Meet Kristie: mama to 5 and wife to 1, longtime fitness instructor, survivor, and not-so-secret candy lover…
“I’m Kristie Gardner, I live with my husband Clint and our 4 active kiddos (plus one in heaven) in a small Utah town in the Uintah Basin. I love to craft and make home decor. I love to be active and outside in the sun! I love to make something ‘new’ by just changing its color or finish, gimme all the spray paint! I’m an early bird. I love to get up and get my workout in, have some time to myself for spiritual things. I feel the morning is quiet and powerful and I can feel God and heaven closer, and I feel strengthened and ready for my day.
Right now I am teaching weights, spin and HIIT training (my personal favorite). I love being able to give energy to the people in my class and feel their energy in return. I love helping others. I also have started to do a little personal training, though I’ve always helped others out by writing diet and fitness plans, the only difference is that I finally started charging for it! I have always loved this field and continue each day to read and study to expand my knowledge base on fitness and nutrition. I personally lift weights 4 or 5 days a week right now with cardio mixed in there. I live in a small town and our gym went out of business a year ago and since then I have been mostly doing my own thing. I have a friend who opened a CrossFit gym and keeps a group fitness room where I teach. I’ve done CrossFit before, but the heavy weights and speedy lifts don’t work well for me and my body. To explain why, I will start back 20 years ago when I first started getting into fitness.
I first started with running when I became a cheerleader in high school. I was always active playing sports and such, but had to run a mile everyday with cheer and I loved it. I was soon running anywhere from 8 to 16 miles a day/6 days a week. When I graduated, I was approached at my gym and asked to start teaching classes so I got my certification and dove right in. I started with kickboxing and cycle classes and soon added in weights, step and bootcamp type classes. I’ve taught everything from kickboxing and spin, to weight classes, HIIT training and more. I would say my favorites are weights and hiit, although I miss kickboxing the last couple years. I was an avid runner and was training to do my first marathon until I was in a horrible freeway car accident at the age of 19.
Officials weren’t sure whether my car tire blew or I fell asleep, but I overcorrected and rolled 4 times and was ejected butt first out of the sunroof of the car! Both of my lungs had been punctured and collapsed so they put tubes in them on the freeway and I was taken to the hospital where they stabilized me enough to be life flighted to LDS hospital in Salt Lake City. My friend who was a nurse said the doctors kept saying that they wanted me out of there so they didn’t have a death on their records. Once I was on Life Flight, my parents were told to brace themselves for me to have passed by the time they drove to the hospital. When the flight landed and they had a chance to assess the major damage they found I had such intense internal bleeding that I had only about a quart of my own blood at that point! My other major injuries included a concussion, head wound, broken jaw, broken collar bone, all but 3 ribs were broken, collapsed lungs, lacerated liver, spleen cut almost in half, broken pelvis in 4 different places, hip broken and my L4 of my back was crushed 90%. I was given medicine to sedate and paralyze me so that my internal bleeding could properly heal.
After almost 4 days, I was taken into back surgery. My doctor still was amazed I was not paralyzed at that point, but was determined and really adamant that most likely I would be paralyzed by the end of surgery. After 7 hours of surgery, I was not paralyzed and came through without further issue. I have two 9” rods and 5 screws in my lower back which is also fused half way up my back. As my doctor put it “someone else was definitely helping” because there is no other reason I am not currently paralyzed.
Miracles continued to happen from that moment on. The doctors would give my parents the worst and best options and somehow the odds always swung in my favor. I spent 11 days in the ICU and after being told I would spend months in the hospital and in a wheelchair too, I was discharged a few days short of one month and only spent 3 months in a wheelchair.
I went back to the gym as soon as I could. I could only do level 1 on the recumbent bike, but I did it! I pushed myself and got back to teaching within a month of starting to walk again which was roughly 4 months after my accident even though it took me a lot of concentration, hard work and focus to be able to do it.
I have pain everyday but I know as I keep my body strong and healthy, that pain is far less than it could be. I was put on bedrest with my last baby and was reminded again how grateful I am for a body that I can use and keep strong to fight that daily pain. I have been blessed with 5 children. Pregnancy and delivery have not been an easy thing for me with the injuries and damage from my accident, but I am SO grateful for these littles in my life!
Fitness for me is about friendships, family, and sharing my love of life and health with others. I love teaching. I love gathering friends to come walking with me as we laugh and talk about our lives. I love seeing people get a good workout in and the instant confidence it can build. Teaching and exercise are rarely a hassle for me, I look forward to it each day. My day doesn’t feel complete if I haven’t been active.
Fitness to me has changed over the years. With my running it started with a competition with myself, how far could I run and how fast could I do it? It evolved into a time for me to be alone and almost meditate with my thoughts. There have been times where it was more of a focus on vanity over health. There have been times when it’s been a sanity saver though various trials or this current time in my life spent raising littles, hah! There are times when the pain I have day in and day out rule my need for exercise and a strong body.
I do love to push myself and see change, but I am also aware of my limits with my back and body. The reality of a second surgery on my back and hip are real. I was given 10 or so years until they would need to fuse my whole back, which will limit me a whole lot more. I am now at 17 years with no additional surgeries. I have kids to raise. I need to stay healthy and strong for them, and not injure myself more or bring on surgery with my back by over doing it. I gave up most of my running, although last summer a friend asked me to run Ragnar 2 weeks before so I did, with no training at all! 23 miles, baby! The next weekend I decided to run my 3rd half marathon because I figured with Ragnar I basically did all the training for it so why not? I have run 3 half marathons in the last 5 years, all of which I decided to do only a few days prior. I enjoy that spontaneous challenge to see if my body can kick it in and every time it comes through. Thanks body!
My goals are to stay strong, to keep moving, and to use this amazing body I was blessed with to continue to do good things. I pray I can use what God has given me: my life, my body, my knowledge of health and nutrition for good. I hope I can motivate others to keep healthy, to love their body and appreciate what it can do and not abuse it. The world would have us believe if we aren’t a certain weight or body fat percentage or whatever, we aren’t good enough. I want us to see that everybody is beautiful in their own way and no one body shape is better that another. I don’t really need to prove anything to anyone, I just want to feel good enough to run around with my kids, catch grasshoppers and frogs, play baseball in our yard, and all that is yet to come. I am so blessed and grateful, I hope I can continue to use my knowledge and my abilities to help others gain a love and respect for their beautiful and amazing bodies.”