Think about your childhood. Do you remember doing such fun things like hop on one foot, or walk along a real or imagined edge? We didn't call it exercise or balance training then, but that is exactly what we were doing. Those activities helped us develop balance and stability to survive our youthful clumsiness. Today, top athletes in the world recognize that balance training helps them perform better and experts, like Melanie Carvell, PT, know that good balance and a strong core go hand in hand.
Melanie Carvell presents “Balance & Strength from Head to Toe” at the Women’s Health Conference on May 19. Melanie, a champion triathlete and physical therapist, will share simple exercises that will help you feel more steady and confident as you engage in your daily activities.
Read more about Melanie:
Melanie Carvell: ALWAYS FINISHING STRONG
Excerpted from “City Magazine” July, 2011
By Tom Regan
If North Dakota has had an icon in athletics and fitness over the last two decades, it is 49-year-old Melanie Carvell of Bismarck. In addition to dominating regional athletic competitions over the years, she has traveled the world as a four-time Team USA Triathlon All-American, a Duathlon World Champion bronze medalist, and an Olympic Trails qualifier in cycling. As a leader and volunteer, her name is synonymous with such events as the Prairie Rose State Games and the Great American Bike Race for cerebral palsy. Most of all, as a wellness expert, motivational speaker and world-class athlete, Melanie Carvell has led by example and given of herself to inspire thousands to live healthier and happier lives.
Despite scores of accomplishments, accolades, ribbons and medals, Carvell is amazingly modest and ever eager to help others achieve their personal goals. She jokes about her less than stellar track career at UND (“I think I came in almost dead-last in several of my early college cross country races”) and is quick to point out that any later successes came as a result of hard work as opposed to natural talent. Her athletic career is a testament to perseverance.
Now, five years after a serious back injury and surgery turned Carvell into a cautious mall walker, she has characteristically “done the work” and turned hardship into victory: She is back on the starting line. Last winter, she placed 28th out of 50 at the “Best of the U.S. Triathlon” in Tempe, Ariz., and she plans to compete regionally this summer in several events. Her best times may be behind her, but she will continue to give back to sports and the community. “I’m blessed to have such a unique job where my goal is to inspire someone, see them succeed, and then shine the light on them in order to inspire others,” said Carvell of her role as Women’s Health Center manager, physical therapist and fitness advocate. “I look at my humble beginnings and think if I’ve been able to do these things, anyone can.”
CM: How did physical therapy become your career area?
Melanie Carvell: In the eighth grade, I tried out for cheerleading at St. Vincent’s Grade School (Mott), and the last thing we had to do was a cartwheel right into the splits. I took off into my cartwheel and landed into the splits, and you could hear the crack throughout the whole gym. I knew I’d hurt myself quite badly. I ended up taking an ambulance drive to Bismarck. Instead of just tearing the muscle, I actually took a piece of bone off my pelvis where it attaches. I was in the hospital for about a week. I was 13. On about the third or fourth day, this incredibly good-looking guy, a physical therapist, came into my room to get me up on my crutches. The physical therapy gym was this beehive of activity where these therapists were working with different people with different problems, trying to help them get better. I sat there and thought this is what I wanted to do.
CM: What is the starting point for exercising and feeling better?
Melanie Carvell: We as human beings are like a computer. A computer has an operating system which you have to boot up or none of your programs are going to run. If you can’t get the operating system up and running, you won’t be able to run QuickBooks or PowerPoint or anything else. If you use that analogy with us, your operating system is your self-esteem, your self-love, your spirituality, your optimism, your sense of humor. That core has to be strong or none of the programs you throw at it will stick. You can hire a personal trainer, you can go on the South Beach Diet, you can even have gastric bypass surgery, but none of those programs will run without the core of a positive attitude and self-esteem. You need to start from a place of self-acceptance and self-love.
CM: I understand you’re writing a book that is scheduled to come out this year.
Melanie Carvell: The title I think I have settled on is “Running With the Prairie Pronghorn.” I don’t think of the book as a “how-to” manual. It’s about the experiences I’ve had making physical activity a part of my life. It’s about some of the people I’ve met, the opportunities physical activity has given me, and some of the disappointments and challenges I’ve encountered. It’s about growing up in a small town and finding that life might take you to places you never imagined. It’s about being not very good at something, as I was a mediocre high school and college athlete, but sticking with it. It’s about western North Dakota. I spend a lot of time biking the roads of western North Dakota and cross country skiing over it and have spent many hours under our sky and watching the seasons change, looking at the land and how it rolls and changes. I try to describe my outdoor experiences and what I’ve seen and felt. My hope is that anyone reading it will be encouraged to do more about their health. My purpose is not to tell anyone to go run or go for a walk, but to encourage and inspire them to take those steps themselves
CM: How difficult was it for you to accept that you could no longer compete at the “elite” level?
Melanie Carvell: After my back surgery it was a humbling road to travel, but I was motivated and grateful to return to athletics at any level. Going through injuries comes with the territory and is hard for any athlete, but can also be a springboard for future success. As far as not being an “elite” athlete anymore, there definitely comes a time when any athlete comes to the humbling realization that their “best times” are most likely behind them. It is hard to deal with the expectations of others and the pressure we put on ourselves. You have the option of retiring from the sport or staying involved at whatever level you can. I hope at this point to stay involved and to give back to the sport by helping beginners. Mentoring others keeps me learning and also is one of the best motivators to stay active myself.