The Paralympian is serving up some major inspo.
When Paralympic gold medalist and former world record holder (not to mention fierce Dancing With the Stars competitor) Victoria Arlen was just 11 years old, she developed two rare conditions—transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis—that put her in a coma for two years.
In January 2009, the now-ESPN star came out of the coma but was in a vegetative state, fully immobilized. She couldn’t speak or eat—though she could hear conversations happening around her in the hospital room her parents had set up in their New Hampshire home. She describes her state as feeling like a ghost living in a shell of a human.
Although many of her doctors believed that Victoria wouldn’t pull through—and that if she did, she’d never regain speech or movement, in November 2009 she was able to signal to her mother, through a blink, that she was cognizant of her surroundings, nearly a year after waking up from her coma.
Over time, the now-23 year old worked tirelessly with speech and physical therapists, went back to school, and ultimately started swimming again (something she loved before she got sick). In the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Arlen took home the gold for the 100-meter freestyle.
Arlen, who still has no feelings in her legs, went on to become one of ESPN’s youngest reporters and a motivational speaker. And after spending almost 10 years paralyzed from the waist down, she learned how to walk again.
“I am not one to give up the fight that easily,” the Jockey spokeswoman told WomensHealthMag.com.
To fit in all of her rehabilitation, workouts, and speaking engagements, Victoria has to start her day (really) early.
4:45 a.m. I take 30 minutes to meditate
“I’m a morning person. When I first wake up, I spend some time trying to stay in the moment—to be present and grateful.
I do a little yoga, too, and then use my Theragun to help with sore muscles to get my legs up and working.”
5:15 a.m: Off to Soul Cycle
“I usually work out two to three hours a day, often starting at the SoulCycle right near my new place in West Hollywood.”
“I also love Pure Barre and work out with a trainer three to five times a week. Constantly switching it up and challenging my body is key. Every day, I have to keep reminding my legs that they work.”
8 a.m: I write out my to-do list during breakfast
“I love breakfast. My go to is one-quarter cup of oatmeal, three egg whites, a handful of blueberries, and a scoop of almond butter. It’s a perfect combo of everything I need. I’ll pair it with coconut coffee concentrate from Trader Joe’s and almond milk plus stevia.”
“During breakfast, my assistant will brief me on the day’s schedule, and I make my plan.”
8:30 a.m. Time to get glam
“One of the perks of being an ESPN commentator is that almost every day I get my hair and makeup done. But beforehand, I always like to prep my skin with Rose Deep Hydration Face Serum from Fresh. Over the years, I have tried so many products and have finally found a recipe my skin likes.”
9 a.m. By now I’m ready to conquer the day
“Depending on what I’m doing—I wear quite a few career hats—my day will vary. But usually by 9 a.m., my ‘me’ time is wrapped up.”