Many doctors told me that my pain was “in my head.”
As for my career, I left teaching in 1984 to head up Aquatic, Aerobics and Executive Fitness testing at the Center for Sportsmedicine and Orthopedics. A huge complex, before it’s time, innovative in all aspects of sportsmedicine, CSMO was the home for physicians for the Phoenix Suns and Seattle Mariners, and high-level athletes all over the Valley, and the United States.
I started the Kinetic therapy program, at CSMO, which was the basis for my program today, when a physical therapist came to me with a patient who had posture problems as she knew I had a background in dance and movement. Under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Shelton, Registered Kinesiotherapist, my journey led me to learn what not to do in training athletes. His amazing wisdom inspired me to become a Registered Kinesiotherapist.
I would go on to work with the Phoenix Suns Basketball team, Harvey Glance and Calvin Smith - both past Olympian runners, the Phoenix Fire Department, Collegiate athletes, and major corporations developing injury prevention and back programs. I taught individuals and groups how to move, and connected them to their bodies. It was fun to be involved with a first class facility, building the programs from the ground up.
In 1987, while working at the Center, I continued an extremely active sports life. I was a mechanical disaster and an athlete who believed 'more is better', and 'no pain, no gain' as I continued to push myself in my sports. As a result, my back blew up forcing a lumbar surgery. My continued pain after surgery led me to research programs all over the country and begin work on my master’s degree, studying biomechanics and exercise physiology. Using myself as a guinea pig, I started on my path to get answers in relief of pain, and developed the Kinetic Therapy program at CSMO. This program eventually evolved into my present day Body Stabilization Training program.
At the same time of my back surgery, I went through a divorce. As a single mother of two, these two experiences have been the best things that taught me about determination and perseverance in coming back from adverse circumstances.
By 1991, I had gained formidable knowledge, experience and confidence that sparked an entrepreneurial interest that I didn’t realize I had. I left the Center to go into business for myself and established Body Stabilization Training, Inc. I teamed up with a physical therapist that did all of the Physical therapy, releasing tissue restrictions, while I retrained patients in how to move. We found this to be a winning combination in healing.
When you have an injury you have to get the stress out of the injured part by learning to move from opposite muscle groups. Only then does the injury truly heal. Because of my personal experience, backs and necks soon became my specialty.
Meanwhile, fitness continued to be an important and big part of my life. Running hurt my back so I began riding bicycles and doing short course triathlons, metric centuries, and centuries in 1989, and was very competitive. The Best Dam Bike Tour was my first big event, and I became hooked on cycling. Through cycling, I began racing on the road and criteriums. In 1995, in The Valley of the Sun Stage Race, a mutual friend, John Serra, who was on the Governors Council on Physical Fitness and Sports with me, was also a cycling coach in Tucson. He saw me race. I won the overall for my category, however after the race, John told me I was riding a bike that did not fit, my skills were all over the place, yet he could make me into a World Champion in the Individual Pursuit on the Velodrome with his expertise. I had no idea what a Velodrome was, much less what the pursuit was.
With his coaching, and my knowledge of connecting with my body, in my first year, I won the State Road Race, Time Trial and the Criterium. I am most proud that in 1996, my daughter won her first of four State Championships in swimming, and my son’s baseball team won a State championship. Together we were State Champions! And we were quite the busy family going in three different directions yet, it all worked!
While racing, I had multiple crashes and had a best friend who was an osteopath that specialized in structural manipulation. After every crash, my first stop was to see Dr. Deborah Heath, who always managed to put my parts back together. The combination of Deborah's work and my knowledge in how to move, allowed me to get the most out of my body. I had lots of success both on the Masters road and the track on the State, National and World level.
In 2000, when Misty Hyman was at the Olympics, I went to the Olympic Trials for cycling, competing in the 3000 meter individual pursuit, at 48 years old. With only three months of training before the trials, I finished 6th place overall out of 15 women half my age, who were all pros. This proved to me that training is not a function of quantity, rather quality, and certainly not a function of age.
In 2002, after taking a couple of years off, since I was turning 50, I got the bug to get back into racing. Unfortunately, in a stage race in April, in Parker, Arizona, a friend’s boyfriend noticed that my brakes weren’t level and asked me if he could fix it. I said yes. The next day, during the race, while we were descending fast, a rider got away from the pack and we responded to chase her down. Because my brakes were not lined up in a position I was used to, when I jumped, my center of gravity was too far forward which caused me to go over the handlebars and crash. Then a rider rode over my neck and another over my mid back. As I was lying on the ground, I knew I was seriously injured and punctured a lung, yet I did not panic. I administered my own first aid by focusing on my breathing. Since I was a diaphragm breather, I simply breathed from my tummy to take pressure off my ribcage movement, which caused me excruciating pain. An ambulance transported me to Parker’s ER. A tube was inserted into my lungs – I the passed out. I next awoke to find myselfat the Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix, after being airlifted from Parker. It was confirmed that, in fact, I did have a punctured lung and broken ribs.
In spite of the cycling accident, I still wanted to try to get ready for Masters Nationals in Colorado Springs that was four months away. My coach was Shaun Wallace, an English 3 time Olympian in the Individual Pursuit. I started sleeping in an altitude tent simulating 9000 feet elevation, to help my performance at altitude. It helped with my healing, and most certainly helped me in my event as I broke my own world record in the individual pursuit that I had set four years earlier. I got faster as I aged which I attribute to my body mechanic program. I went on to win two more World Championships, and set several world records. At worlds, I was the fastest woman overall in all age groups (30 to 50+) in the Individual Pursuit, and won Overall Best Rider.
I took some time off the track and started mountain bike racing. Unfortunately, I crashed on my head into a rock while on a training ride, and had to have a 3-level neck fusion in 2004. Two weeks after surgery, I was back teaching 10-11 hours a day of classes with a cervical collar on. From years of enduring back and neck issues, my program had already allowed me to know how to manage my afflictions, and allowed me to bounce back quickly to continue on with a very active lifestyle.
In 2007, I was in a new age group at 55. I began training to go back to race again to the World Masters Track championships especially since it was in Sydney, Australia. Because of my fusion, I had to raise my bars and the upright position certainly caused a drag on my speed. In any event, I was successful in winning both the 500 meter time trial, and the 2000 meter Individual Pursuit again.
Body Stabilization Training Inc., my physical therapy and kinesiotherapy company, continued to do well and grow. We got results with our three phase approach. In the first phase, the Physical Therapist would do the evaluation and manual therapy. In the second phase, my technicians applied a set of alignment exercises that I had learned from Pete Egsoscue. And in our third phase, I oversaw the body mechanic portion in retraining all of our patients in how to move.
Things were great. We had an awesome staff that grew to 11 employees. I expanded into giving more workshops, seminars and lectures to corporations, city departments, and businesses, in addition to my educational workshops for fitness professionals.
Business began to change with insurance reimbursements declining that resulted in closing the physical therapy part of my business at the end of 2010. Having to let go of my employees, I made the decision to focus my business efforts running fitness classes, and hosting training seminars and workshops for fitness professionals, and athletes.
Finding a smaller facility and starting the buildouts, I encountered problems with the lease and landlord. I pulled the lease to start over on my dream to make sure all was done correctly. After finding a temporary place to hold my classes, my plan was to finish the build out, and then move into this new facility.
During this time, I was training for The Race for the Cure, a short course triathalon. I was the cyclist on a pro team with Misty Hyman, Olympic Gold Medalist, as the swimmer; and Victoria Johnson, the runner, who was training for the Olympic trials. While on a training ride, a truck driver was going 50 MPH when he fell asleep, and drifted into the bike lane. I was thrown in the air 20 feet and came down on my butt, back, right shoulder and head. With a broken back in four places, injuries resulting in two knee surgeries, and trauma to my spinal cord, three things saved me - 1) My layers of clothing because of the cold day; 2) My fitness and muscle tone; and 3) God had another plan for me. I know of five people who have had the same accident hit from behind with a vehicle: three cyclists died, and one will never walk again.
My life truly changed in a heartbeat. You think you are going in one direction and have everything under control. Then you suffer severe trauma, and your whole life changes. I should not have survived that accident.
We all like to plan our lives. Usually what we plan, because we are organized and meticulous, works out. It certainly did for me for in my past 59 years. Every risk I’d taken, every new venture I’d tackled, paid off with success bigger than I could ever have imagined. Because of all of these experiences, I now realize that God had my back in all of my circumstances, and my faith in Him continues to grow.
At any moment, our lives can be taken away from us as it has been for so many cyclists, even defensive cyclists. Getting fit and back on the bike was a huge goal for me, no matter what my age. We each have a new opportunity every day when we get up to truly make a difference in someone’s life, and have a positive impact on those around us.
I am truly blessed to have that opportunity. My hope is for you to learn some things from your training that will truly be life changing to help you improve your skills in your sport or activity, to gain more success, yet most importantly, improve the quality of your life.
Blessings to you - good luck on your journey, Terry
While on a training ride Feb 3rd 2010, in a bike lane, riding south on Pima Road, one minute I was focusing on the time trial effort I was in, and my next thought was waking up on the ground, hurting from head to toe, wondering how did I get here. Life truly changes in a heartbeat!
I lay on the asphalt in excruciating pain, I knew my body was badly broken. A truck driver fell asleep at his wheel drifting into the bike lane at 50 mph. I was thrown in the air 20 feet, landing with 15 tons of force. I was knocked out. When I came to, I didn’t have a clue what was damaged yet I knew from the pain, not to move.
By the time all the assessments were made, I had suffered four broken vertebrae, nerve and spinal cord damage, and severe gluteus trauma from landing on my rear end, knee damage, massive bruising and head injury. In the coming months, I endured the Michelin Man back brace, bilateral knee surgeries, and I was in endless pursuit of pain relief. I lost muscle tone, fitness, and my optimistic spirit, and with that, my identity.
By moving efficiently, make your life an exercise routine! Your body management skills will fix your aches and pain, and help you take any sport to the next level.
Copyright 2016. Robert Westerman Photography, Racing Photos by Michael Gladu. Website Design By Avadium.