Distinctly Montana Interview
Liz Ann Kudrna grew up in California as an avid mountain biker, skier, and rock climber. After training in Physical Therapy, massage, and Pilates and six years of practice, she moved to Bozeman and opened the Body in Balance Studio. A fall while rock climbing left her lower body paralyzed but even from a wheelchair she still is a dynamic teacher and sportswoman. Her accident has given her a new perspective on body awareness and access to muscle groups. Liz Ann lives independently and drives herself anywhere.
Liz Ann teaches privately and at the Ridge Athletic Club. Learn more about her at www.bbalancepilates.com; contact info: 406-581-7117, [email protected]
How did your accident happen?
I had plans to hike up to Elbow Lake and climb a hard route on Mt. Cowan with someone I did not know but trusted. I did have a tinge of intuition that said to me, Liz Ann, stay home. I did not listen and went forward. Another friend met us at the saddle on Mt. Cowan. At around 2:30 in the afternoon I wanted to go down. I was a slower hiker downhill and was taking some pictures. I realized my friends were getting pretty far ahead of me. I decided to lower myself down a little ledge to try to shortcut, instead of zigzagging the loose trail. Because the rock was very loose up there, the one that I pressed into to lower myself down a few feet released, right into me. It was a lot heavier than I. That was it. Its impact injured my spinal cord. I rag-dolled down the mountain until my friend Joe caught me. I knew right away that my life was changed, forever. My friend Leslie ran down the rugged 10 miles to cell service. Joe kept the sun off me and when the sun went down he made sure I was warm. Since the location was so steep, the first helicopter could not rescue me. I was rescued 18 hours later and flown to Billings. However, I can still recall the awesome sight of the full moon on the side of the rock face.
It is fascinating how one’s life can be defined by a moment — that one moment becomes many moments. That is how I feel about my accident. One day I thought I was immortal and could do anything, and the next day I had returned to being an infant, 100% dependent, and aware of my brush with death. And now, I think I can do anything again. Just different from what I imagined.
What’s your workout program now?
In the winter I will Nordic ski four-five days a week. I ski with Eagle Mount one of those days. I also do my Pilates workout two-three times a week. That just makes me feel better in my body. I lift weights two days. I do that to keep my shoulders healthy and work on finding power for skiing!
I set my sights to train for the Paralympics. That goal, even though not realized, offered me a path that allowed me to gain confidence in my new body. I met amazing people who encouraged and challenged me. This is where I learned that I could do anything!
In the summer I ride my hand cycle. This year I rode the 45 miles in the Blazing Saddles Ride that raises money for kids with cancer. I swim when I can.
What did your accident teach you?
I have learned more acceptance of “what is”. I have learned patience —with myself and others. Patience with myself is a tough one and a valuable one. Things take longer for me to do now. I have learned the meaning of interdependence, asking for help, and giving help.
I try to live my life with balance of physical exercise and mindful movement, as well social and quiet time and time for playing with my cat. The name of my business, Body in Balance, is something that runs deep for me.
Have you made new friends? What kind of help is most useful to you?
Yes! Many amazing people. This is one of the greatest gifts from my accident. The most useful help is when someone can come over to my house and help me do things that are close to impossible for me to do, like doing things in the yard/garden alongside me. Help is sometimes just having someone next to you who wants to work with you.
What is the most nurturing element of your life?
I nurture myself in different ways. Being outside with the sun on my face and skin and hair. Being active outside is important, but just sitting on the porch does it for me. Another important way I nurture myself is by gathering with my girlfriends that like to do ritual. We honor the moon, the feminine, and our intuition. We connect to Mother Earth and to each other. Good healthy food and wine always goes along with these gatherings!