3 Key Elements to Surviving Challenging Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our entire world, from our work to how we socialize with one another and even our workout regimen. Now more than ever is the time to adapt. 

To adapt is to adjust oneself to different conditions or environments. For me, it’s more than just a word. It’s a way of life. I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which affects my legs and lower back. I am also an athlete. 

My legs may be weaker than others and I may walk in an unconventional way, but that hasn’t stopped me from competing in every sport imaginable. I have found ways to utilize the abilities I have to compete at the highest level possible. From alpine skiing with the National Ability Center’s competition team to professional golf, my circumstances have not defined me. 

This expert ability to adapt has taught me how to survive and even thrive when faced with a crisis. Specifically, I have found three key elements to surviving challenging times.

Get creative

My ski technique is very much unique. Because of the weakness in my legs, my coaches and I have had to find ways to help me ski faster. We have modified equipment, technique, tactics, workout programs and so much more. At one point, we even put lifts under the heels of my ski boots. All along, we were trying to answer the most important question in that moment, “How can I get a faster race time?”

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed us all into a new normal. Now is the time to embrace this discomfort and use our cleverness. Ask yourself: how can I embrace a new way of doing things given our individual environments? Make obstacle courses using household objects. Challenge your kids to a hopscotch contest or an epic game of hide and seek. Create a shared playlist and host a virtual dance party. 

Life doesn’t stop unfolding just because we come up against an obstacle or live with a different ability. So get inventive with what you already have around you and adapt to your situation. 

Know how to pivot

Since I was little, all I wanted was to be as fast as my brothers. But I was never going to be, at least not in the traditional sense. I had to find my own way using the hand I was dealt. And once I repositioned my mindset, that’s when the breakthrough happened. 

At the National Ability Center, we always start things off with a mindset rooted in “I CAN.” Now more than ever, this sentiment rings true. For many of us, this is not how we expected our lives to look, even a few months ago. But through it all, we can flip our perspective and our direction. We can embrace the upheaval and move forward with confidence. 

We can all make small tweaks to still enjoy the activities that keep our fire going. It’s absolutely possible, trust me. While staying safe at home to protect our community over the last several weeks, I found a way to use household objects to complete my workouts. I loaded up backpacks to do calf raises. I took my kitchen chairs and used them to do lunges. I even utilized a dance party list to exercise. I chose four exercises and pushed myself to rotate through them for the entire length of the song. The circumstances were not ideal, but I was able to work on my strength and training, even in isolation. 

Times of challenge can either define us or destroy us. Take a moment to self-reflect and ponder: what can I control? How can I adapt to continue to do what I love? Shift your focus and you’ll transform your perspective. 


Overcoming a hurdle doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it comes from finding creative solutions, knowing how to be agile when appropriate and weathering the storm with unshakeable commitment. For every success in my athletic career, I can list many more failures. The most important parts of my career have in fact been failures, and the next level of progression that followed. Trust me, failure hurts. But let it hurt, and then let it help. I fell hundreds of times on the ski hill. I missed countless golf swings. As an adaptive athlete, I have persisted through plans that, at face value, looked like they were failing. The positive results didn’t come to fruition for a long time, but when they did, it was well worth the wait. 

During this tough time, many of us are facing something we’ve never experienced. We are working, parenting, teaching and just living without much of our usual support system. No matter how creative we get, sometimes it’s important to remember to simply hold on. Persist even when it feels like it’s not working. We can make it to the other side of this, even with a few bumps and bruises along the way. 

Adapt, observe and then adapt some more

We’re all improvising with a new set of conditions, many of which are not easy. There is no textbook to follow. But life doesn’t stop because we’re faced with disruption. Take stock of what your priorities are, how you can conserve your energy and set boundaries for yourself when it comes to adapting in times of a crisis.

As our initial shock in the wake of COVID-19 gives ways to a new normal of sorts, I encourage you to change the narrative. Consider how you can make adjustments to perform at your absolute best during this journey. Now more than ever, it’s time to reshape what this next chapter looks like for us and our world. 


  • Chris Biggins

    Competitive Athlete

    National Ability Center

    Chris Biggins is a competitive athlete with the National Ability Center. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 1, he has harnessed the power of his ability to turn challenges into successes. He is an adaptive alpine skier on the National Ability Center’s High Performance team as well as a PGA golf professional and is currently the 8th ranked para-golfer in the world. He is training diligently to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic Ski team.