If you asked me to write a post prior to January 7, 2010 on overcoming an injury, I couldn’t do it. At 27 years old, after being a 3 sport athlete through high school, a gym junkie through college, and a go-getter competing in half marathons, a duathlon, and a triathlon after grad school, I had never had an injury. Not one. I never had to sit on the bench, see a physical therapist, or even ice a joint more than a handful of times. I was very, very lucky, and proud that I took such good care of my body by constantly stretching and cross training.
Then somewhere during my triathlon training I felt a twinge in my hip that got worse and worse as I continued to train and race. Fast forward about 6 months and I scheduled surgery to repair my torn hip labrum. I’m not going to lie: I freaked out. Every day leading up to surgery I grappled with the fact that I’d be on the couch for 2 weeks and on crutches, and then scheduled for physical therapy (which I always thought was a joke that didn’t help you recover). Unfortunately, surgery didn’t go the way we hoped and my labrum repair had me on the couch and on crutches for six weeks, and unable to start physical therapy for three months. That was the least of my concerns. Just four days after my surgery, I got a debilitating blood clot in my calf that felt like a gunshot to my leg. I was now faced with two “injuries” to overcome, and slowly but surely the spring after my surgery I started PT and learned how to regain my strength. I take back every negative thing I ever said about physical therapy – it saved me. It gave me the courage to get stronger and retrain my body to get back on track.
Another setback came seven months after surgery when, after a long flight back from Europe, I woke up with stabbing lower back pain out of the blue. No MRI could explain what was wrong, and I spent the next six months – up until now – trying to find treatments to lessen the constant pain. I couldn’t believe my year: I had spent 27 years injury free and now this? Why was I having a year where all I faced were injuries? It felt like a joke the universe was playing on me, but I was ready to play back.
I learned in the past year that overcoming your injuries is about physical healing, yes. But more than anything, it is about mental healing. In the beginning of the year whenever I’d see someone outside for a run, or read blog posts about people competing in races, I’d have a pang of jealousy. “They don’t know how lucky they are,” I’d think. But it only made me feel worse. So with the help of my insanely positive and inspirational fiancé, I got my mind straightened out. I started to see my little victories, like increasing one pound in weight at physical therapy or taking a walk around the block, as really, really big victories. I started to think more positively about my situation and my progress. I started to reframe my mindset about my abilities. Sure, I was once the girl who could run 13 miles or swim ‘til her lungs were on fire, but I had to set those memories aside and build on that strength. I had to focus on the new me – the one who discovered strength I didn’t know I had. The one who learned how to overcome things that no book, blog, or words of wisdom could have ever prepared me for.
I’m still overcoming my injuries, and every day I’m getting stronger with less pain. I’m discovering new exercise I’m able to do – like Pilates – that I never tried before. But the biggest lesson I learned after the past year was that in order to heal my physical injuries in my hip and back, I had to start with my head. If you’re overcoming an injury, whether it is a long term one, or one that only has you sitting out for a day or two resting, know that changing your mind about the situation and focusing on positive progress is the only way to heal. If I can do it, so can you!