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Connor's Journey From Physical Devastation To Bodybuilding Domination: Unstoppable Spirit!

The Path To Discovery - Here's an emotional tale of broken bones and an unstoppable spirit that led to my first bodybuilding contest! Find out more.

Part 1 | Part 2

Article Summary:
  • My football career ended when I suffered a severe hand injury.
  • I've always prided myself on being a hard worker.
  • After a second injury, I decided to put my efforts into bodybuilding.
  • My first experience in the realm of natural bodybuilding became more than I could have dreamed of. I fulfilled my goal to step on stage at 20-years old and I couldn't be more thrilled with the entire experience.

    Many of you could pinpoint some of the key moments in your life that prompted a new vision to build upon. Some of the time, these breakthroughs happen when we least expect them. Before I tell you about my first contest weekend, I would like to rewind to part 1 of my journey.

    Author, Connor LaVallie: 'My First Experience In The Realm Of Natural Bodybuilding Became More Than I Could Have Dreamed Of.'
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Author, Connor LaVallie: 'My First Experience In The Realm Of
    Natural Bodybuilding Became More Than I Could Have Dreamed Of.'

    A Devastating Moment

    I've always been an athlete. I never knew what a summer would be like without putting on the helmet, cleats, pads, or shooting 100 free throws before bed.

    Everything in that aspect of my life ended for good when I was struck by another player during a kickoff in the last game of the season my senior year of high school. My hand was crushed and I needed immediate surgery. This was devastating because I would be sitting on the sidelines during the playoffs and our team was the defending Illinois 8A state champions. We were picked to do it again.

    Since then, I felt an underlying emptiness, something was missing inside of me and I knew I couldn't just hang em' up. My dad recruited the best hand surgeon in the Midwest and we were able to fix the broken bones with some pins and screws to hold everything in place, for now.

    It was clear to me that getting back to action would require patience and gradual strength increases on the feeble area I had damaged. I had a soft cast on first for a few months followed by a hard-cast, which I used to balance weights in my basement to keep some of my muscle and help relieve the high amounts of stress I had inherited.

    Getting Back To Action Would Require Patience And Gradual Strength Increases.
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Getting Back To Action Would Require
    Patience And Gradual Strength Increases.

    Getting Back To Action

    The next setback came a couple months later during Christmas time in 2006. Two nights prior to Christmas day I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with the worst pain in my side, like a dagger in my back. It would come and go, until Christmas morning it became too much to handle, so my mom took me to the emergency room.

    I was diagnosed with an obstructed ureter, which meant that there was a blockage in the tubes that carry liquids to the kidneys and I had toxins building up because of it. Two months after hand surgery, I was forced into emergency kidney surgery in order clear the blockage.

    In human anatomy, the ureters are muscular tubes that propel urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. In the adult, the ureters are usually 25-30 cm (10-12 in) long and ~3-4 mm in diameter.

    The end of my senior year in high school was an incredibly difficult time because I would basically be a vegetable for months, just lying, sitting, thinking about the abrupt afflictions, trying to make sense of it all. That same underlying emptiness was still lurking, and meanwhile my drive to be more than my body was allowing, had become stronger than ever.

    I've always prided myself on being a hard worker. You know, someone who's willing to sacrifice, take the plunge into the unknown, travel down the unbeaten path ... just like most people, I believed this was true of myself.

    I've Always Prided Myself On Being A Hard Worker.
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    I've Always Prided Myself
    On Being A Hard Worker.

    Sooner or later, the truth finds us some way, some how. These unfortunate events were just feeding a fuel. Void of visible reason I knew there was an answer and I would make something of this lost time. I didn't know it then but I was developing some better qualities, and forever humbled.

    That spring I decided to attend Lake Forest College to play football. I couldn't imagine not being in a competitive state for too long, so I made the ultimate decision. That summer when my hand became stronger and my kidney was functioning, I would train hard to make up for all the time spent on a hospital bed.

    5 Strategies For Healing & Rehabilitation Using Active Release Techniques (A.R.T.)!
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    Healing & Rehabilitation!
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    Kevin Neeld

    Kevin Neeld

    Every day I told myself this was the ultimate test; I wanted to find out what I was made of, not only as a college wide receiver, but as a person.

    I showed up at camp that August in better shape than I could have imagined. Many of my teammates were asking me what my training was like. Honestly, I was just relieved to be worthy by my teammate's standards, but when they asked, I just told them I followed the same workout the coaches gave all of us. The only difference must have been my diet, I thought.

    I Showed Up At Camp That August In Better Shape Than I Could Have Imagined.
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Showed Up At Camp That August In Better
    Shape Than I Could Have Imagined.

    Pretty soon my coaches starting commenting and I had teammates coming to my dorm room to talk about nutrition and some training strategies. It was great because I just wanted to be accepted by them from the beginning and I was merely sharing a passion with people who genuinely wanted to learn.

    The next day we had a conditioning test. I got the fastest time on the team in the 600 yard shuttle by five seconds, I couldn't believe it. The rest of camp was a huge success and I earned a starting spot at wide receiver as a freshman. I was so anxious to get on the field now that I was almost completely healed.

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    Football Performance!
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    Steven Morris

    Steven Morris

    Another Tragedy

    In our first scrimmage I wouldn't be so fortunate. Just before the end of the first half, I caught a pass in the corner of the end zone and as I tried to tuck it away, the defensive back tried to knock it out of my hand and in the process, my hand snapped like chalk. I was in utter disbelief and immediate pain.

    I wanted to dig a hole, jump in and never come out. I talked to the trainer and he told me to go get an X-ray because the swelling was instantaneous. I was tearing up by the time my parents pulled the car around to take me to the hospital.

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    It was just a horrible situation, but having my parents there to help me out really helped. My dad and I drove to the nearest hospital where another fracture was confirmed and I would need to go through it all over again.

    At this point my family and I decided that risking permanent injury just isn't worth it in the long run. The force of the impact was minimal, yet it caused the ultimate damage ... which was a nightmare to me. I had a long talk with each one of my coaches as they were all compassionate. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

    I Was Feeling Pretty Sorry For Myself.
    I Was Feeling Pretty
    Sorry For Myself.

    Months went by as I pondered my options. Then it clicked. I realized that I could both sit around and let this be a huge problem, or I could focus on a solution ... the bigger picture. I decided I would turn this into an opportunity and start to develop some of my other interests.

    Developing Other Interests

    That summer my interest in bodybuilding became apparent when I took a trip to Colorado to visit my grandparents in their Aspen lodge. One thing I was fairly knowledgeable about due to my prolonged immobility was the importance of nutrition. I made sure I was getting all the correct nutrients I needed to maintain maximum lean body mass when I was unable to train.

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    How did you begin bodybuilding? Not many of us just woke up one day and decided to start working out. Something possessed us to start pumping iron.

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    Last June when I arrived in Aspen I was feeling pretty healthy and my mind was in a better place than it had been the past few months. I had access to a fully equipped gym, and I thought about testing my body out to see what would happen ... there are only so many tomorrows I told myself.

    I began lifting and my hand wasn't hurting much, so I began to slowly increase the weight for a few sets on deadlifts. While pyramiding the sets, I felt no pain ... more weight, still no pain. I was pulling as much iron as I was when training for football camp and the adrenaline was firing again. I was euphoric.

    I Was Pulling As Much Iron As I Was When Training For Football Camp And The Adrenaline Was Firing Again.
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Was Pulling As Much Iron As I Was When Training For
    Football Camp And The Adrenaline Was Firing Again.

    As I was finishing up, I met a mentor. He was a big guy and former Mr. Colorado. We started to chat and I asked him about bodybuilding. He said he competed when he was younger ... every word filled with passion and excitement.

    He talked about the lifestyle; the discipline it requires to shape your body and how much knowledge and hard work it takes on a daily basis to be the best. Who knew? This sounded appealing! And I started to get interested.

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    The whole training aspect of football had always thrilled me. Besides scoring touchdowns and hanging with teammates, this was what I loved to do. Football, basketball, and baseball were my life up until that point, but I was done with it now and in search of a new outlet.

    Team sports had so many upsides, but I imagined what it would be like to set my own schedule, to see what I could do with this on my own, and develop my body in the healthiest way possible. A breakthrough I thought ... as optimism and doubt battled for my conscience, a new set of goals emerged.

    As Optimism And Doubt Battled For My Conscience, A New Set Of Goals Emerged.
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    As Optimism And Doubt Battled For My
    Conscience, A New Set Of Goals Emerged.


    That night I decided to do some investigative work and explore this potential passion, eventually leading me to a new mentor and a brighter path toward something incredible. I will talk about the unique people, major steps, and significant discoveries I made in part 2 of my story next time.

    Part 1 | Part 2