Kristi Hurd was in the trauma room being prepped for surgery, pumped full of meds, and overhearing the hospital staff talk about how she might not walk again.
Kristi kept asking, “But will I ride again?”
Riding motorcycles was Kristi's passion, she says, but it was also what caused her to break her back in two places while only 22 years old. The accident left her temporarily paralyzed, although Kristi's doctors had good news after her surgery: With the help of a metal strut, six screws, and two 9-inch titanium rods, Kristi's back had been reconstructed.
While her doctors said it was unlikely that she'd ever walk again, they didn't rule out the possibility—and Kristi took that as a challenge.
This is Kristi's story.
How did your recovery go after your accident?
I remained paralyzed from the waist down for about 11 months after my accident. I was bound to a wheelchair. I could still feel my legs during that time, but it was more like what you feel when your foot falls asleep. Over 11 months, I slowly regained the ability to move my legs a little bit, and eventually made it to a walker. Over the following three years, I kept rebuilding muscle. I moved to a quad cane, then to a regular cane, and then onto leg braces.
How were you able to start walking without assistance?
By the time I was in leg braces, I still had a limp and major muscle atrophy, but at least I was walking. That went on for months, until one night I was out with friends and one of my braces broke. The surprising thing was, I didn't realize it was broken until I got home. I thought to myself, “If I didn't even know this was broken, I can walk without the brace.” That was the moment I knew it was time to get back into the gym. I had been a weightlifter since I was 17, and I suddenly knew that I could go back to that lifestyle.
How did you design your workouts? Did you have to modify them because of your injuries?
I was familiar with bodybuilding exercises from the years I spent in the gym before my accident, but I wanted to know more. So, I dove headfirst into Bodybuilding.com and learned so much about how to put together different routines for different goals. I had to be careful because of the hardware in my back, and it was hard to get around sometimes. It was definitely an uphill battle, as I struggled with some of the exercises.
What was the biggest hurdle to overcome?
There were days when I wanted to give up, especially on leg days. My calves pretty much wouldn't fire up at all. Because of the condition of my back, and because I still had muscle atrophy in my lower extremities, I would push too hard sometimes, and the next few days would be awful. But I knew it would get better if I learned how to pace myself properly and not get ahead of myself.
There were also days when I didn't go to the gym because I was having a “poor pitiful me” day, as I like to call it. But then I would feel so guilty about skipping a workout that the next time I was having one of those days the guilt kept me going. I didn't want to feel that guilt again, and I knew how great it would feel to get back into the gym and show those weights who's boss!
Who supported and inspired you?
My family was very supportive throughout the entire journey. I also have a good friend who I worked out with. One day, when he was showing me some new leg exercises, I was having a hard time on leg press. I didn't want to finish the set because it was too hard, and he stopped and said, “Do you want me to go get the wheelchair? Do you want to go back to it? You have to dig deep and find that place where it's not always pretty and use that strength to push yourself.”
I'll never forget that. It's always good to surround yourself with people that will motivate you and push you to keep going. Today, my husband is that person for me. We don't get to work out together too often, but when we do, he's standing there telling me “Keep going! Don't stop, Kristi! Give it your all! 110 percent!” My husband is my “swolemate.”
What do your workouts look like?
I work out five days a week and either stick to a pretty traditional routine of isolating the main body parts, with a lot of crossover, or I'll do a Tabata HIIT workout if I'm crunched for time—which I often am because I'm a realtor now!
What about your diet?
I've never had to worry about my weight, so I haven't been strict with my diet. Since I've been more focused on gaining muscle, I make sure to have balanced portions of proteins, carbs, and good fats. Also, I have a high metabolism, so when I'm training hard I make sure to eat every few hours, drink at least a gallon of water a day, and time my pre- and post-workout meals correctly.
I eat clean, usually consuming chicken, beef, turkey, fish, eggs, veggies, salads, almonds, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, rice, and fruit—and sometimes bacon.
What are your future plans?
While I was recovering, I constantly surfed online for motivational images and articles. Seeing pictures of female competitors was so inspirational! Then reading their articles or watching their videos made their successes seem even more real. Competing seemed like an achievable goal when I got to hear about it from someone who was doing it!
There were many inspirational figures for me, but at the time, Ava Cowan and Felicia Romero were my biggest motivators. I watched so many of their videos and read so many articles either by them or about them, and I tried a lot of their workouts, as well. I began to think, “Man, I have got to get onstage one day!” So that has been a future goal of mine.
What's holding you back?
Nothing is holding me back from anything that matters. While I haven't entered a competition, I really tried for a while, but I have nerve damage that prevents my calves from firing the way they should for real growth in that area—and my life got busier and I became a realtor, which has been awesome! I don't consider my new life as something that's “holding me back.” Just getting my body to the point where I could even think about competing was an amazing accomplishment.
Right now, I'm focused on remaining in good shape and keeping my legs as strong as I can. It might sound crazy, but as soon as I stopped trying to “compete” in my mind with other female weight lifters and competitors, I started accepting the fact that I do have injuries that will limit me and I may not completely recover. But look at how far I've come! I'm recovering more and more every day, and even if I hit a point where I won't recover any more physically, I can always continue improving mentally! I don't need to get onstage and receive a trophy to know that I've already won!