How I Got My Life & Lifting Back
Written by Invictus Member Jessica Hauck
But first…a quick note from Jessica’s Coach, Ricky Moore:
Working with Jessica has been a voyage for both of us in many different aspects of our lives and coach-athlete-friend relationship. The greatest development I’ve seen in her over the past 5 years is in her mindset journey. In the past, her mood would dictate her training for each day so we worked on how to not let that affect her negatively. She has created a more-positive outlook by working on little victories and using the gym to turn her day around.
In the time since Jessica wrote this article, she has crushed a number of her goals and is posting some pretty big accomplishments. As you’ll read, she hasn’t competed in over 5 years. Just a couple of weeks ago, she did the Online Qualifier for the American Open (AO) with a goal to qualify for AO3 in Masters with a doable and easy 98kg total. She ended up crushing that number with a 121 (54 Snatch + 76 Clean & Jerk)! Besides absolutely crushing her goal, that total earned her a trip to Nationals and is 10kg over the the required total! Congratulations Jessica – it’s amazing to see all of your hard work and perseverance pay off!
How I Got My Life & Lifting Back
My name is Jessica Hauck and I’m 37 years old at 151 pounds but I haven’t always been here. Here’s my story.
I have always been an active person from running, hiking, biking to surfing. We live in San Diego, so why not take advantage and get out? I have always felt being in the gym was such a waste. As a kid I played all the sports but my favorite was and still is basketball. I even wanted to play professional until I stopped getting taller. So I turned to running long distances to stay in shape and healthy. But just like everyone else, I have also always struggled with my weight. If I wasn’t active I would gain weight very quickly. There is nothing medically wrong with me that would cause rapid weight gain. My lowest weight as an adult was 138 and my highest 210. Even at 210 pounds I was running and in the gym. I have always heard the saying you can’t out train a bad diet and I was living proof of this.
So I ran. I loved running. It was my way to escape the world around me. Put my music on and run. In 2013, I decided to start training to actually run a race. I started out just running 5ks because it was an easy distance to start training for.
At this point I weighed 140 and ran a lot!! I also got a running partner to do the Rock N Roll half marathon as a relay team. We did so well that at this point we both decided to start training for an actual half marathon. Neither one of us really knew how to train for a race.
I started doing longer distance races from 10K to 15K. I started to notice the longer my runs got the more weight I gained. How could this be? I’m running which means I should be burning calories and losing weight, not gaining. Weight gain is bad for a runner (knees) At the end of 2013, when I reached 188, I started working with a coach to get my nutrition under control. He actually had me running less about 6 miles max a week. For someone who was going to run their first half marathon in January 2014, this was nuts. How can I run 13.1 miles if I don’t know what it actually feels like? I was scared but I had to learn to trust him and the weight started coming off.
A few days after Christmas I received a text from the owner of my gym that said I was going to do a full marathon with obstacles on New Year’s Day!! Wait, WHAT?? I thought he was joking. He was not. So on January 1, 2014, I ran my first full marathon with obstacles. The obstacles included at mile 5 I had to take a 50lb rock and run up a 1 mile hill. At mile 10, I had to take a beach cruiser up a very steep 2 mile hill. At mile 15, army crawl across the beach for 1 mile with a 2 mile beach run. Mile 20, take a paddle board across mission bay which I had never been on a paddle board before and it was extremely windy that day. Once we finished with the paddle board obstacle, it was a little over 3 miles uphill to the finish. I was the first to finish and it took me only 7 hours, 11 minutes and 3,825 calories.
It’s amazing what you can put your body through. With my first half marathon a few weeks away I was pretty confident I was going to do well. With my weight at 150lbs I finished my first half in 2 hours and signed up to do the triple crown plus the Rock N Roll ½ marathon. I was now a runner!! That same month I was introduced to Strongman and Olympic weightlifting. I was pretty good at strongman and but of course I fell in love with Olympic weightlifting. I was still running, doing strongman and Oly.
In March 2014, I did my first Sprint Triathlon and in April 2014, I did my first Oly meet. At this point I was told I had to be either a runner or weightlifter but not both. But I was already committed to 3 half marathons to finish out 2014 and 4 in 2015.
I knew I wanted to be an Olympic Weightlifter so I got a coach and did a few more meets where I took home gold. I stopped focusing on my nutrition and started focusing on gaining strength. I started gaining weight again. Thinking that I was gaining muscle. Yes, I was getting stronger but I was getting fat again due to the higher carb intake.
My new coach wanted me to take some time off of Oly lifting to get stronger so we focused on powerlift. Turns out I’m pretty good at it, better than Olympic Weightlifting. I did my first and last powerlifting meet in November 2014 and went back to Oly lifting and now weighed 195. I started 2014 at 150lbs and finished the year at 195lbs. In 2015 I focused on Oly and qualifying for the American Open.
The goal was to qualify for the Open, do it and qualify for Nationals. I didn’t run except for the 4 ½ marathons I was already committed to. I did not train for them. I just showed up the day of the race and ran. My coach started taking on more athletes and he started focusing on his powerlifting career. I needed to find a new coach that would get me to the American Open. I interviewed three different coaches, including Invictus. Honestly no one was a good fit. Didn’t have the bond that I had with my coach, at that time. Invictus made a lot of promises so in August of 2015 I started working with their Oly coach Gaje, twice a week with his programming for 5 days a week.
By this time I had only one more ½ marathon to finish in LA and my knees couldn’t wait!! By 2016 I was only doing Olympic Weightlifting. No running, no powerlifting and no strongman. I was sitting at 210. My lifts started to suffer because of my weight. So I started doing CrossFit in the morning and lifted in the afternoons. This is where I met Coach Holden Rethwill and started two-a-days.
By April 2016 I was working with Holden, finished my first Open, got my diet back on point and was training 6 days a week, twice a day. I went from 210lbs down to 175lbs. I was doing great. Olympic Weightlifting was finally improving and my weight was getting under control. I had the numbers to qualify for the American Open and was set to do the Cal State Games in July 2016.
On May 28, 2016, my life as I knew would change forever. I was doing a partner workout and felt my right knee pop. It hurt but I had to keep going. I couldn’t let my partner down and needed to finish the workout. After we finished a must have sat on the gym floor for about an hour. I was afraid to walk. I wasn’t scared of the pain but of the reality of what had happened. Being a holiday weekend, all I could do was ice and rest until I could get in to see my doctor. We did an MRI but my knee was so swollen Dr. Sitler couldn’t really see how much damage was done to my knee. He had the bakers cyst aspirated which only made my knee worse. Turns out the swelling was actually helping my knee.
A few nights after the aspiration was done my mom found me on the floor of my bathroom, my knee gave out. I could no longer walk without the fear of falling. I had run all the cartilage out of my knee. It was not from weightlifting or CrossFit but from all the running I had done. Thinking I was being healthy but in fact I was ruining my knees all along.
On July 26, 2016, Dr. Sitler and I decided it was best to have knee surgery to find out what is really going on inside. We didn’t make this decision lightly. The surgery would take away any possibility of being a competitive weightlifter.
On August 8, 2016, life as I knew would never be the same. Good and bad. Dr. Sitler performed a lateral release and microfacturing of my right knee. I would be non-weight bearing for 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Recovery after surgery was the worst. I was sick for 48 hours from the anesthesia, couldn’t keep food down and my painkillers made me sick too. I spent the next week on extra strength Tylenol, which didn’t really help, before getting a pain killer that wouldn’t make me sick.
On the August 17, 2016, post-op visit, I was eager to get back in the gym and asked Dr. Sitler when can I go back? He laughed because I was non-weight bearing but I was serious and he knew it. I was given the okay for upper body only and as long as I didn’t hurt myself. That afternoon I was back at Invictus with Holden doing whatever we could come up with. Assault bike arms only or using the rower with a skateboard. We came up with workouts to get my heart rate up and to build upper body strength. Did I mention I couldn’t drive? I had to depend on friends and family to get me to and from the gym. I was not going to let my knee stop me. I did whatever it took to get in that gym. I was doing great mental and physically despite not being able to walk.
On September 13, 2016, I got the okay to start physical therapy and try walking again. I thought yes!!! I got this. No problem. I’ll be back to walking and lifting in no time. WRONG. This is where the mental recovery started and was definitely harder to recover from than the actual surgery. Some days I struggled to get out of bed, put a smile on my face and act like everything was okay. My plan was to have surgery, recover and get back to competitive lifting again as soon as possible. When I realized and started to believe what my doctor told me, “I would never be a lifter again,” I mentally broke. I wanted to give up on everything. Life itself.
I spent the next seven months physically and mentally healing. The mental healing was huge for me. I had to change the way I saw myself and my future. All the while I was once again gaining weight.
May 2017, I weighed 210lbs again. My nutrition started to suffer because the mental pain of my injury was too much and having to do rehab so I can relearn to walk again was frustrating. This time I had a good reason to gain weight but it was the same situation as before I had knee surgery. Nutrition and over training. Here comes Coach Ricky Moore, as a friend and concerned trainer.
I was still training with Holden but Ricky took time out of his day to sit me down and ask me what my goals were. To walk again without pain was goal number one. Not to be a lifter but just to walk. Goal number two was to get the weight off my knee. We came up with a plan and that was to start training with Coach Nuno Costa, not Ricky. He was my best option to get my weight off so I can walk pain free. I was 210lbs 39% body fat, training 6 days a week at 3hrs a day. Nuno cut that to 5 days a week and for only 1 hour. We also started me on Keto. My goal was to get down to 175lbs. We cleaned up my eating and my training. I was still not Olympic weightlifting at this point.
By November 2017, I was down to 176lbs and 31% body and I started to Olympic weightlifting with Ricky between my sessions with Nuno and my physical therapy. On November 13, 2017, Nuno sent me an email that devastated me. My last day with him would be November 22, 2017. I had just gotten my life back to some sort of normal, back on track and moving forward. Now he was going to leave me. In steps Ricky again but this time as my coach. He said nothing changes. The only thing that has changed is the face. The training will stay the same and so will your nutrition. He was right!! (daddy’s always right) Training was great. I was still losing weight. I was weightlifting more but my knee was not getting any better. It really was but not at the speed I wanted it to be. I was still in a lot of pain and everyday things like walking, stairs and getting out of my car were a struggle.
Fast Forward to September 2018. I was still training with Ricky. At this point I have finally learned to love being in the gym and training. I no longer saw training as a job or something I had to do. I was happy to see people hit PRs and to encourage the people around me. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I accept where I was and who I am. Ricky helped me see that. I was now down to 160lbs 24% body fat. My Olympic weightlifting is getting better. I am mentally in a good place with who I am and my training. I now was training to have fun and be healthy. The stress of competing wasn’t there. I was happy and healthy but my knee was not.
My physical therapist Jonathan, from Kinetik Performance, and I decided it was time to try stem cell with Dr. Pagdin. I was introduced to Jonathan in 2017, when he partnered up with invictus. I still work with Kinetik therapists to this day.
Dr. Pagdin of Pagdin Health in Kelowna British Columbia is the leading Stem Cell Doctor in Canada and my best option to move pain free. This was not an easy decision to make since doing stem cell therapy would take me out of training for four months and I would be doing both knees this time. Since Dr. Pagdin is located in Canada pre-surgery meetings were done over the phone and through emails. Not the most ideal but if it got me walking and training again, I would do anything. On October 4, 2018, I made the trip to Canada for my first of three procedures. We used my own stem cells so what Dr. Pagdin does is he draws my blood first and spins it, then removes fat from my hip and finally removes my stems cells from my spin.
The whole procedure takes 2 ½ hours and I am awake the whole time. You can’t numb your spin so I felt the drilling and the removal of the stem cells. I can’t describe the amount of pain I was in. Once he has everything he needs, Dr. Pagdin injected my spun blood into both knees followed by the fat and stem cells. My knees blow up and the painkillers did not work. I was laying in a hotel bed praying to just fall asleep so the pain would go away. The next day I travel to Seattle and then San Diego with two painful knees. Did I mention I also couldn’t walk, what was I thinking? That plane ride was fun.
I would have to go back to Canada two more times in November and December to do follow up treatments. But the last two procedures I was going by myself. I was also going up and back in one day. Again, what was I thinking!!
By January 2019, I was wondering if I had done the right thing. I wasn’t feeling any better and my knees were worse now than they were before I did the stem cell treatment. But we kept working at it. With Ricky and the guys at Kinetik, I was going to be better. I had to trust in them and in myself. I showed up to the gym everyday with a smile on my face, even on the days I didn’t want to be there because of the pain. I was not going to let my knees stop me. And then my good knee was no longer good.
We had done stem cell therapy to both knees in hopes of saving the good knee. In March 2019, Dr. Sitler ordered MRIs for both knees. In the meantime, we had a custom brace made for my right knee. You will probably never see me wearing it because the brace about took my leg off trying to deadlift with it.
In June 2019 the MRIs showed a slight improvement to the right knee (bad knee) and significant deterioration of my left knee (good knee). My knees have now reversed their roles. My bad is good and my good is bad. I was left with a few options; go back to Canada to see Dr. Pagdin for more stem cell therapy or do hyaluronic acid injections with Dr. Sitler.
The HA injections would take me out of training for 2 to 3 months. I would have to get three injections, one each week for the next three weeks. I did not make this decision lightly and took me sometime but I was going to have the HA injections since my insurance would cover them. At least that’s what we thought. August 2018, my insurance denied my injections. Dr. Sitler fought back with a letter explaining why I needed the injections. We were told the insurance had 30 days to respond to our letter. Dr. Sitler suggested while we wait on a response let’s do PRP injections. PRP injections are not covered by insurance just like stem cell therapy. I wanted to wait and see what the insurance would do because everytime I had to do an injection it’s a step back from training. 30 days were up and we had a response, they denied my treatment. So in October 2019, we did PRP injections in both knees. It hurt, I cried but I’m glad I did it. I am happy with the results. At this point it had been a year since my first stem cell treatment. With the combination of PRP and stem cell therapy my knees were finally starting to feel better.
January 2020 151lbs, probably the leanest I have ever been. Signed up for my first weightlifting meet (April 2020) since my first knee surgery. I am going to qualify for A03 which will take place September 2020. I should have given up. I wanted to give up many times. July 26, 2016, when Dr. Sitler told me I would never be a competitive Olympic weightlifter again, I said watch me. I’ll be back but not as the same person. But as someone better, more driven and with nothing to lose.
I can honestly say without Invictus I would not be where I am today. Without Ricky pushing me, getting me to train with Nuno to get my weight down and putting up with my ups and downs, changing my training to adjust for my knees and teaching me to love training, I would not be doing what I love. I would not be at my healthiest physically and mentaly. He has no idea how much he has actually changed my life. He didn’t give up on me or my dreams. He has helped me change my outlook on life and my attitude. I am more open, kinder and happier. I got my light back.
Ricky isn’t the only one to thank. Every person, every coach at Invictus Sorrento Valley, this community is truly amazing and nothing like I have ever seen. Coaches who actually care how you are doing, even if they are not your coach. Asking how your day is or how life is going. Every coach takes time out of their day to see how you are doing. To say hi. This is not just a gym, it’s a family. People don’t understand what Invictus is all about until they experience this amazing community.
Invictus gave me my life back. They helped me rebuild who I am physically and mentally. I can walk, do stairs, get out of my car pain free. This past October I went to Germany with my family. Normally when I go on trips I worry about my eating and of course my knees. With the tools Invictus has given me, I didn’t worry about eating or my knees. I have the tools to make the right choices with food I did not prepare myself. I was able to do thousands of stairs and miles of walking. I have no pain and didn’t gain weight. I couldn’t have had such an amazing trip without their help.