40 – CrossFit to prepare for and recover from total knee replacements with David Mendenhall

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“CrossFit didn’t break me – it made me stronger and more resilient. Other sports broke me down. CrossFit continues to make me more ‘bulletproof’ for life and its challenges – my challenges. It continues to allow for controlled, strenuous activity that builds wicked strong bones and muscles while demanding precise, functional movement. My new knees thrive on that. And that means I get to do things like hike mountains, tele-ski, snowboard, and, of course, do more CrossFit.” – David Mendenhall

This week we learn about David Mendenhall, a 47 year old husband, father, middle-school teacher and relatively recent, but rabid, CrossFit convert. A lifelong downhill skier and outdoor enthusiast, his adult training and fitness exploits prior to finding CrossFit in 2013 involved years dedicated to the martial arts, a personal yoga practice, distance running, triathlon competition, and semi-“extreme” cycling stints. After hanging up his cycling helmet in the fall of 2012 for an indefinite hiatus, his wife introduced him to Beau Teal at CrossFit Burlington.


David back in the gym after his second knee replacement


I caught up with David to discuss his transition to CrossFit and how he used it to regain functionality after a long battle with arthritis as well as prepare for and recover from two total knee replacements.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • His history as an athlete who stayed active in high school varsity sports, his Outward Bound experience that provided the backdrop toward moving out west for college, meeting his wife, staying active through several outdoor activities including skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, cycling and mountain biking, as well as martial arts.
  • His move to Vermont after college, marriage, Master’s Degree in Education, the birth of his children, the beginning of ‘falling out of shape.’
  • How David got into martial arts/Aikido and the beginning of the chronic degradation of his body, including several knee surgeries
  • His pursuit of a long-distance running career and persistent knee issues that followed.
  • David’s transition from running, cycling and triathlons to starting Crossfit as well as his perspective on overall fitness and strength.
  • The benefit of functional movement on his arthritis pain
  • Undergoing two total knee replacements and returning to the gym and as an athlete and coach
  • Three things he does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on his health.
  • One thing he struggles to implement that could have a big impact on his health.
  • What a healthy life looks like to him

Related Episodes:

If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #JFHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.

Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.


One Response to “40 – CrossFit to prepare for and recover from total knee replacements with David Mendenhall”

  1. Damon Crawley

    I have definitely learned that I need to modify and needed and also where it is OK to push through. I’ve had three surgeries on my left leg alone for meniscal tears. It’s inevitable that I will have total knee replacements due to degenerative arthritis. I still try do as much as possible with my CrossFit workouts. I also acknowledge that I did some of this to myself having gotten up to 270# (now about 208 and 14-15% bf). This was really interesting to hear espeically I may have to have this done before age 50 (I’m 44 now).


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