My Athletic Journey (Part 2)

Big picture item:

Self-reflection is important. Be honest with yourself about where you can improve. You’re not perfect.


Part two of My Athletic Journey will cover the professional part of my career, including USATF National Championships in 2009. Again, I’ve told my “life” story many times, and the chronology of it is available in other areas of the internet, so I want to talk about stuff that has happened to get me here through a current, overall lesson lens.

In Part One, I mentioned my major back injury in 2007, and how the recovery and core strength gains I made changed me for the good and, from where I’m sitting, put me on the 2008 Olympic Team. Injuries are opportunities, and that has absolutely been true in my professional career.

Russ and I moved to Chula Vista the Fall after I graduated from Purdue (2009). In February-ish, Mike and I were doing some testing: Overhead forward shot throws as far as we could. Something felt really weird, and after some tests, I was told that I sprained a facet in my thoracic-lumbar junction (a bony vertebra process right in the middle of my back). I had excruciating pain if I tried to arch after that. My previous injuries were either overuse or things that had clear protocol to heal, and then I did this traumatic thing that didn’t seem to respond to anything but rest, and sometimes not even that. I didn’t throw for a month. Nothing seemed to work. I finally tried a fantastic sports acupuncture clinic in Ocean Beach, and the season was saved! I opened at 61.80m at the end of April, the second-best throw of my career at that point. I learned that rest is best and patience is worth it, and to be my own self-advocate as far as looking for new therapies sometimes. I also learned things about risk vs. reward in training programs (how to train smart). Do I need to measure a heavy overhead forward shotput throw? Probably not then, and definitely not anymore.

I tore my left anterior cruciate ligament at the Olympic Trials in 2012. In September, I went under the knife for my first ever major surgery: A bone-patella-bone ipsilateral ACL reconstruction. I had no idea what I was in for. No one could have prepared me for the weird physical extreme discomfort that surgery and the healing process can bring. Becoming accustomed to the sensations that accompany getting range of motion back and breaking up scar tissue is very weird. Trusting that things that feel completely abnormal are normal takes practice. I had never done lower extremity exercises beyond regular exercise before (no one ever taught me how NOT to tear my ACL), so the process of teaching my glutes how to fire and learning how my knees should move was incredibly rewarding. Realizing how deficient I had been in certain areas made me see the rest of my body differently too, and helped me focus on the details of training moving forward to protect my health. Rehabilitation-based exercises will give me confidence in throwing for the rest of my career.

In 2015, I was having the time of my life in the first half of the season. I threw 66.47m in May and won USAs with a big series for me and 64.91m. Then, my left shoulder was torn just after nationals. I may have had existing rotator cuff damage, but something beyond my control tore my labrum, and the rest of my season suffered. I managed to get 8th at World Championships and silver at PanAm Games, but the pain in my left shoulder prevented me from having much length in my right arm, and was a huge, painful negative in a lot of my training. Making the decision to have surgery to fix it in October 2015 put the Rio Olympics in jeopardy for me, but I knew how bitter I was becoming about the injury. That simply wasn’t good for my overall wellbeing, and I also knew that I couldn’t accomplish what I dreamed of while feeling how I did (physically and mentally). My 13th-place finish in Rio is still painful, but I know that I did my best with what I had. My entire left shoulder saga was a big lesson in the fact that life is sometimes not fair, but that we have control over our attitudes and actions.

My last little injury story is about the Spring of 2016. I drove home from Austin in early April, and somehow managed to impinge both a fat pad in my left knee and my right shoulder. I know the shoulder is from my right and left sides playing tug-of-war in my surgery recovery process, but the knee made any kind of explosive movement really painful, too. They were both fairly minor things, but also both prevented normal training for a while, and forced me to cancel plans I had made to compete in May. I’m glad. We adopted Maddie the Dog at the beginning of May, and I got to spend a solid seven weeks with her, bonding and helping her adjust to her new home (her third and forever one, but she didn’t know that at the time and was nervous). If I hadn’t been forced to rest, our bond might not be so close, and that’s irreplaceable to me. Family first.

PanAms and shoulder tape.jpg

PanAms 2015

note L shoulder KT tape.

Something I’ve been reminded of again in the last year or two is that change is my friend. New situations and ideas are stimulating, I think to everyone. I’ve never perceived change as stressful though, even when it maybe should have been.

Some Universities send their freshly-graduated seniors to USATF National Championships (eligibility is up, but they pay for the trip and often the athletes wear the school uniform). Not so with Purdue, which is fine, but was also scary at the time. I traveled with Russ to Eugene in 2009, but we stayed separate from each other (he with Adam, me in the Springfield Motel 6 alone). I borrowed my Mom’s car and drove it from Vancouver to save as much money as possible. My coach wasn’t with me. I had the craziest, most inconsistent series of my life, but I also PRed by 2.5 meters and started my post-collegiate career off with a second senior national championship. Relying on myself, it turned out, was scary but also awesome.

After one year of training with Ty Sevin as my coach, Jamie Myers as my strength coach, and Mike Hazle as my training partner, I experienced the magic of my 2010 season. A thrower’s first post-collegiate year is “supposed” to be really hard, but living in Chula Vista, where my then-boyfriend Russ also felt supported and motivated, prioritizing the thought process that 2010 WOULD be successful despite the odds, and finally getting enough sleep after college translated to all that change meaning amazing results and experiences.

The 2015 season might’ve ended with a surgery, but it was also fantastic in a lot of ways, because it was the first year I was fully back from ACL surgery (I competed in 2013 and 2014, but wearing my knee brace both seasons and with tentativeness). Going through a period of basically 2.5 years without a true full-on javelin throw and then having the success that I did at the beginning of 2015 blew my mind. I felt like a new thrower, because I kind of was after all that rehab and patience. I also had a new name, and similar to the stigma that the first year out of college is difficult, many throwers have struggled in their first season after tying the knot. Russ and I were fully aware of that, and vowed to each other that the Wingers would succeed in 2015. We both medaled at PanAms, won NACAC Senior Championships 9 years after we met at NACAC U-23’s, had great USAs performances, and roomed together at Worlds (and I, by no coincidence, had my best performance at a major).

Jamie Myers is my fantastic strength coach of almost a decade and reliable, honest friend. He has been my training and competition sounding board for as long as he has been in my life. So, when I was fairly devastated at the end of the 2017 season, having a debriefing conversation intermingled with motivated musings from both of us got me excited about the future again. We talked about how there is always room for improvement, for anyone, and that Dana Lyon, my good friend of 14 years, might be the perfect fit for a new technical coach. She was and is. Jamie and I discussed and continue to discuss shifting focus to exercises that actually address issues that I have and impact javelin performance rather than too much general stuff. It’s so fun to continually adapt. This felt like a huge leap, as it meant taking a lot more of an active role in planning my training than I ever had, and I had to practice that to be confident in it. It was a lot easier for me to trust Jamie and Dana than myself in the beginning of this new coaching and training process, but I absolutely love our teamwork now, and we all wholeheartedly believe in my abilities. It’s super fun to be reinvigorated by them.

That last bit leads me to the idea of finding your keepers. Build a community that continues to show up. People who make it obvious that they like you and want to be part of your life in positive ways. It helps a lot if you do that for them, too. Russ loved me through some of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, and helped me grow enormously in ways outside of athletics. Dana had already been popping into my USAFA practices for five years before I asked her to coach me, and has always been a light in my life. When I found out I tore my ACL, Jamie and Maggie (his wife, my lovely matron of honor) were my first friends who knew and comforted me with quality time together, since Russ was out of town. Chris Garcia has been an incredible resource and enthusiastic supporter ever since I first met him in 2011. There are many more on the personal side. Recognizing these keepers shouldn’t be difficult with just a little bit of self-reflection. Is it easy to be around them? Do you feel motivated to be better when you leave them or talk together? Is there enough laughter? It’s okay to have great relationships with the people you work with. You also have to learn to deal with people you don’t like, but your inner circle should inspire you, and probably vice-versa. Lift each other up.

One of the specific questions I got about this phase of life was, “How do you balance the need for income while training professionally?” As the need for income as an adult is a real thing that everyone deals with and a necessary factor in anyone’s journey through life, it feels appropriate to address that a little in this blog. Without income, I wouldn’t have been an athlete for close to a decade now. I sort of attempted to answer this question (about the business of track and field) in a podcast I recently participated in. This world of sponsorship, ambassadorship, prize money, and donations from family and fans/supporters is difficult and ever-changing, but can be a really fun challenge. The true answer to this question is that I never expected to make money as a professional javelin thrower, but I have. Part 2 of that answer is that I am very careful with my money, and have saved and invested a good chunk of it. I’ve had a couple of really good contracts and a couple of pretty good prize money years, and the way I treated that income fuels the thinner times. I’ve always been aware that income in this sport is fairly unpredictable (and had a few good mentors to clue me into that fact), so my strategy has been to support myself between income opportunities by saving. I don’t ever want to be unable to train the way I know works for me because I’m frantically running out of funds. So I save, and I hustle.

Changing my training in 2018 to a lot fewer hours per week means that I have more time to devote to other projects. Some of those generate income, while others might in the future. In the same way that change doesn’t cause me stress, a lack of consistent income doesn’t necessarily either, but that is only because I am just comfortable enough with how I save money when I have it coming in in bigger quantities. I am the perfect amount of comfortable financially and motivated to continue attracting income opportunities. I also enjoy compartmentalizing my life in this way: Training is when I’m fully devoted to just getting better, and the other hours in the day are spent working to support that time (and spent with Maddie the Dog). I’m a huge fan of people who work full-time and also compete in track and field. If I had to do that, I would embrace the challenge. Many people with “real” jobs work out regularly, so if your training is focused enough, what really is the difference? You can pursue multiple dreams at the same time, you just might need to be a really good communicator. Which I think we all should strive to be. But that’s another blog.

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the USOC and USATF for at least some of my financial stability. I have been part of the USATF Resident Athlete program at both the Chula Vista and Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centers for the entirety of my professional career. Training facility and sports medicine costs can be huge reasons that athletes (especially in the throws, I think) don’t last very long after college. I’m very grateful for these two organizations for lifting that burden for me. The coaching staff at the United States Air Force Academy has been very generous with their facilities and welcoming attitude for six years as well!

 Again, rapid-fire answers to the original question to wrap up!

“(College graduation) to present, how you became the athlete you are now, the steps that you took.”

1.       Be brave. I had no idea what this career would look like or how far it would go, but I was willing to embrace progress over perfection.

2.       Continually check in with and perhaps re-set goals. What’s working? What’s not? Has progress been completely derailed by injury? What goals can you set within that new framework?

3.       Have a companion. I can’t put into words how much I love my husband and his role in my career. (This doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, but mine is.)

4.       Keep having fun. This is related to checking in with goals. Enjoyment and passion should be goals, IMO.

5.       Celebrate. Too many people just bore through some of the things that should enrich life. The little moments are the big moments!

6.       Check your own ego. Javelin will humble you. Starting over is an opportunity to start better.

7.       Do something else, too. I didn’t realize how much I missed having other things in my life until I went to grad school. Grow in other ways alongside athletics.

8.       Take care of your body. Stretch a little every day. I go to the public gym just to go in the hot tub and steam room some days. Get as much sleep as you can. Recovery is everything.

My Athletic Journey (Part 1)

Two big things:

1.       Guts over Glamour. I’ve always trusted myself and what I think will work over what people might say or think I *should* do, even if I’ve stuck with certain things too long. The “best” coach or “best” program or most glitzy offerings were a) not available to me or b) not as attractive as opportunities that were right in front of me.

2.       Progress over Perfection. I was not the best in high school. I threw nowhere near as far as Erica Wheeler’s Washington State high school record or Madison Wiltrout’s national high school record. I never won NCAA Championships. But I kept pushing forward.

I’ve told the story of how I grew up to be a javelin thrower many times, but I want to describe some specific components of it that feel important to where my head is at right now. I have some takeaways from my childhood, the college recruiting process, and finding my way at Purdue that you might be interested in.

My Dad is not military (he’s a civil engineer), but we lived in seven different houses in three states before I entered fifth grade in Vancouver, Washington. We almost went to California again from there in the middle of my sophomore year, but he made the sacrifice to commute to the bay area instead so that I could finish high school in the same place. He later commuted to SeaTac for the same reasons.

I played tee ball as a tiny child with my brother in Seattle. I started softball and soccer when we lived in Hawaii. Craig and I were on a swim team together there, too. When we got back to the mainland, I added basketball as well. Spring of fifth grade was my first introduction to track and field via the adorable mown-into-the-hillside oval at Felida Elementary School. I played middle school volleyball but refused to dive on the floor. Sports were always my method of making friends after arriving in a new place. I used to take PE so seriously that I would wear athletic shorts underneath my jeans in 6th grade, when we weren’t required to dress down, but I WANTED to. This was just before breakaway sweatpants were invented. I would have been their ideal customer.

Towards the end of middle school, a few things happened that pointed me toward individual sports. A coaching blunder during a premier soccer team’s semi-final match that allowed me to be in goal briefly (as NOT a trained goalie) and get scored on, causing the team to lose 1-0, resulted in my own enormous guilt and vicious beratement by teammates. I hadn’t been on their team all year (had only been a practice body during the playoff season), but I caused their downfall. They hated me that day, and while I recognized very quickly that I didn’t deserve that anger (thanks for all those wise car conversations, Mom!), the experience was powerful. Similar toxic behavior had been happening on my softball team for years, plus I was terrible at batting, so I quit and tried track and field in the spring of 8th grade instead (middle distance, high jump and just a little bit of discus).

My high school sports were swimming, basketball, and track and field, which I won letters for all four years. I also sang in the concert choir sophomore year with my brother, and took German because he had done so (and ended up loving it and still using those skills to this day). Honors classes included English, history, and eventually calculus. My high school was young when I was there! I was the first-ever individual state champion for Skyview in 2002. I was a decent post player, but I’m sure I only got to go to the state basketball tournament with the Varsity team freshman year because I had finally grown and was a good teammate. Swimming is the hardest sport I’ve ever done, and the women I befriended in that pool are a few of my soulmates. I used to run a few days a week before school during swimming season to stay ready for the land sport of basketball.

My takeaway from playing lots of different sports, prioritizing academics and other extracurriculars as well, and moving a lot growing up, is to stay flexible and multi-faceted. After learning to adapt to new environments and people as a kid, I was not only brave enough to go across the country for college, but I now travel the world by myself. I absolutely credit my longevity in the javelin to being a multi-sport athlete growing up, and recognizing the value (read: fun) in participating in various activities (athletic or otherwise).

I thought that my best shot at a college scholarship would be division 2 basketball, but once I picked up the javelin, I realized what a blast it was to put effort in and see results come out. I had tastes of that control in swimming, but a natural knack for the event made my experience on the runway even better. My college recruiting process started the summer before senior year of high school. I had won two state javelin championships at that point, and had met Lindsey Blaine that spring at the Pasco Invitational. She told me the day we met that she was going to Purdue University, a place I had never heard of before! I set up official visits that fall to University of Washington, Stanford, University of Missouri, and Purdue.

Becoming a Husky would’ve kept me really close to home, and I wanted to expand my horizons. Stanford obviously has prestige, but I wasn’t thrilled with the high-pressure situation I experienced on my visit there. I liked the coach and feel at Missouri, but I would have had no training partners. Lindsey was my hostess on my official visit to Purdue and became my fantastic training partner, there were four other female throwers in her grade on the team, Coach Rodney Zuyderwyk is exactly the kind of quiet-but-awesomely-motivating person I gravitate toward, and I really liked the big university in an isolated midwestern town. I also had no idea what I wanted to study, so the wide variety of highly-acclaimed academic programs at Purdue was attractive!

I did not get a full ride to Purdue. I only earned 100% scholarship during my final year as a Boilermaker (after making the 2008 Olympic Team). But where there wasn’t money, there was an excellent team atmosphere, great training partners, and the absolute best collegiate coach there could have been for me.

My parents and high school boyfriend were the people I talked to the most about where I wanted to go to school. Looking back, I can’t remember having any conversations with my high school coaches about my decision, which doesn’t seem that weird now: My parents and the boyfriend, plus some good friends, knew me best. I had always compartmentalized my sports (the only one that got anywhere close to year-round was basketball), so relying on those who knew me more completely felt more natural and reliable. The takeaway here is that trusting yourself is really important. Rely on yourself and just a few select others. It gets really easy to be overwhelmed and distracted when you solicit lots of opinions, especially when only the opinions of those closest to you (who have your best interests at heart) really matter in the long run. Do your due diligence in the form of research, of course, but ultimately, your decisions are up to you.

Lindsey and Coach Z. were such huge factors in my success in college and beyond, and an in-depth look at that deserves its own blog post. I think college athletics dynamics can be so challenging, and I’d love to share more about the ups and downs of my experience with these two leaders guiding me. Sometime. 😊

Lindsey and I at NCAAs 2006!

Lindsey and I at NCAAs 2006!

My third biggest takeaway of this first part of my athletic journey (I’m cutting this blog off at college) is to set big goals. I recently went through a box of stuff at my parents’ house, and I had forgotten just how early I started doing this. One of the many reasons I wanted to go to Purdue was that the school record had been an American Record when it was set (60.06m by Serene Ross). My high school PR was 48.64m. That precedent of excellent javelin throwing provided an automatic lofty goal. I hurt my back really badly in 2007, but had had enough success in the javelin before then to indicate (to me and Coach Z. at least) that the Beijing Olympics were a possibility in just the next year. I had to improve by more than five meters to hit the Olympic standard, in the year after a major back injury. An arbitrary-but-huge goal I decided on during the rehab phase of that injury was that I would have the best abs in the NCAA, haha. I don’t have the genes to display a ripped 6-pack unless I’m really restricting my caloric intake, but that thought process contributed to my serious commitment to extra rehab and core work, which for sure was a big reason I could throw much further and make that first Olympic Team.

Olympic Trials 2008

Olympic Trials 2008

Part of setting big, giant goals is believing in yourself first, but also having people around you who believe, too (see takeaway number 2). In that box I just went through at my parents’ house, I found a piece of paper Russ made for me during that 2007-2008 push to the Olympics. I used to make elaborate colored goal sheets that I hung around my room as constant reminders of where I wanted to go. He took the initiative to make me one because he not only had similar goals, but wanted to support me in my process. Set big goals, figure out which steps to take to get you there, and bring your loved ones along on the journey.


I’m going to kind of quick-fire answer the question that sparked this two-part blog series in closing. Stay tuned after that for part 2 (post-collegiate, next week)!

Q: Beginning to present, how you became the athlete you are now, the steps that you took.


1.       Was active in general. My brother and I were always outside.

2.       Tried lots of stuff. Many sports, many activities. New things.

3.       Talked about my path with loved ones. Spent so much time with Mom in the car and at the kitchen table, and recognized through his actions that Dad saw strength and potential in me.

4.       Kept it fun. Loved the people I was around and the excellent coaches I had through high school. If I didn’t love it, I looked elsewhere.

5.       Committed. Once I decided on Purdue, I was all in to that system.

6.       Listened and learned. When I had setbacks, I realized that I wasn’t equipped to deal with them yet, so relied on those who were prepared and willing to help.

7.       Worked really hard. Why would you not, when you’re able?

8.       Was grateful. Coach Z. learned right along with me as we developed my technique. Lindsey was such a leader in ways that she doesn’t even really know I appreciate. Other roommates and teammates were incredibly supportive. I tried to be as great to other people as they were to me.

There will always be more. But that’s all for now!

How to Return from Injury (Injuries, Pt. 3)

Months of hard work, unfortunately, don’t automatically translate into spectacular performances! Returning to sport can be difficult, but as long as you have done what your rehab required of you (and have learned to be brave along the way), you’re ready. Participating in your sport again can be scary, but I bet you’ll feel more exhilarated to be back than nervous about what could happen. That’s always how I’ve felt!

1.       Trust your rehab.

You don’t do rehab to go back to sport and think about every movement you make! You do rehab to teach your body to move correctly, and do enough of it that those movements become second nature. Then, when you’re playing your sport again, being your best is all you have to think about. Some people itch to get back on the field (or whatever), and other people get obsessive about the rehab process. I’m somewhere in between! Wherever you fall on the patience/impatience or rehab like/dislike spectrum, the hours and hours of teaching your body how to move should always be your secret mental weapon. When preparing to re-enter the sports world after injury, my strength has always come from knowing how hard I worked in physical therapy, and trusting the people I chose to work with and the strength I built to do its job.

The great Chris Garcia told me during my ACL rehab, “You’re not 100% until you’re 100%.” I have video of the first time I threw with any speed beyond a walk again after knee surgery, and the joy is contagious. I almost cried. The javelin went probably 40 meters. Everyone starts somewhere when returning to sport: Keep all of the hard rehab work in mind and approach re-learning your event in the same way. Little victories add up to all-of-a-sudden being 100%. The magic moment when you execute a movement that might have been what injured you or what has been hurting throughout the healing process will surprise you, and then you’ll want more. That’s when you know you’re back!

2.       Continue your rehab.

I did twice-weekly intensive knee rehab sessions all the way through the 2014 season. I have one or two knee rehab exercises in every single warm-up I do in my training. On recovery days, I throw shoulder and knee rehab stuff into my routine. Recovery for the specific joints that have given me trouble in the past is always top priority. My right shoulder developed an impingement after my left shoulder surgery, so rehab on both continues to be part of my regular routine.

Adding rehab exercises on top of your regular training can mean you get overtrained. Talk to your coach and develop a system to build rehab into training! It’s incredibly important, and there are ways to make rehabilitation exercises sport-specific, even if that just means you’re thinking about how to correctly move a joint while doing a tried-and-true drill. I’ve done it both ways (rehab as extra hours of training and incorporated rehab), and I much prefer making healthy movements part of my normal day (see my Instagram story for examples of this). Reminding your body how to move correctly and THEN asking it to perform your sport means you have a better chance at staying healthy: You’ll recruit the correct muscle groups, meaning your movements are also more powerful. Translation? You’ll probably be a better athlete. Rehab is life.

3.       Recover.

Recovery is always important. It’s really easy, once you feel like yourself again, to forget this lesson. Lots of sleep, ice/ice baths, other forms of cryotherapy, air pressure flush techniques (NormaTec), massage, chiropractic, ART, and stretching are just the beginning of ways you can help your body feel better. Keep recovering when you’ve re-entered sport! Your previous injury will feel really good at first, but if you don’t give it an opportunity to shove some swelling out, or you don’t allow all your other body parts to rest, you risk re-injury or hurting another area. Once in a while, I’m very good at spending a whole day at home with my dog, watching shows and trying new recipes in my kitchen, with intermittent NormaTec sessions. Reward that body of yours that healed so well with some laziness every now and again.

4.       Live your best life!

Keep in touch with whatever (outside sport) caught your interest during the healing process. Setbacks happen in returning from injury, so try not to completely abandon other things in life that make you happy when it seems that you’re back in action! Having my little family, finishing my MBA, renovating homes, practicing the piano again, spending time outdoors, and reading for fun don’t distract me from training, but make my training more effective. I’m happy all-around, therefore my attitude in training is great, sometimes even on frustrating throwing days!

2014 USAs in Sacramento (second season post-ACL surgery). Image by Mark J. Terrill.

2014 USAs in Sacramento (second season post-ACL surgery). Image by Mark J. Terrill.

Coming back from injury can be glorious, but it might take more time than you prefer. Stay the course. Trust the process and the awesome team that you put in place. Rushing an injury is like kicking a big rock in frustration; seems like it will feel good to release some emotions, but just exacerbates the problem. You’ll know it when it’s time for a spectacular performance, and it will be 100% worth all of the hours you put into your healing. Say thank you to the people who helped you along the way.

This third entry concludes my injury blog series! See parts one and two. What would you like to learn next? Comment!

How to be Injured (Injuries, Pt. 2)

People tend to talk about an athlete’s performance before injury, how they got injured, and then jump all the way forward to when that person has returned to glory. There’s a lot in between that you don’t get to hear enough about if you hope to be well-prepared for the tough road ahead.

When you do get injured (I’m so, so, so sorry), even if you’ve done everything in your power to prevent it from happening, it’s tough. In 2007, I developed a stress fracture in my back that ended my season before it started. Before that point, I hadn’t focused at all on keeping my lower back safe in the throw, and thousands of repetitions later, it almost broke. I was in college classes and had wonderful friends, sure, but my main identity at that point was “javelin thrower.” I didn’t make the best decisions (drank my Calories that semester), got the worst grades of my life, and was just generally a mess for about four months. I healed a lot that summer through family time, falling completely and totally for my future husband, and just removing myself from the environment that I’d gotten injured in. I had to have a major reset before I could go back and eventually make my first Olympic Team in 2008. When I tore my ACL in 2012, I promised myself I’d approach the injury in a more positive way. Here are the hard lessons I’ve learned in how to approach surgery or a major injury and the subsequent rehab.

1.       Get a life.

What makes you, you outside of your sport? You’re about to have some extra free time to explore other areas of your life. I applied for the USOC/DeVry University’s scholarship program in the Fall of 2012 (after my knee surgery), and cried the day I learned I’d been accepted and would be pursuing an MBA. My emotions about that program really freaked me out at first, but I realized eventually that I had been *only* a javelin thrower for three years at that point, and deep down I’d been craving something else in my life. I’m thrilled to have realized through that injury that it’s possible to pursue goals in multiple areas of life at once. I also started a year-long photography project that January 1. Whatever moves you, let yourself explore it during an injury period. You can rest your body while you expand your mind.

Related to this is enjoying life as much as possible before you’re entirely focused on healing. Russ and I hiked and camped for a solid month before my knee surgery in 2012. Those are treasured memories outside with him, and looking at the pictures from that trip motivated me during my rehab. I wanted to get back out there.

2.       Assemble your team.

Who can best help you succeed? Rest a full recovery from injury does not make. I watch far too many people just wait to feel better. Put your physical therapy/doctor/perhaps sports psychology team in place before you have your surgery/are ready to take the rehabilitation steps. Do your research, trust your gut, and choose people who will help you work hard to be even better than you were before your setback.

One of the questions I got about this blog was, “Is it true you were on a bike the day after your surgery?” in reference to my ACL surgery. Chris Garcia, one of my favorite PTs on the planet, was absolutely essential in my recovery, and continues to be a confidence booster for me through hard work in my twice-yearly or more visits to Sports Performance Physical Therapy. He put me on a stationary bike one day post-op, and while I didn’t cycle all the way around until about a week later, that activity so quickly after my first major surgery shocked me into realizing that I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself, and I’m incredibly grateful for that gift. (Once the range-of-motion stuff started later in the session, I felt a little sorry for myself again, but those difficult steps are just as important.)

Your support system is a huge part of returning to sport as your best you. People who believe in your abilities as an athlete will help you plan to succeed. Having loved ones to commiserate with on the hard days is important. Choose people who will empower you to face this journey bravely: Those who would hold your hand every step of the way do not have your best interests in mind. Key players on your team are essential. Ultimately though, your recovery is up to you…

3.       Do what you can with what you’ve got.

What can you work on that doesn’t involve your injured parts? I started upper body lifting in the second week after my ACL surgery, and my focus that entire year was improving my bench press and pullovers (lifts I had historically been weak in). I did up to 900 seated medball throws per week that year. After my left shoulder surgery in 2015, Jamie programmed heavy sled pulls for my lower body lifting until I could use the safety bar for squats. I stayed in my sling for safety and pulled that sled at a walk for weeks in all directions. I ran never-ending stadiums after I broke my arm. If your throwing shoulder or elbow is injured, you are absolutely able to keep your core and legs strong. A little creativity, a lot of communication with the people who are watching over your healing, and some asking for help in the weight room mean you can be stronger than ever in other areas of your body when you jump back into sport. Rehab time when you have supervision is for your actual injury, but there is a TON you can do to stay sharp with the rest of your body during normal training hours. Just be smart about it.

Two specific questions I got via Instagram:

“I have an elbow pains during and some after throws what should I do to heal it quickly?”

Forget about focusing on healing quickly: Shift your focus to healing correctly. There is absolutely no reason to rush it.

“Currently I’m out with a shoulder injury and I’m not allowed to throw for four weeks, if not more. What do you recommend to not lose the technique, because I’m not allowed to even lift up my arm really so I can’t even just practice my steps with a jav or with my arm up. Any recommended exercises or drills?”

Like I said, there is a TON you can work on technique-wise with your lower body. Controlling the javelin within technique is obviously important to throwing far, but if you can’t do that, don’t do that. I’ve done countless crossovers while pulling a sled. Work on block leg stability, both in a javelin-specific way and from a rehabilitation standpoint (balance work, theraband work, etc.). Get creative and remember how much you CAN do.

4.       Be patient. Also celebrate.

Things worth doing take time! Surgeries and the processes that go on inside your body to heal from them are actually amazing. An ACL bone-patella-bone graft (what I had) is a chunk of tendon with two chunks of bone on either end that the surgeon inserts into the middle of your knee at a specific angle. Then, over time, your body lays down new tissue to turn that tendon into a ligament (anterior cruciate ligament, ya know). AMAZING. Those processes, and the ones for any other major injury, take specific amounts of time for your incredible body to heal. Patiently allow them to happen. If you rush, you just risk re-injury and annoying the people who are trying to help you (read: heartache and disappointment all around). Take the opportunity to develop new habits as far as treating your body well goes: Employ recovery methods like stretching, cryotherapy or what have you every day. Be diligent about the exercises you’re allowed to do. Some days will be terrible, but there is ALWAYS a little victory to be had in each day. If you balanced on one leg for 5 more seconds or felt your shoulder blade move correctly for the first time, even if it’s weak, celebrate. Little daily victories pile up, and make the process a lot more enjoyable than constant complaints.

Throughout an injury, just remember that you are an athlete, even though you’re an injured one. It’s easy to feel like your identity is suddenly stripped from you, but maybe find a new one, and when it’s time to test your athletic ability again, trust that it won’t have magically left your body during your healing process. Recognize the time you have to spend with loved ones or pursue other interests during an injury, and be grateful for those new experiences. Gratitude is powerful, and so are you.

Specific questions about specific injuries belong in another kind of blog post, so please be patient with me! Part three of this series will finally discuss how to return from injury. Stay tuned!

How to Prevent Injury (Injuries, Pt. 1)

I started writing a blog about how to return from injury, then found myself writing about three different facets of injury. So now I am writing three different blogs. This is the first one!

Ideally, we wouldn’t have to miss out on playing time because our bodies betray us. Sadly, that hasn’t been my experience, but there are a few things you can do as a developing athlete to try and ward off injury:

1.       Be well-rounded.

As this world gets more and more competitive, it is more and more common for athletes to focus on just one sport really early in life. That can lead to injury. Continue to be a well-rounded athlete for as long as possible.

I’m a huge advocate for playing other sports, especially growing up. Tee-ball and softball were my first sports, I played soccer, volleyball, and basketball, swam and finally tried track and field in 8th grade. I vividly remember getting cut from the first basketball tryout I went to, and even took a tennis lesson once. I used to golf with my Mom. We went on (very few!) ski trips in elementary and middle school, and surfing on vacation in Hawaii. I was a three-sport athlete all through high school, and my track season each year remained relegated to track season until I was a scholarship athlete at Purdue. I had traumatic injuries, sure (turned ankles, some connective tissue damage from throwing in the cold, a bruised tailbone after an off-kilter rebound, a broken arm (from mud football with my friends)), but I didn’t experience an overuse injury until I became a single-sport athlete. Take a moment to google “overuse injuries in youth sports,” and let that plethora of returns motivate you to stay well-rounded.


These days, my well-roundedness includes walking the dog every day, running with her, swimming laps each week, and hikes with my Russ. He and I have talked about how great hiking is for glute and core stabilization, and therefore for knee and back health. My healthiest professional seasons have been in conjunction with home renovation (read: manual labor), and I guarantee it’s because I’m moving my body in different planes than it needs to to throw the javelin. Give your javelin muscles a break. Do something ELSE physical that makes you happy.

2.       Pre-hab.

You’re probably familiar with the abbrev. “rehab.” Its lesser-known partner, prehabilitation, is my favorite. Athletes (and this was the case with me) often have to go through injury and the subsequent rehabilitation to realize that there is something they could have done before disaster struck to possibly avoid it. I had no idea how my knees *should* be moving before I tore my ACL, and now that I have the knowledge, my heart hurts sometimes thinking about what could have been if I’d been proactive before.

Seek out a physical therapist who employs preventative therapy. More and more, physical therapy clinics are diagnosing imbalances and weaknesses in clients and tailoring specific programs to help individuals overcome them and prevent further injury as a result. You might come in with a specific complaint, but a fantastic physical therapy office won’t just treat the culprit and send you away, they’ll take a look at how your entire body is moving and help you correct things you didn’t know were wrong. Pain in a certain area doesn’t mean that area is the only problem. If you are in Southern California, PLEASE go see Sports Performance Physical Therapy. If you’re somewhere else, it’s likely that the SP Team could help you get linked up with a quality provider in your area.

Athletes have egos. That is an age-old truth. But please remember that the way your body moves is just a fact. You’ve done nothing wrong to this point to make it move “badly” or “well.” If you’re already an athlete, you’re doing great, but imagine how much better you could perform if you weren’t hindered by little hiccups in your movement. Check your ego and just go see. Ironing out the kinks that you’re not fully aware of could mean complete freedom on the playing field. That's the opportunity that a good PT is living for. They are wonderful people who love sport and only want to help you perform at your very best. If you’ve already been introduced to a clinic through injury, that’s unfortunate, but use that relationship to build on your foundation when you’re reintroduced to sport after the injury rather than turning your back on what’s easy to compartmentalize as a difficult time in your life. Turn that rehab into prehab, and become the best you.

3.       Rest and recovery.

Work work work work work, then RECOVER. Regardless of sport, recovery from activity is essential to avoiding injury. You get nothing from the high quality work you put in if you don’t give your body an opportunity to absorb it. If you deny your body the chance to heal from all of the micro-trauma it goes through in training, eventually it will retaliate.

Recovery days could be anything in my book. If I’m just at home, I’ll do some core and go for a swim after yard work. If I want more adventure or I have something planned with Russ and Maddie, it means paddleboarding, hiking, fishing (sitting in nature’s ice tub while Russ fishes), or other outdoorsy fun. If I’m in Europe and travel days have been particularly frequent, I count that exhaustion (plus always core) as my activity for the day and cut my swimming way down, prioritizing rest otherwise. Active recovery is anything that balances your body back out from the stresses of the sport you do. Bonus points if your chosen method of recovery also relaxes your mind (my outdoors and family focus).

Recovery also includes things like massage therapy, chiropractic work, NormaTec system usage, contrast baths, etc. Again, putting your body back together after hard work and before more hard work happens. You must reset and restore the body before you ask more of it, or you’re just piling on to a stressed system. If I ignore this part, eventually I’ll be feeling pretty good in a lift, and all of a sudden my old friend the back spasm will show up. Recovery is important for good performance, yes, but that’s because it allows quality training to continue.

Rest is something altogether different than recovery. I LOVE me an entire day at home with Madeline, walking when we feel like it, napping, cooking new recipes, maybe pulling a weed outside, playing piano, and binge-watching funny shows. I can be very, very good at an off day. Sometimes the three of us will go out to the farm to play Bridge with Russ’s grandparents and enjoy a gorgeous sunset fetch. Complete rest days are necessary for body and (my) soul.

I was sick last week. I won’t go into too much detail, but GI distress away from home is no fun. I barely left my hotel room for three days and still didn’t quite feel right during warm-ups for the Athletics World Cup. The worst night of my sickness, I was up and down all night from 11pm-on, but slept well when I was down, then slept until 3pm. I had absolutely no trouble sleeping that night either. Come competition day, I was surprised by how good my body felt, even if my stomach was still complaining! The reason is rest. It is so healing. Do it.


My career is not a great example of how to avoid injury (L5 stress fracture 2007, ACL tear 2012, L shoulder labrum and rotator cuff tears 2015), but it is a great example of how to learn from difficult experiences and return to action, and for that I hope you'll heed my words. I wish I’d done more to prevent injury earlier in my career, especially from a prehab standpoint. Be wiser than I was.

Part 2 will revolve around the mental aspects of being injured; preparing for a surgery and the immediate aftermath of that, the first few physical therapy appointments, and getting through the really trying parts of the recovery process. Please let me know if you have specific questions for that blog! I have some saved from my Instagram request for questions on this topic before.

In Part 3 I plan to talk about return to sport. Most of you asked about this, so thanks for your patience!


I got quite a few questions when I requested them in my Instagram story (thanks, guys!), so in the spirit of more concise and frequent blogs, I’m turning this one into a travel question-and-answer instead of my typical freeform! I’ll also take this opportunity to direct you to a guest blog I did last summer for Rodhe Sport. I’ve embedded the companion video to that blog at the bottom of this blog, but you’ll have to head over to Justin’s website to get the description!

Dos and don’ts when traveling with javelins? Do you travel with your javelins or do they provide them at the meet?

DO bring them. One of very few times I decided to leave mine home because I got to see a rare list of provided implements, those implements weren’t actually there! Cue stress. If you are worried about having something to throw when it comes to the meet, bring your own stuff.

DON’T stress about them. Things happen. Javelins are pretty darn interchangeable (even if they’re not, for you, mentally, but that’s a different conversation), and you can’t help it if they get lost and miss a competition. As long as you find them again, it’s not worth your diminished performance to worry about when that will happen.

               The key to staying calm when there’s a javelin snafu is to be your own advocate. I spent a lot of years being too passive and apologetic about stuff (and I think, regardless of loud reputation, this is kind of an American attitude). As long as you’re respectful and sportsmanlike, the javelins are all fair game once they hit the competition rack. Don’t rip an implement out of a competitor’s hand, but be brave.

DO leave yourself extra time to check your luggage at the airport or get on a train or bus. People will stare at you as you tote a long ski-like bag and maneuver it in tight spaces, but they will not give you extra space or consideration for the most part. There are different fees for oversize luggage for different airlines, and finding a place to stow a large bag on a train takes extra patience. Find your platform or stop early, and either decide to be first or last to board, as negotiating around people just makes an already-cumbersome task more frustrating.

DON’T hit people with them. I only did this one time, on a crowded bus many years ago. I had an extremely close call with a child’s face in the Stuttgart train station the other day, and am so glad my fast twitch fibers were operational in that moment. Constant vigilance.

Coolest place you’ve competed?

I love Australia so much, but likely because of the country itself and not necessarily the competition venues? Finland was super fun last year (Lappeenranta) because of their understanding of the event and watching Tero Pitkamaki throw far in his home country. The Hallesche Werfertage is great because of the crowd’s proximity. The Berlin Olympic Stadium is one of my favorites in the world because of the history there and just how impressive the structure is. Luzern, Switzerland’s views from the track are epic. Lausanne as well. Same for the Monaco stadium and Rovereto, Italy. I won my first international competition way back in Kawasaki, Japan in 2009, and Japan remains one of my favorite countries in the whole world. I can’t believe I’m saying this though, not only because I tore my ACL there but because it feels so cliché, but there really is nothing like an excellent throw at Historic Hayward Field. I’ve been lucky to have a couple like that in my career, and I’ll miss it.

Is Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check worth it?

YES!! These things don’t really help you when traveling internationally (from foreign country to foreign country or with customs lines upon arrival in Europe), but when I’m at the end of a long trip and am almost home, it’s incredibly gratifying to soar through Global Entry and run into Russ’s arms quickly instead of standing in a line some more. Speeding through the security process at the beginning of a long trip is so nice as well, since it leaves you time to eat food you like one more time, re-organize your carry-ons maybe, get water, and relax a bit before boarding. Highly, highly recommend.

Do you bring snacks and fuel for competition day from the USA that you are familiar with, or do you just find local stuff when you arrive?

I bring snacks!! I have pretty specific competition day snack needs (see the Rodhe Sport blog for description), and for this current trip specifically, I’m so glad I brought some breakfast stuff too! I do enjoy buying local food also (especially because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Germany and know what I like here), but I arrived in Offenburg on a Saturday in the late afternoon. Grocery stores were closed on Sunday, and Monday was a German holiday, meaning those stores (and bakeries and cafes) were still closed! I could walk down the hill for an early dinner each night, but I wouldn’t have had any breakfast if I hadn’t brought oatmeal packets, dried fruit, almond butter, protein powder and instant coffee (the real MVP).

Traveling in Germany? Europe? Or just travel tips in general?

This is a big question, so I’ll just say that you should do your research before arrival. Being very aware of what your phone plan is is important, too! I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit sitting on curbs and crying in foreign cities, but that was mostly before international data plans were common. Mostly. These days, it’s easy to do a little research on what public transportation is available wherever you’re going, download the app for that train line or bus system or what have you before you leave, and be on your way. That being said, yesterday I walked literally an hour to practice because I didn’t have the correct bus stop name entered in my DB app, and I didn’t want to bike because I’m sore from biking.

Point number two! Slow down. Take a deep breath, listen, and just be sure of where you’re going before you take off. It’s easy to get caught up in the schedule you may have previously laid out for yourself, but getting rushed is when disaster strikes for me, and the stress that comes with it doesn’t help my body when it comes to training and performance.

               On my way to Europe for this trip, I missed my international connection and had to be rescheduled due to delay. I hadn’t previously purchased a train ticket to Offenburg from Stuttgart for precisely this reason, but by the time I got to the Stuttgart airport, it was getting kind of late and I was feeling pressure to get to my AirBnB and not keep the hostess waiting. So when I purchased my train ticket, in my rush, I left my debit card in the machine!! Didn’t notice for 24 hours. Can’t believe my account wasn’t touched. Feel so dumb. I also stood on the platform for approximately 15 minutes before the train came, so there was no reason at all to be in such a hurry.

My biggest tip is to let the good outweigh the not-so-good. My Mom is amazing at this. In 2011, she got pickpocketed in Paris and then spent days and days and days incredibly sick on the shores of Lake Como with my Dad. European travel can be difficult, but only because it’s different from your normal life (if you’re American and reading this), and while that trip was clearly awful for her, she talks about how beautiful it was and what they saw rather than the bad stuff. I bike over cobblestones and my butt is sore to get to the laundromat, but there’s a gorgeous church outside that’s 200 years old. I have a lot of those kinds of stories, but I usually have to work hard to remember the bad parts. (Thanks for gifting me your positive attitude, Mom!)

What’s it like being on the road and continuing training?

This can be a challenge! A big part of being a professional track and field athlete is adaptability. It’s already fairly common to adapt your training at home, say, if a body part hurts or you have a family obligation or something, and the same things (along a little different lines sometimes) have to happen while traveling. I was scheduled to have a ball session the Monday after I arrived (that German holiday), but did a body weight circuit at my apartment instead because a) I don’t do so well with international travel and quickly adopting new time zones and b) it was a holiday! On Tuesday, I had a miscommunication with the coach here and biked all over town doing laundry, getting keys, and finally lifting at 6:30pm. At home, I’ve been swimming a little after throwing sessions because it helps decompress my back and also I love it. I hadn’t been in the pool since I’d been here, so yesterday I made my way by bus to the public one. When I walked in, it didn’t look like there would be a lane for me, I didn’t know how much it would cost, and I wasn’t totally sure of the bus schedule, so I walked right out again. After brief reflection, I decided just splashing around would be good for me (it’s hot here!), so went back in, paid, and found a perfectly good lane just beyond my line of sight from the lobby for a lovely swim. I got stuck upon exiting, sure, but I'm glad I stuck around.

In a nutshell, even getting to training can be more difficult when traveling, and knowing when to push yourself in training vs. when to back off because of those extra difficulties takes time. Having fabulous sounding boards at home helps a lot…

How do you organize your training during traveling because your coach isn’t always with you? Is she?

Dana is not currently traveling with me, no (but hopefully later this summer!), but the person who actually writes my programming is my other coach, my strength coach since 2009 and now the guy who tells me what to do every day (joking, but he is writing all of my stuff now), Jamie Myers! To answer this question, communication. I’ve been texting and emailing with both Jamie and Dana pretty much every other day or more since I’ve been in Germany, sharing video and double-checking if an adaptation for something is a good idea. After I biked all around the town on Tuesday, my lift was lighter that night, as confirmed with Jamie. I added a competition this weekend in Offenburg that I hadn’t planned on when I left home, so my overall training schedule has been redone through email discussion, and we’ve already talked about what I’ll do when I get home in the short time before USATF National Championships. But that might change! I listen to my body, communicate with my people, and try to make good decisions about what will make training great, while enjoying my trip at the same time.

Can you mention in your blog how you keep from getting too fatigued/tight while traveling?

Firstly, sleep!! Adapt to whatever time zone you’re in as quickly as you can if you’ll be there for a while, and don’t stress too much if jet lag hits you. Coffee is my friend. After that statement, hydrate like crazy. I sweat profusely in Europe, and forget what that’s like as a Coloradan of 5 years. Staying hydrated, as we all know, helps keep your muscles fluid instead of bound up!

During an actual travel day, I'm never shy about stretching in a corner away from people or lying down on the floor of any airport. I am committed to never outgrowing this willingness. Stay loose and as comfortable as possible when you have room to move!

The self-therapy tools that I brought with me are a little foam roller, lacrosse ball, a circular band (for clamshells or monster walks or what have you) and a regular bungee. I get down on the floor of my apartment at least twice a day and do some rolling, and while I’m down there, some stretching too. I especially emphasize this right after I get back from something, be it the grocery store or practice, because I’m biking or walking everywhere. I do an ab circuit every day that has really been helping my thoracic spine (it includes twisting motions) stay limber in a way that it hasn’t been for the last few years, so I’m pumped about that!

Recovery is super important when traveling, too. The bike can destroy your legs real fast if you’re not careful. I will likely take the bus tomorrow (Friday) instead of biking so that my legs can be fresh for Saturday’s competition. I do not at all plan to leave my apartment today (Thursday), my off day. I like to enjoy the places that I travel to, but there are days here and there that I can tell I’ve done too much (this happens to me domestically, too), and the last two have been big ones, so I’m jealously guarding my down time today! This will of course still include some therapy and core time, but there will be a lot of reading and binge-watching in there as well (Arrow Season 6 is making me really sad. I look forward to a new season every one of my competition seasons, but I’m sorely disappointed.).

Thanks for your questions, everyone!! This one got long…old habits…

A travel day in Europe for me and the tools that keep me at my best! Companion video for Rodhe Sport blog (2017).