Turia Pitt opens up on pain and recovery after suffering severe burns

Turia Pitt is a phenomenon.

The woman who suffered burns to over 65 per cent of her body, who lost seven fingers and underwent 200 operations and two years in recovery, is a beacon of positivity, strength and gratitude.

It could have been easy for her to be bitter about the hand life dealt her, but she believes in looking forward rather than back.

On the latest episode of Healthy-ish ‘How do you rebuild your body’, Pitt tells co-host Eliza Cracknell about the power of progress.

“I remember the first time I had to learn how to stand again, with my physiotherapist, sobbing, crying and in a world of pain. That was the hardest point in my journey, I realised just how long it would take for me to get my body back, if that was even possible at all,” she recalls.

“I realised if that I just kept on focusing on getting my old life back and getting my physical abilities back it would have been, number one demoralising and number two, overwhelming, because the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be – I couldn’t compare the two.”

So rather than bridge the gap, it was about getting a little better every day.

“I would literally just say to myself, ‘Well done Turia. You’ve made it through another day, you did an awesome job today. You might not have done as good at physio as you would have liked, you might not have been able to walk a little bit further but that’s okay. Tomorrow’s a new day, you’re still getting better.”

The 31-year-old used that same mental self-talk to train for an Ironman event in 2016.

It was even more poignant because it happened almost five years to the day that doctors said she would never run again.

“When I first signed up to do an Ironman I hadn’t run further than a couple of kilometres. I would think… this might potentially be totally unhinged and unachievable. So what I did is I got an expert – an Ironman coach – and training program and every day I’d do my training for that day and then just forget about it,” she adds.

An ironman event involves a 4km swim, 180km bike ride and a marathon.

“Baby steps. What’s the one small thing you are doing that day to move towards your goals? It doesn’t sound very sexy and it’s not rocket science.”

But, it works.

Pitt has just finished the Kathmandu Coast to Coast Mountain Run. It may have “only” been 30km, but she is basking in the glow of her achievement.

“In this modern world I feel like we’re inclined to do something awesome and then finish and move onto the next thing. We never stop and savour and reflect on what we’ve done,” the mother-of-one says.

“It was my first race since having a baby… it’s not the best I performed either, but I’m really proud of myself. For the time being, I’m really savouring that glow.”

While the mental component is “99 per cent” of it, you can’t discount the physical milestones.

“If you go to a gym class and you do really good you think ‘Yeah I did that, I’m really fit, I’m awesome. It gives you impetus to keep on trying,” she says.

“I didn’t notice anything day-to-day when I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere, but looking back at notes, last week I ran 2km and this week I ran 2.5km. I’m not improving at an exponential rate, but week by week there’s progress.

“I really like that quote: ‘progress is progress no matter how small’. I think happiness comes by making progress.”

If there’s one thing people take away from her time on Healthy-ish, Pitt hopes it’s this: “Keep on taking the small, incremental baby steps every day and you’ll see progress.”

Want to hear more from Turia? Tune into episode 52 of Healthy-ish, ‘How do you rebuild your body?’. Listen above, at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.