Strength and sport training leads to spectacular recovery
6 min read

Strength and sport training leads to spectacular recovery


After a series of major knee operations, three time Taekwon-Do World Champion Carli Dillen had to give up the sport to which she had devoted over 17 years of training. A combination of CrossFit strength training and a healthy diet, eating mostly natural, whole and unprocessed foods, supplemented with Good Green Stuff and Clean Lean Protein helped her recover with astonishing speed. In fact, only seven months after her final surgery Carli entered her first Powerlifting competition which qualified her for the National Champs this led to her selection to represent New Zealand at the upcoming Oceania Championships in Melbourne this December.

Finding CrossFit

Carli Dillen now co-owns CrossFit East Auckland. She first discovered CrossFit when searching for a strength and conditioning programme to aid recovery from her knee reconstruction. She was hoping to make a full return to sport and compete at the ITF Taekwon-Do World Championships in 2008. Fast forward a few years and she had achieved her goal, winning not one but three World Champion titles in Taekwon-Do. However, after having her fourth and most serious knee operation earlier this year, Carli finally had to give up her sport.

Carli describes her operation as a knee replacement for a young person. "The specialist told me if I kept competing in Taekwon-Do, I would be in a wheelchair within five years. Stopping Taekwon-Do was an incredibly difficult decision, but it was my only choice - my health had to come first."

"I was really scared about the operation. In the past I wanted to get the surgeries over and done with as quickly as possible, but this one terrified me and it took me 18 months to get ready for it. The surgeon basically cut my shin bone in half, cut out a wedge of bone, then put my lower leg back together with a titanium frame work to re-align the knee and take the pressure off the damaged area. They also drilled little holes in the bones of the knee joint in the hope that it may promote cartilage growth."

Powerlifting and Nutrition

As part of her preparation for surgery, Carli trained her muscles to be as strong as possible to help promote recovery. She followed a healthy diet supplemented with Good Green Stuff and Clean Lean Protein and planned her goals for the coming year to keep herself motivated. "One of my goals was to compete in Powerlifting competitions that focused on the bench press." While in the process of rehabbing her leg, it seemed like a realistic goal.

She won the Auckland Bench Press Champs and following this, the National Bench Press Champs. What is truly remarkable is that she felt strong enough to enter a three-lift comp after only a few months of rehab. "I saw my specialist and he was blown away by my recovery. I asked him if I could squat and deadlift and he gave me the ok. I entered my first competition with no expectations and lifted relatively light weights - just for the enjoyment of it. Somehow I qualified for Nationals, and from Nationals I qualified for the Oceania Championships". Seven months after surgery, Carli is stoked to be selected to represent NZ at the Oceania Championships in Melbourne.

When asked what attracted her to Powerlifting, Carli says she loves the feeling of training to get stronger. "You train with weights in the gym to make your muscles stronger. As someone who has had a lot of injuries and has often felt broken, this is a wonderful feeling. The best part however, is that while you are getting physically stronger, you are also getting mentally stronger. Your confidence increases in all areas of life and you are just a much happier person in general".

Carli has a BSC Honours in Sport and Exercise Science and has been a strength and conditioning coach since 2007 and a CrossFit coach since 2011. "CrossFit is by far the best general physical preparedness programme I have come across. The combination of gymnastics, weightlifting and athletics means that your workouts are constantly varied and challenging. In addition you are part of a community that supports you to overcome whatever challenges you may be facing, in or out of the gym. I've seen people of all ages, abilities and size achieve incredible results. For me a bonus was discovering that I could compete in Powerlifting (squat, bench press and deadlift) which are also key movements we train in CrossFit.