Olivia Apps, 21, of Lindsay, Ontario, worked hard to get to the women’s Sevens team, debuting on the World Series stage at the opening of the 2018 series in Sydney at the age of 19. Apps trains hard to be the best she can be, and knows that hard work comes with both sacrifices and benefits. One of the athletes focused in a CBC Gems documentary entitled “Inside an Athlete’s Head,” Apps explains how she has worked past some of her own fears to be the best she can be.

You recently had an injury in 2019, what happened?

OA: I tore my ACL in May of 2019, during a rugby practice. I had ACL reconstruction surgery on June 25th.

With your injury, how did you stay fit without running?

OA: For the first three months of my rehab, I was not able to run, even jog. During the first month after surgery I wasn’t able to do workouts involving my legs such as, biking or using the row ergometer. My workouts consisted of upper body circuits such as seated boxing or using the seated ski ergometer. These workouts did give me a good increased heart rate and helped me stay on track with my fitness. As I progressed in my rehab, by month two, I was able to use the rower, and do biking conditioning, as well as standing boxing, and ski ergometer. I spent a fair amount of hours on these machines, roughly 3-4 times a week in order to keep my fitness up and prepare my body for running conditioning once I hit the three month mark. As well as conditioning, I had an extensive strength rehab program which involved lifting 5 days a week.

How did you handle setbacks to your recovery?

OA: Although I knew set backs were likely to happen during my recovery process it was still very difficult to stay positive in the moment. However, one thing that really got me through was reminding myself to practice gratitude. It’s so easy to get caught up in what is going wrong in your life, or specifically in my rehab, or get frustrated with where I want to be versus where I am. I had to force myself to take a step back and appreciate how far I’ve come. Even though maybe I couldn’t practice with the team yet, at least I was able to run on the field next to them. Setbacks are frustrating and difficult to go through because most of the time it is out of our control, and at the end of the day, my body was telling me that I’m not quite ready yet. To take a step back and be thankful for how far I’ve come in this long journey and get excited about what is next, really helped me and steered me away from the negative thoughts of rehab that could put me off course.

How important is nutrition to your recovery? What sort of recovery do you do?

OA: Nutrition is a very important aspect to my recovery throughout the whole process but especially through the early stages after surgery. During that time my body had gone through minor trauma so taking supplements such as collagen, antioxidants, tart cherry, and creatine all helped with the recovery process whether it was to maintain muscle mass, decrease swelling or inflammation, or to promote optimal repair of the ligament. One of the main focuses throughout my entire recovery was to regain the muscle mass lost in my quad. Nutrition is very important in this aspect. With multiple weight sessions a week I had to make sure I was always refuelling my body with the proper supplements to ensure my body was getting the protein it needed and also able to recover in time for the next session or the following day. Aside from nutritional recovery, keeping my body (especially my left leg) as loose and comfortable as possible was key to ensuring I could train and continue to rebuild muscle. Whether it was yoga, extra physiotherapy, or simply taking an ice bath, all of these actions helped keep my body moving and healthy, preventing any other injuries, and helping my current one heal as best it can.

How important is music to your workout and what is your song of choice to get motivated?

OA: Music is very important to me and has always been a key part of my life. Whether it’s driving to training, preparing for a game, or simply cleaning the house, music is always playing. Especially during the hard conditioning or weights sessions where I felt very alone and tired of doing the same thing over and over, many different playlists got me through those times. If I had to choose one song that could always get me into a motivated headspace no matter the situation I would probably have to choose “Monster” by Kanye West, from his album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’.

Where in the world would love to visit that you haven’t previously?

OA: Probably Italy. I would love to learn about Italian cooking and drink some nice Italian espresso.

How important is goal setting to reaching your fitness goals?

OA: Goal setting was crucial for me during this rehab. Especially since ACL rehab is roughly 9 months long, it is a very challenging and lengthy process. In order to help myself stay positive and able to continue through my recovery, I had to set short term goals not just with my rehab, but also with my rugby skills. I had to dedicate countless hours to extra skills sessions to keep my skills up to par while I was off field and also to improve and develop new skills so I could compete for a spot once back on the pitch.

What is a piece of advice to get through low motivation days?

OA: There would definitely be days where I felt really low, and days in which 9 months of rehab seems daunting, terrifying and impossible. Something I had to tell myself in order to not get worked up or down on myself was ‘one day at a time’. Although it seems like this would get old after a while or doesn’t hold much value, it was really important for me to keep me in the present and not too caught up in the ‘what if’ questions or ‘I don’t know if I can do it’ thoughts. It was easy for me to feel helpless when I thought of all the things I would be missing out on. But at the end of the day, all that was in my control was what I was doing in that moment. My only job was to get better, not worrying about what was going to happen down the road.

Who is your favourite workout partner?

OA: My favourite workout partner would have to be my team’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Stephen McKinnon. He’s been there with me every step of the way through this rehab. He was always able to make me smile. He also made me feel included at times when I felt that I was very alone. He pushed me way harder than I knew I could. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

How has family and friends supported you through your injury?

OA: My family has been very important through this process. Through moments of self doubt and feelings of complete defeat, my mother and my sisters have always been there for me, just a call or a text away. However, my teammates have been my main support system through this process, mostly because they have been with me every day, they know the struggle, they know what it’s like to be on the sideline, and go through rehab. They are always there to talk to if I need to vent, cry, or even get someone to pass with. Although this rehab has been difficult and presented me with countless challenges, it really gave me a different perspective and has allowed me to appreciate my teammates in a new way. They are my second family and I couldn’t have gone through this rehab without them.

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