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What I Learned After Being Hit By A Car While Running

Hoxton/Ryan Lees

As a young athlete, I experienced adversity mostly in the form of injuries. During those times, my mother would always encourage me to focus on the things I could control, accept what is, and move forward better and stronger than before. The year I got hit by a car while training for a half marathon was no different.

After four years of Division I volleyball, I was ready for a break from team sports and started training for triathlons. I fell in love with competing and decided to switch to half marathons for a fresh challenge.

One day, about three weeks before my event, I was two steps into a crosswalk when, from behind, a car made a right turn, right into my butt. I rode the hood of a car and got thrown off in the street, violently. I remember riding the hood of the car, seeing a clear blue sky and thinking, “you just got hit by a car.” Laying on the ground in the middle of the street on my back, I thought, “Did you break your neck? Did you break your back? Can you move?” I slowly rolled on my side and was able to get up with only minimal pain (adrenaline is a crazy drug).

Thankfully, I survived without broken bones or head trauma. I did however experience extreme whiplash, nerve damage in my neck, back, and legs and developed scar tissue in my left piriformis (a small muscle in your butt). The doctors said they couldn’t do much for me and just gave me pain medication and drugs.

The drugs I was on were a doozy - I was sleeping 12 hours a day and was in constant pain all the time - standing, sitting, laying. There was no escaping the dull and often sharp pain radiating in my lower body and the random muscle spasms and nerve shocks shooting through my tail bone and down my legs when I least expected it.

When I had to go back to south Texas for my graduate program, I knew I was going to need some serious help with my body. I was lucky to find a great chiropractor and stopped taking the medication. My injury took a lot of rehab, patience, chiropractor visits, and time before I was able to work out and compete again.

Before the injury, I was training 3-4 hours a day, five days a week. This was one of the most challenging injuries I had ever had; and let me tell you, I have had 14 ankle sprains and multiple broken bones, so I was no stranger to the rehab game. Rehabilitating this injury would take longer and more commitment than any previous injury.

The road to recovery was one of the hardest and most stressful in my life.

The road to recovery was one of the hardest and most stressful in my life. At that time, I was working two jobs, going to graduate school full time, and financially independent. Although I had health care, chiropractic and other physical therapy were not covered. I assumed full financial responsibility for my injury while the lawsuit took two years to get resolved. I took out credit cards, got creative with money management skills, and make a lot sacrifices. If being injured wasn’t enough, the ending of a significant relationship and the financial burden weighed even more heavily.

This was one of the most difficult times in my life, but I remained focused on things I could control, had a strong support system, and knuckled down to make things work. Life was unbelievably stressful, but sure enough, month after month, aspects of my life improved: my injury started to heal, I was able to pay off credit cards, and I grew through the adversity.

You don’t have to get hit by a car like I did, but there are a few legit, science supported, ways to build resilience and grow your grit.

6 Ways To Build Your Resilience & Grit


#1 Become A Master Observer

There will always be ample opportunities to interpret the events and circumstances in our lives. Explore them. Question them. Avoid a fixed interpretation, positive or negative. When you simply observe rather than judge, you give your mind time to extract the lessons and think about your challenges in a new way.


#2 Create Strong Bonds And Relationships

No, not Snapchat and social media connections. Actual, in real life, relationships with presence and value. The biggest predictor of resilience is relationships. Double down on relationships, invest heavily in connection, and seek support through adversity.

Double down on relationships, invest heavily in connection, & seek support through adversity.


#3 Have An Internal Locus Of Control

Realize that you have power over your life and influence over your outcome. You must know and believe that your decisions affect your life and you must take control of your life.


#4 Become More Autonomous

Do you always have to be or do things with friends? Striving to become more self-sufficient, comfortable, and confident in your life goes a long way in your ability to adapt.


#5 Seek Out New Experiences

When you have a growth mindset and seek out new experiences, you open yourself to learning. Seeking out new experiences helps to broaden your perspective on life and build confidence in yourself and ability to adapt.


#6 Get Gritty

Research shows that the best predictor of success is “grit,” defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” How do you measure your grit? Take the quiz online. Angela Duckworth, leading researcher and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient for her work on the topic of grit, highlights five things we can do to develop grit: pursue what interests you, practice, find purpose, have hope, and hang out with gritty people.

Resilience isn’t a one and done interaction, it is an ongoing engagement.

Becoming resilient is a critical part of being an athlete and the human experience. To become resilient, choose to think about your challenges in a new way. Resilience isn’t a one and done interaction, it is an ongoing engagement. Happiness and success are byproducts of process and habits that you invest in every single day. Resilience and grit are no different. Like Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Resilience is part of that excellence, which means it’s not just something we do, but something we are, and something we must focus on constantly becoming. To unlock your potential, become unstoppable, and power into peak performance states you must learn to master the skill of resilience.  

Wish you could measure your resilience? You’re in luck! Take The Winning Element Assessment to spot your strengths and weaknesses in not only your resilience, but your mental and physical performance. The quiz takes 5 minutes and is 100% free.

Got a story about a time you experienced adversity and became more resilient? Swap stories with a friend, it’s one of the best ways to grow your grit and build resilience!

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