Exceptionally Aware. Distinctly Intuitive. A True Warrior. Heidi Armstrong.
I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Heidi at a physical therapy clinic in Vail, CO, where we were both rehabilitating from debilitating long-term injuries. I instantly recognized that her approach to recovery from injury was different than most, if not all, other people I have encountered during my 4+ years of physical therapy. Heidi was and is incredibly disciplined and meticulous in her rehab, leaving no stone unturned. We’ve spent hours on the phone or via text brainstorming ideas to optimize our recovery. She’s been an amazing friend and tremendous help in my personal road back to playing soccer professionally again.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Heidi is her positive aura. It is quite contagious, and her fun and bright spirit energizes whichever room she is in. She has an incredible drive and ability to find solutions where there are seemingly none. I’ve learned in my life to take advice from those who have traveled the same road before me, so when Heidi speaks, I listen. Experience is a massively important quality, especially for rehabilitating an injury. If you feel lost and confused, angry or stressed, or just need someone to help you get your focus back…Heidi can help.
I’ve played soccer professionally on three different continents. Among the people I met were elite and world class coaches, soccer players, athletic trainers, doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and the list goes on. Heidi is without a doubt in that class.
—KK (Professional International Soccer Player)
Following a knee/quadriceps injury and surgery I developed significant arthrofibrosis in my knee. As described on the Arthrofibrosis Page of this website, this condition is one of the most difficult challenges in orthopedics to treat and overcome. Heidi was instrumental in helping me navigate through the arthrofibrosis “maze” and assemble the best care team possible.
Heidi’s ability to understand and relate to the specific challenges associated with chronic injuries, including arthrofibrosis, sets her apart from the long list of healthcare professionals I have interacted with during my 5 year injury recovery journey. During our phone and email consultations Heidi emphasized three key points that helped me gain strength in more ways than words can describe:
1) You are not alone, Steve
2) Your injury recovery journey will make you a better person
3) We will get through this Steve
I had the pleasure of meeting Heidi in person at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, while we were both recovering from arthrofibrosis surgery (total of 12 knee surgeries between the two of us). Heidi’s determination to restore her own knee function and achieve her long-term recovery goals was truly remarkable. Her impact on other patients was even more impressive. Not only was she friendly, positive, and compassionate, but she could make even the most injury-frustrated patients smile. Heidi has been a injury/recovery coach, a mentor, and most importantly a dear friend. I am forever grateful for Heidi’s support and the resources on the injuredathletestoolbox.com website. I give her my highest recommendation.
—Steve Elmer, PhD, Exercise Physiology, cycling and cross country skiing
“She understood that the hardest times in your life to go through were when you were transition from one version of yourself to another.” ~Sarah Addison Allen
I was lost, angry, depressed, confused, and so many other emotions when I Googled “help for injured athletes.” I had been working with an exceptional sport psychologist for more than a year, but returning to sport after a pelvic floor injury, my first major DNF, a broken foot, and then mysterious (extreme) hip pain left me feeling at a loss. I once read that therapy often leads to understanding without relief…and I needed relief. Cue Heidi and Injured Athlete’s Toolbox.
Reading the questions on her homepage I kept saying “Yes! Yes to all these feelings!” and I knew I needed to contact her. After balling my eyes out and telling my story, I knew Heidi had that special knack, skillset, and understanding that would guide me out of my dark place.
While she may have known “my type,” she treated me as an individual human…because that’s what I am. I wasn’t just an injured marathon runner, just a former amateur elite runner, or just someone who saw her goals of making the Olympic Trials someday washing down the drain. She saw in me what I couldn’t see myself…and in our months of working together she helped me look in the mirror and be proud of all of my parts.
In the midst of working with Heidi, I was diagnosed with double femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and a torn hip labrum, requiring a major surgery. It was a tough pill to swallow, but Heidi worked with me diligently to ensure I would be emotionally and physically ready for the surgery and for all the hard recovery work to come.
I have to say that reaching out to Heidi almost a year ago has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. I love and appreciate myself for exactly who I am…and even have a better sense of who that is.
I WANT to run for the first time in my life…and don’t NEED to run. Heidi has given me so many tools that have made me a better person and in time, when fully recovered, I know will make me a better athlete. I am so grateful for Heidi and her willingness to dedicate her time and effort to so many struggling athletes. I can honestly say that because of Heidi’s help I am grateful for my injury and all the lessons and growth that have come with it.
—Christine Taranto, United States Marine, Marathon Runner, Gypsy Triathlete, Dog Mom, Coach, Daughter, Sister, Girlfriend….HUMAN
I came across Heidi’s website at the height of my frustration with an arthrofibrotic knee that refused to bend or straighten after multiple surgeries. Finding Heidi felt like hitting a jackpot because she suffered a similar condition like mine and worked through it until her knee was restored. So, yes, I was hopeful that I may receive help, but I was not prepared for the kindness, genuine concern, and compassion that Heidi embodied. It was easy to spill my guts to her. I felt supported and not judged as I unpacked all my frustration.
Then, when it was time for her to tell me about arthrofibrosis, she did not flinch. Heidi told me the complexity of the problem and what it may take to gain control of the situation. Her knowledge about the physiology of arthrofibrosis and her connections to resources gave me confidence that I have met the right person to point me the right direction.
Beyond just being understanding, Heidi suggested tools to help me manage my restless mind that was so preoccupied with my injury and limitations. She brought up alternative activities like swimming and cultivating my creative hobbies which were instrumental in restoring my sanity.
It has been almost a year since my first conversation with Heidi. With her encouragement, I was able to take steps towards getting expert help for my knee that tremendously helped with functionality. More importantly, Heidi was able to guide me out of severe despair to a place of balance – that tricky place between wanting a fully restored knee and living a full life with a physical limitation. Meeting Heidi was the best thing that happened to me – I feel braver and more confident in my fight against arthrofibrosis.
—Aida Fantaye, PhD, cycling, hiking, and cold-water swimming
Heidi, here is a long overdue thank you. My knee healed well as soon as you helped me do it right. On Sunday I was able to complete the Monterey Half Marathon in California. That seemed like a ridiculous goal in August and September! I ran with my wife Sheila, and daughters, Alanna and Lexi. It was wonderful!! Thank you for making it possible.
—Brent Iverson, PhD, Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, running
I found Heidi as I started researching arthrofibrosis. Her website had the answers I was looking for when my local orthopedic surgeon diagnosed me with arthrofibrosis. After three surgeries, I knew my extension issues, stiffness, and pain needed more than just time and PT to work out and it was time to reach out to her. I wanted a functional knee and I also dearly wanted my life back. We had our first call and she was able to help me get my thoughts together for my local orthopedic surgeon follow up later that day.
Heidi is a treasure trove of information but will admit not knowing or will tap her resources to get an answer. I ended up having another small surgery that improved my situation, but not enough. I’m so thankful to her for connecting me with Dr. Singleton. I traveled from Virginia to Texas to have a consultation with him and later my fifth surgery. Along the way, Heidi has worked with me to draft questions, answer questions, work through issues that pop up in recovery and in life, listen to me, and just be a breath of fresh air.
I can’t count the times I’ve said “I should check with Heidi” for her invaluable insight.
She encouraged me to find ways to go outside the bounds of my limitations, like I learned to swim before my fifth surgery. This last recovery has been a game changer. I’m doing things that I couldn’t have dreamed of in my darkest times, like simply walking without a limp, and most importantly without pain.
Everyone will have different outcomes, but I’ve learned that the knee journey isn’t just a physical one, but also a mental one. Heidi has helped heal my brain along with my soul. I realize that going back to my old self is not realistic, but finding my new normal is actually fine. I’ve also learned to celebrate the small steps, as an arthrofibrosis journey is a slow one. I’m not lost anymore.
—ML, Black Belt in TaeKwonDo, MS, MBA
Over the last year, I have had the great fortune of forming an amazing friendship with Heidi Armstrong. Heidi and I met at the Howard Head Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Clinic. While I was working to recover a hip from a complex surgery, Heidi was driving forward with healing her knee. Unfortunately, I had many complications and rehabbing my hip consumed my life. As a Half Ironman Athlete and Emergency Room Physician, I have never been one to “sit still.” Needless to say, my injury put a severe damper on my life. With the impressive wisdom, concern, caring, and love from Heidi, I have been able to realize that this setback is a learning process in my life. Heidi is absolutely one of the most amazing people I have met. Her injury has changed her life drastically yet she remains optimistic and full of love and life! Her smiling face enlightens my heart each time I see her or talk to her! Heidi has provided me with amazing insight and resources that keep me moving forward. She is full of guidance for many people but especially the injured athlete. It is without hesitation that I strongly recommend Heidi for guidance in any aspect in life!
—Julie Mills, D.O., triathlon
A few years ago, an accident smashed my knee and changed my life. One year and four surgeries later, I was still in constant pain and couldn’t do daily activities as simple as walking down stairs. I consulted the “best” surgeons and physiotherapists in three countries and was told that there was nothing that could be done for me. Despite their good intentions, my friends, family and colleagues did not understand my condition or what I was experiencing, so on top of my physical pain I struggled to deal with psychological isolation.
And then I came across Heidi’s website. Heidi shared her experience of arthrofibrosis so generously that I no longer felt alone. While never pushing anything or anyone on me she gave me the information I needed to get to the right surgeon and the right physiotherapists. She explained to me in great detail what I should expect from the surgery and rehabilitation. Although I had contacted her out of nowhere across the internet, she immediately treated me as a good friend would: tirelessly and patiently answering my questions and always knowing how to provide just the right amount of compassion and reassurance and the just right dose of reality.
My condition is now so much better than it was that I am able to do almost all my daily activities without pain or limitations. And being in touch with Heidi has helped me to find the balance between fighting for more improvements, but also accepting the limitations that I have to live with.
Heidi and I have still not (yet!) met in person but she has already helped me to change my life for the better.
—MH, alpine skiing
When I first started talking to Heidi I was in a very bad place–depressed and discouraged from back-to-back season ending injuries. After months of physical rehab with a number of doctors and mental rehab with Heidi I see a bright future ahead for me.
A year ago, I was playing college baseball where I was having a great season until I was struck in the face with a ball, which resulted in a season ending concussion. Two weeks after I was cleared to play again I was rammed into during a summer game and sustained muscle and ligament tears in my back. This caused me to get extremely discouraged and shut out the world. After talking with Heidi, we developed a plan for me to get the most out of life under the circumstances I was in.
I am grateful for her willingness to help and would recommend letting Heidi help you through a time of injury. I know it helped me get into a better state of mind and put me on the right track for a successful future.
—JS, collegiate baseball
I met Heidi at an Injured Athlete’s Toolbox event where as soon as I walked in, she jumped in front of me and said “Hi, I’m Heidi!” to which I responded “Hi I’m May,” to which she then responded, “Oh your friend told me all about you!” Needless to say I felt really good and welcomed–a great feeling when you’re already feeling confused and worried. Heidi maintained that demeanor the whole time I worked with her and that’s one of the things I loved most about Heidi.
Even though my knee injury happened 9 years before I met Heidi, I dealt with the major difficulties of that injury the whole time. And in that time span I had never come across someone like Heidi. Someone who understood every face, angle, and surprise of injury. She gets it like nobody else. There’s nothing like experiencing an injury or multiple ones yourself. Nothing like talking to someone who has had that same feeling of being dunked under water once again…just as you got up to breathe. Heidi was and is diligent, amazingly detailed and thoughtful. She had an eagle eye for connecting me with the community and resources I needed. And best of all she is one of the most understanding and compassionate human beings I’ve ever met. From the beginning I knew she did this all from her heart. It was a supreme privilege and blessing to get to know Heidi.
—May, road cycling, personal trainer
I believe that an injured athlete needs an independent, unbiased advocate to help him/her through the maze of possible traditional medical, holistic, and therapeutic options–an advocate who is an elite athlete and has extensive personal experience with injury and recovery, and an advocate who would have the best interests of the injured athlete at heart. I believe Heidi Armstrong meets these criteria and would highly recommend her to any athlete needing honest, experienced guidance during the difficult time after an injury.
—Frank B. Falkstein, in better shape than most people 40 years his junior, including his grandkids
I was looking for a chiropractor for low back pain; Heidi and I worked together to make sure I was approaching my injury correctly. I wasn’t. She explained to me the common causes of low back pain and how a proper diagnosis by an MD was the correct first step. An MRI of my low back showed a ruptured disc. Without Heidi’s advice, who knows how much time I would have wasted or potential further injury I would have subjected myself to without the proper diagnosis. Heidi is incredibly knowledgeable about health care, and, as an injured athlete herself, she has a deep empathy for injured athletes. I highly recommend Heidi for any injured athlete trying to find their way back to their sport.
—Danny Goldstein, rock climbing and running
It truly takes being an injured athlete to even begin to assist one. From dealing with insurance companies to grappling with self-identity threats to experiencing, identifying, and understanding frustration and tears, only someone who has been in the woods can guide another out. Heidi has had her fair share of all the above and more, and is here to tell and share her triumphant story. With her experience, her God-given gift of empathy, a heart bursting with compassion, and her refreshing jocularity, she is the perfect guide that will not only give you directions out of the “woods,” but she will meet you, walk with you, and encourage you every step of the way.
—Jordan Spennato, collegiate volleyball
As a young UT student I met Heidi through volunteer, non-profit work she supervised. She quickly became and energetic and heart-warming guide. Last year, as I neared the end of training for my fourth half-marathon I encountered abdominal pain similar to some I had experienced over four years prior. The first time I experienced these problems I spent 8 months going to countless doctors and receiving no worthwhile advice. Four years later, when the symptoms came back it took five minutes on the phone with Heidi to figure out the plan that saved my love for running. She put me in contact with a sports therapist who quickly diagnosed and solved the problem, enabling me to complete my half-marathon and keep running ever since.
Because of Heidi’s love for sports, as through her own injury, Heidi has the knowledge, experience, and even more importantly, the heart to help injured athletes overcome the unique challenges they face. For all of the help Heidi has given me, both on and off the running trail, I will always be thankful. Without hesitation I recommend her as a mentor to anyone lucky enough to have her at their side.
—Meghan Muir, running
As an elite level alpine racer, attending a ski-specific high school, injury was the last thing I wanted to encounter. Training from twenty to thirty-five hours a week finally took a toll on my body. I met Heidi after my first surgery (now on number four) and as skiing has gotten pushed farther and farther away Heidi has been there for me giving me the ability see the light at the end of the tunnel. Heidi is an inspiration to me as she spreads such an upbeat and refreshing attitude to everyone around her. She will definitely succeed in anything she does and will help as many people as she can along the way. I may not have realized it before I began my recovery, but being injured truly is a journey and a journey like this should never be traveled alone.
Through my ski team, we have required sports psych sessions. These sessions got me nowhere; if anything they set me back. I was completely against the idea of talking with anyone about what I was going through because they just didn’t understand what it was like.
This is another reason why I would recommend Heidi with absolutely no hesitation. She has been through a great deal of injury herself. The freedom to relate with Heidi is incredible and has been game-changing to me. Heidi taught me that as much as the setbacks are a bummer, you can’t let them hold you down because there are so many little successes you can be focusing on. There are a variety of things that Heidi has done herself and recommended to me, which in turn, have helped me greatly. Whether you need a shoulder to lean on, someone to share great strides with, or just guide you along the way, Heidi is exactly what every injured athlete should seek to find.
—Delaney Patterson, U18 alpine ski racing
Heidi has been the linchpin of my healing journey back to running. At a crossroads and feeling totally confused and directionless in my journey back to health, I knew who I needed to call–Heidi. I met her at one of her wonderful seminars, and knew she was a powerhouse of wisdom. She knows the ropes more than anyone I can think of, and her advice and direction has been indispensable. I put and will continue to put 110% trust in anything Heidi has to offer, and any direction she steers be towards. Her best quality? She loves. EVERYTHING she does comes from that sacred place of truly loving you and wanting you to come out of your pit(s) better, stronger. Her approach is unique and full of creativity, and even though she truly knows what she is talking about and has SO much to offer, she still listens to every minute of my brain vomit I may have to spew. It’s been true teamwork working with Heidi. I’ve discovered more about myself than I could have imagined, and Heidi has been an invaluable catalyst in getting me to even ask myself, “Who am I, truly,” especially without my sport. I love you, Heidi.
—Katie Visco, running…Katie has run across America, one of only 13 women to do so!