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Cindy Robicheau in the Yarmouth Lions Club hall after one of the fitness classes she teaches. She is working her way back after being seriously hurt in a car crash this past April. ERIC BOURQUE
Cindy Robicheau in the Yarmouth Lions Club hall after one of the fitness classes she teaches. She is working her way back after being seriously hurt in a car crash this past April. ERIC BOURQUE

YARMOUTH, N.S. – As part of her recovery from serious injuries suffered in a car accident a few months ago, Cindy Robicheau is undergoing various kinds of therapy, but she says probably the best therapy has been resuming her role as a fitness instructor.

Moments after finishing a Wednesday session at the Yarmouth Lions Club hall, Robicheau reflected a bit on what it was like being able to start conducting her classes again.

It was “wonderful,” she said. “I feel the best when I’m teaching classes.”

For years Robicheau, a Yarmouth County resident, has been helping people be fit and healthy. She also is one of the area’s most accomplished athletes, known by many for her achievements in the triathlon, notably the Ironman.

On July 7, Cindy Robicheau was overseeing things at the annual Ellenwood Kids Triathlon, an event she has organized for many years. ERIC BOURQUE
On July 7, Cindy Robicheau was overseeing things at the annual Ellenwood Kids Triathlon, an event she has organized for many years. ERIC BOURQUE

These days, Robicheau’s exercise routine would be the envy of a lot of people. After all, she walks about 12 to 15 kilometres a day, does aqua therapy and pool running, practises qigong and lifts a few weights. But for her, this is a new kind of training regimen, a departure from the workouts she was accustomed to doing.

“For 30 years, each summer, I would swim, bike and run almost every day,” she said. “I’ve competed in international triathlons and Ironman. I also love doing performance (agility) sports with my dogs.”

On April 8 of this year, Robicheau was a passenger in a vehicle that left the road near Liverpool in the last snowstorm of the season. She suffered a burst fracture in her lower back and a fractured left shoulder. Among other things, she had four broken ribs, a concussion and an injured jaw.

On April 19, in Halifax, she had an operation in which two rods were inserted in her back and screwed to her spine. She was released from hospital April 25.

“Returning home was very difficult,” she said. “I had so many limitations, including getting off the sofa, getting out of bed, walking, having a shower ... I was also very sick from taking the pain medication (morphine) and then getting off the morphine. I was in a lot of pain. For weeks, I seldom got more than a few hours sleep, and it is still hard.”

As she recovered, she tried to walk a little more each day, eventually making it the whole way up her driveway – about 150 feet – then onto the road. For a month or so, she used two walking sticks to help with her balance.

On June 1, during a checkup in Halifax, her doctor gave her the go-ahead to do physiotherapy, osteopathy and massage therapy. In early June, two months after the accident, she started teaching her fitness classes again.

Robicheau is grateful for all the support she received from family and friends. The people in her class, of course, were very happy to see her return.

As for the rods in her spine, she said she may be able to have them removed in a year or so. She described the feeling of having them as “tightness and discomfort for the most part. I wasn’t able to get anything off the floor for quite a long time or bend down. Now I can get things off the floor, but any extended bending (is difficult). Like washing the dishes is really hard because you’re slightly forward. Some of the meds I take are good for that.”

Robicheau acknowledges she has come a long way in three months. She will look at video footage of herself in the hospital, when she was just starting to walk again, and compare it to where she is now. “It’s quite different,” she said.

Cindy Robicheau doing a qigong routine, one of her daily activities. ERIC BOURQUE
Cindy Robicheau doing a qigong routine, one of her daily activities. ERIC BOURQUE

Her background in physical fitness has helped her a lot, she said. Still, ideally, she would like to return to the way she was before the crash.

“I’d like to get things back to normal,” she said, “and I guess I have to realize this is the new normal for me, and that might be the hardest part, accepting the new normal.”

On July 7 – nearly three months to the day after the accident – Robicheau was at Ellenwood Park for the annual kids triathlon, a race she’s organized since the early 1990s. She wasn’t able to run around and do everything with the event that she normally would have – and she knew this would be the case – but she had people step up to help and she’s thankful for their assistance.

Similarly, even though she was able to start teaching her classes again in early June, Robicheau was more limited in what she could do, but she was happy to be back in that environment.

“My participants were wonderful and welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “Although I cannot perform all of the exercises, they are patient with me. My motto in class has always been ‘do your best, forget the rest.’ And now I’m living that motto.”

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