Drew Denny can do 100 burpees in 4:48 — on one leg.
A soldier in the Canadian Forces, Denny was sidelined with a rugby injury while waiting to leave for a tour in Afghanistan. CrossFit Fredericton has been a large part of his rehabilitation — he even completed in this year’s CrossFit Games Open on a single leg.
In February 2009, Denny joined the Canadian Forces after completing battle school and basic training. He was posted to the Second Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment at CFB Gagetown, near Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Friends in basic training introduced Denny to CrossFit in April 2010. Denny’s plans to head to Afghanistan quickly changed on Sept. 16, 2011.
Denny was a member of the Fredericton Loyalists Rugby Club and tore a hamstring in pre-season training that year. He played through, but suffered a shoulder injury in the second game. With a handful of anti-inflammatories to numb his left shoulder, Denny decided to play the next game. He was tackled in the second half with a locked out leg firmly planted on the ground. The result was a blown knee, torn ACL, PCL and LCL — and the end of his rugby season.
Due to a misdiagnosis, Denny’s knee surgery wasn't performed until eight months after his injury. Replacement of the ACL and LCL, as well as PCL and IT band reconstruction were required. That was only the first step of a long, painful recovery.
Assigned to a desk job, Denny watched his friends fly out to their posts. He took full advantage of his access to physiotherapy, hoping to eventually get back to his position on the field. But working on reducing the swelling, and building the muscle and range of motion wasn’t enough to return him to his pre-injured fitness.
With support from members and coaches at CrossFit Fredericton, Denny stayed focused on rebuilding his right leg.
“CrossFit saved me, kept me sane. I was into the gym maybe a week after the injury, just wanted to say hi and get out of the house, and I think I ended up working on pull-ups,” he says. “The first one-leg movement I tried was burpees. I figured they wouldn't be too bad on one leg. I was wrong, of course, but I could do them.”
Denny managed a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule at the box. While working at rehab to fix his lower body, he improved his upper-body strength. He attempted every workout, despite his limitations.
“I finished the Open by managing one rep — a 95-pound thruster (pistol) — on 12.5. The truth is, I was frustrated to only get a single rep … but it meant I had participated without scaling anything back. It was a great day, and I'm glad I chose to do it,” Denny says.
Denny’s recovery is ahead of schedule. Positivity, commitment and support from the coaches are keeping him on track.
“I have always wanted to make it past the Open, to the Regionals. I don't think it's cockiness to say I think I'm capable of it, just confidence. Its irrelevant anyway, the only determining factor is how hard I train and am willing to push myself,” he says.
Back to training five to six days a week — with yoga on Saturdays — he’s working back to his PRs. His first full workout post-rehabilitation was Fran, and Denny scored a personal best of 3:04.
Though he avoids sprinting for fear of uneven surfaces, he plans to jump back into rugby again next season.
“Some will say this is a poor decision and I would be forced to agree. Yet lots of people recover from injuries, many of which are worse than mine. I refuse to let my fear force me to give up something I love. All I can do is train, and strengthen the fuck out of my knee to compensate for any instability.”