Olympic skier Larisa Yurkiw went from a destroyed knee to representing Canada in 2014 Olympics. Learn how you can recover faster from your next injury.
Growing up, I was a pretty reckless athlete. I grasped most sports with ease. I played with fire, via ski racing, almost daily. I’d somersault over fences into forests and only have a bloody nose to show for it. I’d go from 80mph to 0 in 3 seconds and just have ‘a bit of a sore neck’.
Unconventional Training & Recovery
I had strength and athletic talent so I was able to get out of most situations. But a couple of months prior to the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, I crashed and didn’t walk away. I tore my ACL, MCL, patellar tendon and both medial and lateral menisci.. in one knee. Having an Olympic Games in my home country was going to be epic. Most legends in their sport don’t have that opportunity during their careers.
With that said, I have no regrets. I have no regrets because that crash single-handedly made me a professional. To this day, I have had 4 left-knee surgeries and met a magnitude of people due to my injury that I may never have crossed paths with otherwise.
Both of my parents are chiropractors. I grew up in a very natural environment. When I got injured, I had the confidence from my upbringing to steer away from any conventional approach that I had seen or heard about up until that point. I followed my gut and it landed me in New Hampshire doing the Burdenko method of rehabilitation, conditioning and training.
Hydrotherapy for Recovery
This land and water approach focuses on “restoring maximum functional capacity”. I was keen on being better. Tom Barbeau, Burdenko Master certified instructor, kept me for weeks in this environment. In the pool and on land, slowly introducing each quality (balance, flexibility, speed, strength, endurance, coordination). My left leg began contributing and my body started working as one. Often, the emphasis in rehab is on the ‘injured leg’ and not on the body as a whole.
The Burdenko Method is an incredible tool for showing the body what it IS capable of. I was doing sprints in the pool well before I was able to walk without a limp. That, alone, gave me the confidence that I would be extremely athletic again very soon. The last thing anyone wants, is to be between an athlete and their sport.
However, the whole package was important. I took all the right homeopathics, I kept my spine and pelvis happy, I kept my muscles length in perfect alignment, so that I could progress at any time and stay sane. The sanity was just as hard to maintain. I am highly passionate and driven by hard work. When this was taken away from me, I suffered.
The Psychology of Recovery
I had a sport psychologist that continued to prescribe me explanations for my state versus medication for my symptoms. As a ‘why’ kinda girl, I appreciated this and tried to respect the progression. With that said, I battled with keeping the optimism that I so often heard other recovering athletes speak about… “I never doubted” “I always knew I would make a full recovery.”
For my personally, I needed to validate my feelings, understand the place for mourning and then decide how to best inspire myself. Often, it was most encouraging to think of something within reach so as to make myself feel like I was constantly succeeding. Thinking about an end result of hauling ass on the world stage while I was unable to even leave my leg vertical. Being a logical person, it just didn’t add up.
Currently, I continue to ‘manage’ my knee and optimize my health by ingesting the right fuel, training very unilaterally and understanding the signs my body gives me. Many will look for the ultimate cure, the ultimate training regime, the ultimate vegetable. What I’ve found to be ultimate, across the board, is taking responsibility. Between research and trial-and-error, I believe that everyone is capable of finding the path to optimizing our lives.
Aubrey talks about being “fair, honest and transparent with his customers”. I try to practice the same method with my body and mind. I am forceful but I try not to squeeze myself. There IS a difference. And I am always happy to learn of a weakness because it means I have more potential to exhaust.