I have always been terrible at dealing with injury. My physio used to put me on “suicide watch” whenever I came to him with a de-habiltitating one! This article gives you an insight into what I do, why I do it and how I have learnt to cope with not being able to train
It’s actually not that often that I want to talk about me, but today I do, because we are only just getting to know each other, readers and I feel that I am not really me at the moment.
I am an ex-chef and ex-fitness instructor. I run a Freelance Marketing Support Business and I am a Food and Health Blogger. I am passionate about healthy living and would love to inspire people to make healthy changes to their lifestyle.
I am also a runner and triathlete. I’ve competed in all distances, including Ironman and I am immensely proud of that. I’m nothing special but I have pushed my body to its limits to be the best that I can possibly be and that’s all that matters.
I love training. Genuinely, love it and if I could, I would train all day, every day. It makes me happy. Not only do I love the actual activity but I love the feeling, the social life and the physical and mental challenge it gives me. Training as been an emotional crutch for me when times have been hard, my friend when times have been lonely, my social life when I have moved somewhere new, my psychotherapist when I’m confused, and my identity when I feel I have lost my way. It doesn’t really matter what life throws at me because I can always go for a run. There will always be a new challenge to focus on and training will always be there for me.
I train twice a day, 6 days per week. I can, because I am single and have no children. Neither of those are a choice of mine it’s just what life has thrown at me so training is what I’ve thrown back. Its flicking the birdy to negativity.
I love life. I love what I do. I am an extremely lucky person and I am thankful every day.
But this year I over did it. I was made redundant from an extremely stressful and demanding job in January and I decided to give myself a sabbatical. I went out and trained! A lot! And I loved it! I lost half a stone, my body fat was minimal and my abs were ripped.
But there was no structure to my training, no plan, no gradual progression. If someone said do you fancy a bike ride the answer was yes, regardless of what else I had done that week or what else I was about to do that day. In some ways that was really liberating. I was going out just for the hell of it, no goals, no agenda and not knowing what was coming up next. But I paid the price.
It was the end of a 6 hour training day – it hadn’t really meant to be like that, it’s just that my friend Tom asked me if I wanted to come and do Pie Ride: a 3 hr ride that ended at the farmers market where, we bought the best coffee in Devon from Dave the Coffee Man at Crank House Coffee and a pork pie from the Pie Man whose name I can’t remember. Of course I wanted to do pie ride! It’s a beautiful ride on a sunny Devon morning, along the cycle path on the River Exe and around the Exe Estuary through Dawlish .
Who wouldn’t want to see this view?
In the afternoon I was laying a hash. Hashing is a running thing where a “hare” lays a trail in blobs of flour but also throws some false ones in and you all work together to find the right trails. That took 2 hours of off road, running. Then in the evening I ran the hash for an hour, making sure no one got lost.
In the pub afterwards I was telling my brother I was in loads of pain, with a sad face and rubbing my stomach to add effect, to try to draw his attention away from his chicken curry and beer! As I rubbed my hand over my stomach I noticed 3 lumps. That was it -the stomach came out in the pub and despite my brothers fascination with his garnish of a pickled egg on his curry, I momentarily had his attention! “I think they might be hernias” I said “No they are too high up and you wouldn’t have 3” was the general consensus. We went back to discussing the authenticity of a pickled egg on a curry.
I was in agony and knew something quite serious was up and went home, knowing I would be booking an emergency appointment at the doctors the next morning.
So it was confirmed, 3 hernia (which is very unusual) and high up on the stomach, again unusual, but I am a bit of a drama queen and don’t do things by halves. The doc told me that I needed surgery and about 4 months recovery.
That threw me into turmoil. I couldn’t train, I needed to wait for an operation and I wouldn’t be training for a long time after. Now I’ve been injured before but never to the extent that I couldn’t do anything. I once spent 4 months weight training on my knees or sitting down due to a foot injury that needed to be rested! I had to take 11 months off running due to ITB problems and in that time I built the strongest core you can imagine, whilst keeping my aerobic fitness up with Deep Water Pool Running. There is usually an option, something you can do even if it is not your chosen sport.
But not this time, life as I knew it was over, for this year. My social life was out of the window. My emotional crutch, my comforter, my identity – gone. Most importantly I was going to miss out on fun. And I hate missing out on fun. I felt like billy no mates. I was so upset, I cried. I had not long been living back in Devon, I was just establishing myself in all the clubs I had joined, my legs had kind of started to accept the hills and my plan to ride every Wednesday night time trial to see where I could get to in the league were ruined.
But I couldn’t spend the next 8 months or so, in misery, so I set about doing what I do best. Making plans and making things happen as quickly as possible. I named my hernia Terence, Trent and Derby, collectively known as The Triplets. I decided to throw some redundancy money at private surgery because a 7 month wait for an operation was not an option for me. I had my surgery on the 4th May.
Jeez it hurt! Like really, really hurt! And I have quite a high pain threshold! But because my abs were very defined and tight (probably the reason why I herniated in such a dramatic fashion in the first place) they objected greatly to being sliced, diced and moved around. With the help of co-codamol and morphine I got through it, rested loads and started to plan my come-back.
A month later I went back to see the surgeon as I was concerned about my incision. There was just one tiny bit, smaller than a pea that hadn’t knitted back together. The surgeon said it was fine and in 2 weeks time I could start gentle exercise such as walking. A week later the hole was slightly bigger. I went to see my practice nurse to see what she thought and she swabbed it for infection and told me to come back on Tuesday to see the Dr and get the results.
No infection. Phew! But the Dr wanted to have a look to see how it was doing. She took the dressing off and I found myself staring into a hole in my stomach, just as she came at me with a measuring rod to see how deep it was. At that point I lost it! The incision was opening up and this was not good! It was then a whirlwind of Drs and wound care nurses. It seemed that everyone wanted to come and have a look! They stared with fascination, some seemed mildly excited and others just wanted to get to work on it. I just wanted it to go away! A call to the surgeons agreed a plan of action whereby the incision would be packed with a special seaweed based dressing that regulated moisture and it would need to be repacked everyday including weekends for the next month.
By Friday the incision had opened up completely. It was a distressing and uncomfortable week! A massive set back to my recovery and all I could do was play a waiting game with no set date of getting back to training. I am 2 weeks into my month of daily surgery visits. It’s a very odd feeling when they pull the dressing out. It feels like they are pulling bunting out of my tummy. I half expect them to produce a white rabbit or an artificial rose and for people to start applauding. I am pleased to say that it is now showing signs of starting to heal and I am hoping that I will be able to start walking in 2 weeks time.
So how does someone like me, whose life is training, who depends on it both emotionally and physically deal with not being able to train for a considerable amount of time?
It took a lot of adjustment, but the first thing that has to happen is acceptance. “I can’t believe this has happened” and “I don’t know what to do” are not productive. Its a process but you need to get to the point where you accept whats happened, you suck it up, look for positives, make adjustments and re-plan. You are no longer an athlete, what else are you going to be?
I can honestly say that I would not have changed this experience. It has allowed me to focus on other things that I would have used “I’m going on a 4 hour bike ride” as an excuse to put off. I focused on getting a job. OK so I didn’t actually get a job but I put in applications and went to interviews which helped my thought process. I decided to set up my own Freelance Business. That would never have happened if I hadn’t become injured. The other thing that would never have happened is this blog. I have always wanted to write a recipe book but never found the time. Having the time and the space to think, gave me the idea for this and I am absolutely loving the experience. I now know that I would love to make a career out of writing.
I have made more of an effort to find a social life outside of training. I am catching up with old friends, making new friends and I have joined non-sport related clubs. Hell, I have even set up my own non-sports related club – Exeter Bloggers Meet Up, if anyone is interested! I am also doing some voluntary work for a charity and meeting new people that way.
Importantly my poor, tired, over-trained body is getting a massive rest! It will be interesting to see if this has paid off when I start training again. My mind has had a rest too, from all things training, thinking about training plans, events I’m going to enter etc. And that space has allowed me to think about other things.
Of course I am going to go back to training. I’m going to train hard, and I am going to try to be the best athlete that I can possibly be. But this time with balance. Because I have other things to do!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fed up with not being able to train. I miss the fun, I miss the endorphins, I am packing on weight here and have said goodbye to my six-pack, but for the first time in years I have boobs! And its been an interesting journey. I am stressing a bit about going back to training and how unfit I am going to be, what goals I am going to set, but that too will be a journey in itself and one that I am really looking forward to blogging about.
So for anyone who is struggling to deal with injury stop and re-assess. Accept that you are injured. It’s not permanent (hopefully) but for now training is not part of your life. Use the time to improve other areas, to achieve things that you would never have achieved otherwise. Do something that, in the back of your mind, you have always wanted to do. Nurture and cherish your relationships outside of training. Develop your relationships with your training buddies in a different ways – I have found that as long as there is food involved they still want to see you! Tom and I still do pie ride, I just don’t do the ride or the pie! We still meet at the farmers market for a coffee. Races always need volunteers. Get involved in your club in different ways. If you can do some training, find another type of exercise that you can manage, get strong in other areas, build core strength – it will pay you dividends when you get back to training properly.
Every cloud has a silver lining and everything happens for a reason. Make the most of this time because you will never get it back again.
- Accept and move on
- Train in other ways if you can
- Nurture non-sport related areas of your life
- Seize opportunities
- Start projects
- Achieve other things
- Marshal and volunteer
- Nurture friendships outside of training
- Find balance
You can get through this and you may be a more rounded person for it.
If this article helps just one person I will be a very happy girl. Please give is a share using the sharing buttons below and see who you can help today.