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The Power of Fitness: Real Women Share Their Stories

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"Fitness gave me the strength to recover from a car crash."

To be honest, Hillary Hopkins, 33, is fuzzy about the accident that upended her life 17 years ago. But the fallout is unforgettable: Her sister Bethany, who was driving their car when it collided with a semitrailer, died at the scene. Hillary, sitting in the front passenger seat, miraculously survived.

When she woke in the hospital, doctors told Hillary, the star of her high school basketball team in Rome, Georgia, that she had broken her neck as well as her right arm and all the bones in her face. She had some feeling in her arms and legs, but she was in effect a paraplegic. With youth and athleticism in her favor, Hillary improved over the next two years to the point of being able to take care of her basic needs, like moving from her wheelchair to the bed, on her own. She could even stand and take several steps with leg braces and a walker. In college, she started going to a gym, intent on being fit.

Fast forward to 2007: Hillary, living in Salt Lake City, was at her gym, using the upper-body bike, as she usually did, when a trainer approached her. "He said he wanted to work with me," she recalls. "I thought I was doing a pretty good job by myself, but the session was free, so I figured it wouldn't hurt." That session led to several more and eventually to her current trainer, Joe Heinbecker.

Excited by the challenge of improving Hillary's mobility, Heinbecker believed that to reach the next level, she needed to strengthen her core. The workout plan he devised included crawling and twisting exercises, yoga, and upper-body weight lifting. She also started to get massages to stretch her atrophied muscles.

Today Hillary is able to stand with no support, lift weights with both hands, and do 40 squats with minimal stabilizing assistance. Even more amazing, she can walk with two canes for an hour. She works out up to two hours a day, six days a week. "Staying fit is now part of how I define myself," Hillary says. "I've taken my life into my own hands, and that makes me feel vital and strong." Her new goal: getting back on the basketball court.

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kristanoelpeterson wrote:

The first one, about the woman who punched the rapist out of her apartment, was probably the best thing I've read in my entire life.

8/4/2010 10:32:13 AM Report Abuse
ronniegramma wrote:

I know personally how fitness can make recovery so much faster and permanent. after a heartattack my Dr said my fitness level saved my life, I am 72 yrs young

7/29/2010 07:24:33 AM Report Abuse
exurena wrote:

Thank you for sharing these stories, this has motivated me!

7/28/2010 01:06:29 PM Report Abuse
bckuntz1 wrote:

Amazing stories!

7/28/2010 10:35:24 AM Report Abuse
dawnd17 wrote:

All these women are so inspiring! When I feel like I can't do another push-up, I can think of these amazing women to remind me that I can. Thanks for sharing your stories!

7/28/2010 10:16:16 AM Report Abuse

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