Finding Strength in Uncertainty

Natasha Hopkins was in probably the best shape of her life, training for a figure competition, when an auto collision derailed her fitness track and put several aspects of her life on hold.

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The carpal bones--the one that allow for full functionality in your wrist--were broken in Natasha’s right hand, and her recovery has been a process.

“The surgeon said mine was the worst he’d ever seen,” Natasha says of her injuries. “Steel rods were placed in my hand to allow it to repair properly--I just had the surgery to remove them, 12 weeks after the wreck. Now I’m looking at extensive physical therapy, to get as much range of motion back as I can.”

Needless to say, the weight lifting inherent in preparing for a figure competition became impossible, and Natasha went from being in peak condition to recovery mode.

“I literally couldn’t do anything for the first 9 weeks,” Natasha says. “I knew my body couldn’t do it.”

Natasha learned to focus more on other fitness facets, while her physical activity was limited, in order to hold on to health gains. “I have learned so much,” she says, “I’ve had difficulties that have challenged me, because I went from prep mode to nothing. I bloated up 20 pounds almost right away, after being the leanest I’d ever been when the accident happened.”

“Nutrition has been huge for me during this time.”

In addition to putting more focus on her eating, Natasha has taken baby steps to get back to training--with respect to what her body can handle.

“I’ve been to the gym a couple of times,” she says, “Mostly just doing leg stuff, but a lot of it is mental. I can’t lift at the same rate, but I’m starting to get back. I was ramping up, but having surgery again, to remove the pins, set me back again.”

"I will never be the same as I was before. But I am committed to be as dedicated."

In addition to her figure competition aspirations, Natasha is a SiS coach and personal trainer--a passion born from another challenging time in her life, when she struggled with postpartum depression.

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“I haven’t always been fit,” Natasha admits. “But I’m small, a more petite person--I’ve never had to deal with being overweight. I was “skinny fat’ when I was younger, though.”

“Fitness and health came to me when I became pregnant. That triggered me--I wanted my baby to be healthy, I wanted to be healthy. I’d also gained a lot of weight and I had terrible postpartum depression.”

“The fog finally lifted--it took a few years--but after my second son was born, my doctor said, 'You’re going to have to take medication, or exercise.' That’s when I became passionate about it...it was my response to postpartum depression. I was doing a great job with the kids--breastfeeding, feeding them good food--but I wasn’t taking good care of me.”

“Shortly after my second child, we moved to England, and my husband (who is in the military) was deployed….I just turned to exercise. It became my drug, literally.”

A benefit for education for military spouses prompted her to look into the requirements for becoming a personal trainer, since it dovetailed with her personal fitness pursuits.

“I signed up for training and finished it without having any real intention of doing anything in particular with it,” Natasha says, “It just sort of happened, and grew.”

PHYSICAL GAINS ARE SECONDARY, IN NATASHA’S MIND, BOTH FOR PERSONAL FITNESS AND THE GROWTH SHE HELPS OTHERS TO ACHIEVE.

“Because I was already small, and didn’t really need to lose weight--fitness for me has been mental. It’s about developing a mindset. It’s not just about grinding it out at the gym, it’s about finding yourself. Sometimes I think that’s the most challenging part--clients think “I want to look a certain way” and I feel like, “No, you have to know yourself. You won’t follow through if you don’t learn that.” You have to learn how to help people dig deep and deal with things they may not want to deal with. I don’t believe I wanted to know how badly postpartum depression had affected me, but once I saw, I could address it.”

While she knows that the day is coming when she can get back to the gym, Natasha understands that physical recovery is a process, and the trauma she suffered may have long lasting effects that will change how she trains.

“I have no flexion,” Natasha says of her injuries, “And I have a ton of scar tissue. I’ll never have full range of motion in it again, but the goal (of physical therapy) is to get me as close as possible. I’ve been told that I’ll never be 100 % again.”

“I’ll have arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome...sometimes the body doesn’t allow blood to flow to heal, and the actual bone itself can die. There’s no way to predict.”

When asked how she handles the uncertainty, Natasha points back to the lessons that physical challenge can provide for mental strength, and encourages other women facing setbacks--both mental and physical--to not only dig deep...but reach out, as well.

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“Reach out to the people that you know motivate you--don’t give up on yourself. There’s a reason for everything, and you always have the choice to come out stronger. I have a coach, and I reached out to her, and she’s been instrumental in my healing, even though there remains a long, long way to go. It’s hard for me--I tend to be one of those people that don’t open up, but you have to be vulnerable...it allows people to help.”
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