Life Lessons from an Athlete…

I wrote a blog post this past February entitled, “I Wanna Be an Athlete”.  Little did I know that within a couple weeks of that post, well into training for my first marathon, I would be taken out of the game.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I took up running.  We saw the value of being healthy and making healthier lifestyle changes and running was a way to move us in that direction.  As you know, running isn’t a sport that those qualifying for an AARP Card usually jump into.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a serious jump and we’ve gotten several races under our belts now, the longest for me being a ½ marathon.  My first full marathon was to be the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon this past May, but that didn’t happen.

In March while doing an intense speed workout, I had a hamstring and hip injury that brought me to an abrupt halt.   I was barely able to limp the three miles home.  I hate not being able to complete a workout the coach gives me!  Feeling desperate not to miss any training so close to my 1st marathon, I tried everything to speed up the healing.  Loads of stretching, physical therapy, ice, rest, nothing was working.  Along with the hamstring issue, the Sports Orthopedic Doctor found that I also had a lot of arthritis in my spine that was contributing to my pain and probably a stress fracture.  It became evident as the weeks passed by that I would not be running my first marathon in May.  I was intensely disappointed!

At the same time in March, I learned that I had developed an incisional hernia from a surgery that I had last September.   (That’s a whole other drama that I wrote about in “I’m Not Average”.)  The lump on my belly was huge!  I called it my belly boob except the problem was that it was bigger than the original two.  This would require surgery, so I went ahead and scheduled that, hoping to heal the hip at the same time I was recovering from the surgery. It turned out that the surgeon not only had to repair the hernia we knew of, but found that I had many holes to repair.  The surgeon described it as looking like swiss cheese.  The eight previous abdominal surgeries had done a number on my midsection.  Thus the surgery and the recovery time turned out to be a bigger ordeal than was originally planned.

I’ve not been able to run for over three months now!  If you are a runner, you certainly understand how painful this is.  Sadness wells up when you see other runners on the road or when you drive down roads you usually run on or your spouse suits up to hit the road.  You even begin to crave those nasty GU packets!  What was really painful was being sidelined for three races that I was already signed up to run.  Reduced to being a race T-shirt collector, I still attended and cheered on my husband as he ran those races, including the race that was to be “our” first marathon.  Bittersweet as it was, I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!

All that said, I’ve had lots of time to re-think this “wanna be an athlete” thing.  I think there is much to be learned from athletes that can be applied in other areas of our lives.  Here is what I’ve learned.

  • Being an athlete changes the way you eat.  I’m an athlete.  I need to eat healthy food.  What I put into my body matters.
  • Being an athlete changes your daily activities.  Workouts “must” fit into your day.
  • Seeing yourself as an athlete changes the way you think about a workout.  I am an athlete; therefore hard work is what I do.
  • On a substandard, humorous level, it changes the way you see yourself.  It makes it a little more okay to be smaller on the top side.
  • An athlete needs to have a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.  You need to be strong in all three areas.
  • Athletes see themselves as WINNERS before they have even run the race or played the game.
  • Athletes push harder; they go above the norm, above the expected.  They push the limits, if there are limits.
  • Athletes go through periods of strict training.  They beat their bodies into shape to be able to accomplish their goal.
  • Athletes endure setbacks and injuries as being a part of the game.  They don’t give up but use it as time to gain strength or endurance in another area.
  • Once an athlete recovers from an injury or setback and is able to get back in the game, they forget what’s past and strain for what’s ahead.  They can’t afford to allow fear of the past to slow them down.
  • Athletes are persistent and determined.  They know what patient endurance means – “steady, active persistence”.
  • Athletes strip off everything that would hold them back, even the tiniest thing that would weigh them down.  They wear appropriate clothing and gear, specifically designed for their sport.
  • Athletes don’t allow themselves to be distracted.  They stay focused.  Their goal, the prize is always set before them.
  • Athletes work together with their team.  They help each other win the game.
  • Athletes find motivation and encouragement in those who have already endured through the agonizing pain that comes with training.  They look to those who have pushed through hardships and setbacks, those who have already attained high goals and already succeeded at winning.
  • They run hard or play the game as a fight to the finish and they get the prize.  And the rewards don’t suck!

I’m sure there is more that I will learn in this journey.  I’m at six weeks post surgery now and had my first physical therapy appointment this week.  I was hoping to hear that I was good to hit the road, but it looks like I’m going to need another two to four weeks to rebuild my core strength before I can run again.  The next scheduled race is the Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon which is just over a month away.  I will probably have to walk most of this, but at least I won’t be sidelined.  My husband who will be running will just have more time at the finish line to enjoy the fruits of Napa while he waits for me.  🙂

Having re-thought this athlete thing, I can tell you that I haven’t changed my mind.  The difference now is, I’m seeing myself as an athlete, because I am!  Life is an amazing race.  Let’s run it well, together!

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2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from an Athlete…

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