9 Things to Appreciate When You Are An Injured Athlete
Ok so I really haven't written much about this topic because I really wanted to organize my thoughts in a meaningful way. Some of you may or may not know that right now I am walking around on crutches with a cast on my left leg after surgery on my ankle and foot. Not to go into too much detail, but I have suffered from posterior tibial tendonitis many times over the past 20 years. After the Triathlon World Championship in mid September, my left tibial tendon couldn't take any more activity and the structure of my foot began to suffer so I had surgery about 3 weeks ago.
Luckily it is only a 6 week time frame with a combination of cast and boot- I know this could be a lot longer and I am thankful it's not. I have had many ups and downs these past few weeks and like any other athlete I want to get back to doing what I love-my 3 sports of swim bike and run.
Last racing season took a huge toll on my body and when I came home I was physically and mentally spent. I was really ready to slow things down, rest, and recover but my injury was just too serious to let it go on it's own. Trust me, I never thought I would be having surgery, but sometimes you have to break things down all the way and build them back up stronger. So as I modify my lifestyle with upper body weights and a lot of core exercises, I have learned to look for all the good things that an injury can bring.
1. Being injured forces you to realize that EVERY WORKOUT is a GIFT from God. There are days when you just don't feel like it, you're tired, sick, hungry, too hot, too cold, etc. But when your sport is taken from you you will develop a new and permanent appreciation for it and never take it for granted again. Realize that you are not infallible, and this happens to most people at some point in their career.
I have to admit, having gone hard and strong for many years without anything slowing me down was a gift, but I don't really know any athlete who has never had something go wrong. I'm thankful that this is fixable. I will appreciate it even more when I start working out again.
2. Now you get to REST. It's not only the injury that needs rest, it's your entire body. Giving 1000% affects you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Looking back I believe my lower back, hamstrings, and feet all needed a good rest. I was training hard despite several little injuries because I really couldn't let myself heal until after my "A" Race. I realize now that EVERYTHING catches up with you at some point in the future. Yes, I was buying time and I admit that. Now I can really REST and let everything experience God's healing.
3. Being injured forces you to be nice to yourself. If you aren't nice to YOU then no one else will be. I have watched more Netflix than I care to admit to you in the past 3 weeks. At first I was feeling guilty about this but then I realized how LITTLE tv I actually watch the rest of the year. In bed wearing comfortable jammies, sipping tea, and holding the remote is actually kinda nice when you hardly ever do it. It's SO temporary so try to take advantage of the down time. Does this mean you should eat whatever you want, put on 10 pounds and not give a shit what happens? NO! But taking a few weeks to truly be good to your body is rejuvenating. Let your kids and husband wait on you, walk the dog, and unload the dishwasher.
4. I have a stronger FAITH IN GOD. When something that means SO much to me like triathlon is taken away, I feel lost, empty, and without a purpose. My head fills up with "what-if" thinking that takes me into some pretty dark places. In some ways I feel as if I lost part of my identity. I have asked myself many times ,"Who is Mary Timoney when she is not a triathlete?" But this doesn't have to happen when you turn everything over to God. I actually picture myself taking all the hurt, loneliness, pain, suffering, stitches, crutches, etc. and leaving it at the foot of the cross. God is the ultimate healer and you just have to BELIEVE that you will eventually heal in God's time. It never hurts to petition our God and ask for what you desire. He hears all your prayers, PROMISE.
5. I've learned to stop focusing on myself and turn my efforts OUTWARD instead. During the time of my injury and surgery my close friend from college was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer and will be undergoing treatment for that in the following weeks. If I could trade my crutches for cancer I would NOT. There is always someone who is dealing with something way worse than your own pain. Focusing on OTHER people makes your own problems seem a lot less. I've learned that when I am in my own head for too long, I tend to stay there. It's super easy to message 3 people a day and simply ask how they are doing and if they need anything.
6. Continuous learning. It's never too late to be learning something new. I signed up for an online marketing course to help grow my fitness business. One thing I have been wanting to do is to have a steady stream of training clients and athletes so that I never have to worry about my business failing. This course is teaching me how to have SYSTEMS in place to make my business run more efficiently and smoothly. I figured NOW is the time because it won't be long before I am back out on the road again doing what I love. Being on crutches temporarily is actually helping me grow for when I get back to running, biking, etc.
7. Lately I am focusing on all of the other COMPARTMENTS of my life aside from the triathlon compartment. When we're in the midst of a busy and stressful racing season, sometimes swimming, biking, and running seems to take over and we lose sight of all of the other important aspects of our lives-family, relationships, friends, church, the role of mother, father, work, etc. Yes we are triathletes, but that's not ALL we are. I totally get that the triathlon is a HUGE part of our lives, but it's not the only part.
8. I am thankful for the stuff I CAN do. I am a huge fan of weight training and always have been. So for now, it's upper body weights, the rowing machine, and core training. Something is better than nothing. My doctor said I am allowed to swim with a cast cover which I tried for the first time the other day. I probably won't swim with our Master's group because of the speed and intensity, but at least I can go to the pool on my own and get a few thousand yards in. These little workouts are a BLESSING until I can do more and more.
9. The Comeback. That's right. Once this is all over (and it WILL be OVER) you will come back with a vengeance, stronger than ever with a new found appreciation of your sport. Never stop thinking about what lies ahead for you. God created you to be GREAT not mediocre.