Kansas State University


Find Your Fit

Interview With Annie

I interviewed Personal Trainer Annie Spence today. Annie is the employee of the month, congratulations Annie! Annie is also graduating this May. Annie has a lot of good stories to share, so read on to learn about her accident, how she came back from it, how it has changed her perspective on training, and much more!


SN: “How long have you worked at the rec?”

AS: “I have worked at the rec for about two years.  I’ve been lifting weights since I was twelve. That’s when I started studying anatomy and lifting. I pursued weight lifting all through high school. I ended up getting my family into it too, since we were all a bit out of shape.”

SN: “So, I think you’ve mentioned that you didn’t go straight from high school to college. What did you do in between?”
AS: “Yes. I took time off and managed Bluestem. That’s also the time when I traveled to New Zealand, and got in an accident.” “Yeah, the doctors Weren’t sure if I’d be able to walk again. After, I came back with a severe limp and started doing wheelchair workouts. I progressed from wheelchair, walker, to cane eventually. I came to K-state at twenty, and started in biochemistry. I started training at the rec and started studying for personal training. Then I switched to the kinesiology program.”

SN: “Can you talk about your accident? What happened, and when was it?”

AS: “I was in New Zealand in Huntersville. I was at their Burning Man Festival. Everyone camps in the woods at this event. It was the first night there, and there was a loud thundercrack noise, which was actually  this tree falling. Suddenly I just felt this immense pressure. I realized the tree fell on me, and tried to stand up, and my hip popped out to the side. I reached down to my stomach and could feel bone. I asked my friend to call for medical help. I laid in the woods for thirty minutes until an ambulance took me away on a stretcher. I endured an hour-long ambulance ride because we were in the mountains. I was taken to a small rural hospital. I didn’t receive any pain killers. They tried to give me laughing gas in the ambulance, but I turned away from it because I wanted to be able to advocate for myself. After forty-five minutes of waiting, I started hemorrhaging. I was finally taken to a room where they started running tests. I woke up after a four-hour surgery. I called my family and shortly after was airlifted to another hospital. I was in the ICU for three days. What was supposed to be another four-hour surgery became a thirteen-hour surgery. They put in twenty-nine screws, three plates, and drain-tubes. It took three more surgeries to take drains out and one of the screws. I was hospitalized for six months. I couldn’t eat for a long time and had to relearn how to eat.”

AS: “It was a very humbling experience because everyone had to take care of my bodily daily functions. I also had a bad skin wound and they said if it got infected I would probably die.”

SN: “Was there a time when you thought you were going to die?”

AS: “My mom was really worried I was going to die, but I think I was always hell-bent on not dying. I just didn’t entertain the thought. I journaled a lot, marking bits of progress. I made a list of all of the things I was excited to do when I got back, and checked them off after I got back.”

AS: “When I got back I had a goofy limp, but that’s when I met my fiancé, Laura. I went to K-State at this time, and I walked around with a cane. I don’t think I would have been able to go back without her. I don’t think I would be finishing school if not for her. And her being an athlete inspired me. After not being able to move, I was just happy to move at all. The community also supported me. They raised money to help pay medical bills and checked on me.”

SN: “How did you build back up your exercise regime after that? How long did it take? What motivated you?”

AS: “I still have chronic pain. I have severe nerve damage, and there’s always aches and pains that go on. When I came back, I would walk with the cane as much as I could. People in the community helped me get massage therapy and physical therapy. Just using my knowledge of weight lifting, I started doing squats and single leg pressing.”

AS: “Sometimes the pain is severe in the moment, sometimes it lasts for days. It’s unpredictable. Every now and then, everything hurts, so I’m just doing as much as I can each day. This makes it hard to follow a conventional powerlifting schedule, because I’m more conservative with my workouts now. I think I’m able to push harder than some people who have daily injuries. It’s just how it’s going to be. There’s some ego you have to put aside.”

SN: “What was the hardest part for you about the accident?”

AS: “I think the hardest and best part of going through it, is that I am very aware of the fact that your life could be over at any time. I feel very intimately aware of my mortality on a daily basis. It makes me more present, and I try to allow it to inspire what I say yes to and what I spend my time on. In a world that demands perfection, I think for me, in the face of mortality, I would rather be happy than perfect. My relationships with the people I care about will always be more important than anything else. I could have been totally disabled, and if I had hung my happiness on being able to be a powerlifter, that’d suck, because my identity would have been crushed. You should always be able to choose to be happy.”

SN: “What keeps you motivated to work out now?”

AS: “I want to be healthy, I want to be physically capable for the rest of my life. I think being healthy helps you be happy. If I have kids, I want to be able to kick a soccer ball with them and be active. Furthermore, exercise is meditative, and good for my well-being. In addition, being in the field I’m in, I feel like I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t work out.”

SN: “What is your favorite method of movement?”

AS: “For fun I love dance. I also juggled and thought about joining the circus at one point. I think weight lifting is probably my favorite though.”

SN: “Why?”

AS: “Because it is multifaceted. For myself and with clients, it feels good to feel strong. It’s empowering. A lot of types of progress aren’t measurable, but I’m progressing in a very distinct manner. It’s nice to have that in weight lifting. It is nice to think about in other areas of life too, to have that confidence. I think it’s especially good for women, I think it’s really cool that women have started to realize all the things that they can do. Anyone can do it in any capacity whether it’s a mental or physical disability. Everybody is equal in a weight room.”

SN: “Have you always been active?”

AS: “Kind of…I wasn’t a super athletic kid, I was more of a reader and drawer. I liked art and literature. I was much more of a nerd than jock, if you want to put me in a category. I loved being outdoors. I loved comic book characters, and their physical abilities. My parents were active when they were my age, but not super athletic. I don’t come from a super athletic family. When I was thirteen, I was a little bit overweight and I was kind of done with it. I think I wanted to become more like those sci-fi characters. The theatrical nature of physical feats got me into it, but I was definitely not active as a kid.”


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