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Here's how she learned to set small goals during a long recovery process.

By Maggie O'Neill
March 16, 2021
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Welcome to Deep Dives, a new Health video series where inspiring people talk about a health topic that's meaningful to them and share relatable stories around health and wellness. Watch Hannah Halvorsen's Deep Dive above!

Olympic-level athlete Hannah Halvorsen, 23, a member of the US Cross Country Ski Team, was used to being "on" all the time. "It's not in my nature to be patient. I ski race—I'm always trying to go fast," Halvorsen tells Health.

But all of this changed after a tragic accident in November 2019. "It was a totally normal day. In a few weeks, I was leaving for the race season. I'd gone training that morning," Halvorsen says, recalling the day her life changed. "It was my boyfriend's birthday. We were in downtown Anchorage. When we were crossing the street at around 7 pm, someone turned left without looking in the crosswalk and took me out around what the police estimate was 25 miles per hour."

Halvorsen was left with multiple injuries, the most severe of which was a traumatic brain injury. "I have no memory of the accident or weeks after it," she says. "When I went to see the surgeon, [the] first question I asked was: 'When am I going to be able to ski again?'" She was told that she could "hopefully" ski again, but it wouldn't be for months.

The fast-paced life of training and racing Halvorsen was used to came to an abrupt halt. "I've been racing competitively for 10 years, traveling with teammates, training with them year-round. You get hurt, and all of a sudden that's taken away," she says.

Thankfully, she's recovering well, and her experience has actually taught her a lot about herself. "It's definitely a long journey. I'm in a way different place than I was a year and a couple months ago," Halvorsen says. Among the biggest of lessons she has learned is the importance of focusing on what she can control.

"Sometimes you're in this place where it just feels so overwhelming. I can't walk. I can't do my sport. When I was in those places, what I did was I tried to focus on what I could do that day." For instance, she says, a recent goal was to complete one full rotation on a spin bike. "It doesn't matter that I can't walk yet. Having little milestones can help you from feeling this overwhelmingness."

Watch the rest of Halvorsen's deep dive in the video above.

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