by Yvette Quantz, RDN, CSSD, LDN

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This month I am sharing a personal journey on overcoming an injury and the life lessons learned while getting back to running. This journey required me to step out of my comfort zone, form new friendships, challenge myself, listen to and trust my body, believe in myself, even when I wanted to give up.

I hope this story inspires you to keep on moving forward and not give up on yourself, because in the end that is the best we can do. 

A little over a year ago I had a relapse of an old injury and if I am honest it made me mad. I was mad that this injury from 15 years ago keeps coming back. I was mad at myself for “letting” it happen again. I was mad that I was just starting to run well again and now I have to rest. I took the very mature and educated approach and ignored it. I told myself I did not have time to deal with this. I keep pushing myself in workouts and hoping the stretching at home would eventually “fix” the problem. Did I mention that I handled this in a very mature fashion? With a degree in Kinesiology and working in the fitness industry most of my life I knew better, but I was angry and tired of dealing with this issue…so I kept going. I kept going until I was limping everywhere I went and the pain in my foot was so bad I could barely walk.

The pain had taken over my days and nights and I finally accepted the fact that I could not “wish” this away. I need to rest, recover, and seek help.

I was put in a boot and instructed to not do any exercise that aggravated my heel..which  at this point basically meant everything. I could bike…but honestly even that hurt.

The only exercise left was swimming.

I used to swim in high school and I liked swimming, but it was January…which means it was cold and finding motivation to jump in cold water…by myself is like asking your kid to do homework during the summer. It can be done…it’s just REALLY, REALLY hard. The idea of doing it on a consistent basis…well that just hurt my head.

But here is the thing, I knew I could not settle for where I was.

I knew I wanted to get better.

I knew I did not want to live with this pain.

I knew that I perform better as a mother, wife, business owner and dietitian when I keep my body strong and healthy.

And for these reasons I knew I had to get in the pool. I had to do what I could do until I could do what I wanted to do.

So I jumped in and started to show up. 

After a few solo swims, a friend invited me to join her and her swim “coach”. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Not only would this meeting of the “coach” require me to swim in the cold water (I was currently swimming in an indoor pool), but it would also require me to swim at 5:00 in the morning. Let me preface that I have no problem waking up early and for the past nine years I have found a lot of joy and productivity before sunrise. However, the things I like to start my day with usually include: coffee, writing and running.  To wake up at 4:30 a.m. on a cold morning to jump in a pool…well, let’s just say that has not been on my bucket list. But I also knew if I wanted to heal, I had to do what I could do. I had to jump at this invitation.

After a few “private” swim lessons this “coach” invited me to join his swimming group. Again another wave of nerves and self-doubt ran through me, but I knew if I wanted to get better, I had to do what I could do. I had to show up. I will be honest, I was not very good compared to these seasoned swimmers, but they were all very helpful in sharing tips on how to improve and they continued to invite me back.

I continued to show up. 

By showing up, I started to rebuild myself.  Here are a few of the lessons I learned over the past year on the journey to recovery.

1. Set Your Intention. Define your why and get clear of what you want to achieve. It does not have to be a specific race or event, but it does have to be something defined to keep you motivated on why you want to improve. I knew that I perform better in all areas of life when I am healthy and strong. And for that reason, I knew that the alternative was not an option.

2. Show Up. You have to start somewhere and your somewhere might be just showing up. After a few months of swimming and cross training, I was feeling stronger having minimal pain. One day a friend invited me to run with his group, I was not conditioned to run like they were running, but I also knew that I was to a point that I could start running again. Which meant I had to start showing up. When you show up you may not be the strongest or fastest out there, but you will start to rebuild yourself and that is where the magic begins.

3. Do What You Can. Do what you CAN do and stop focusing on what you cannot do. As a culture focus we tend to focus on what we can’t do instead of embracing what we can do. Shift your energy into what you CAN do…stop wasting energy on the things you cannot do. When it is time, step out of your comfort zone and try those things you could not do…you may just surprise yourself!

4. Challenge Yourself. Find new ways to challenge yourself and continue to step out of your comfort zone. Try a new exercise class, increase the intensity or resistance of your workouts. Take both mental and physical challenges to improve. If something scares you, maybe it’s time to start exploring it. Explore what and why it scares you and then step out to face your fear. You may surprise yourself!

5. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire and Believe In You. This is a big one! If you are going to get better you must surround yourself with people who lift you up, not tear you down. These are the people who will carry you through to the next level. They will motivate and inspire you. They will also challenge you when they know you can do better. They will believe in you no matter what. Build your tribe of people who believe in you and treat your tribe with the utmost loyalty and respect. They will believe in you and you will believe in them.

6. Lose Expectations. Remove the expectations you have of yourself. This is a hard one for me to write about because it is something I have become very good at – setting expectations on myself and being hard on myself if I do not reach them. But this journey has taught me the beauty and power in losing expectations and instead doing what I could do…to the best of my ability….all while taking it all one day at a time. I will have to continue to re-visit this one, but I can tell you it is one worth exploring. What I have learned is when I removed those expectations, I perform better and I do not have the disappointment that steals the joy from the experience. If you too struggle with setting high expectations for yourself, I want to challenge you to join me and in making a vow to do what we can do…to the best of our ability…taking it all one day at a time.

7. Surprise Yourself. Get out there and do those things you thought were impossible. Do the thing that scare you. Last June my “tribe” encouraged me to do the swim portion of the Indian Creek Triathlon (which is an open water swim…meaning it was in a lake!). Boy did I surprise myself when I got out of the water and realized I DID IT and I DID NOT DROWN!

8. Keep Showing Up. We have to keep showing up. Every day we have something to face that will require us to step out of our comfort zone and face the challenge. There are some days we may feel overwhelmed by how far we still have to go, but you must keep showing up. I promise if you keep showing up then one day you will surprise yourself with what you can do! Do what you can do…to the best of your ability…taking it all one day at a time. 

I never thought I would run again, but 2 months ago I finished the Zion Half Marathon in Utah and it was AMAZING! Running with friends with a healthy and strong body, ready to do what I can do, to the best of my ability and taking one mile at a time.

Keep Showing Up

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