Sometimes, when I read my own bio, on a website, or on my blog, I think to myself “who is that person and how does she do all that?” I’m thinking now, trapped in bed on a Saturday, that the universe felt the same way and dealt me a blow yesterday that is certain to slow me down and make me re-think the pace at which I am living my life. Finally, after months of just talking about it, I was playing squash with my boss. Thirty minutes in, I collided with the glass at the back wall, my foot got trapped at a terrible angle between the floor and said glass wall and turned outward unnaturally. I felt the injury as it was happening. I got ice and a ride home to my other half.
Now, this is not my first ankle sprain. Anyone who plays competitive sports has it happen now and again, unfortunately. At the very least, I know how to treat it and I know to stay off of it. Even if I wanted to, though, I can’t walk. The pain didn’t make me tear up, the embarrassment of so fantastically injuring myself on a squash court didn’t make me tear up. What brought me to my emotional knees was that I knew immediately I had just lost a good chunk of my triathlon season, and possibly all of it.
Most of us have activities that define us. The activities that take up space in our hearts and our minds. Activities that give us direction and drive us out of bed every morning. Quite obviously, my devotion to sports and fitness is a huge part of my identity. In seconds, it has been taken away from me. I know it’s temporary, but with a huge race coming up, this extended break in training will set me back months. It’s overwhelming to think how many hours and how much effort I have lost. All the weekends I gave up to ride my bike for hours, and now I won’t be able to compete.
By the same token, for the first time in months, I have sat in my bedroom with my boyfriend and just talked for hours, and ate breakfast, and elevated my foot. And now I find myself with extra time to write. I remember a blog I wrote about how important it is to recharge your batteries. With my blind devotion to this race, I had completely lost that. I had to work out in the mornings before work, the evenings after work, and for 6-7 hours on the weekend. The payoff would have been priceless, but that schedule is just crazy. Truly crazy.
Almost immediately, when I first accepted I had lost the ability to compete, my brain reset. I must be kind to my body, I have to focus on long-term health and resilience. Frankly, I really need to just take a chill pill. For the past few months, I’ve been almost always exhausted. I’m always concerned about fitting in workouts, always scheduling in my mind, always tense. I like to think I hide it well, but it’s taking a toll. Thursday night, riding to a work event, I found myself describing my life to a colleague as “always crazy.” Maybe I can’t do half iron-distance competitions and be trying to get my career off the ground. Maybe I don’t have a lifestyle that can accommodate all of this.
Everything in moderation. I won’t give up racing and competing, I love it and it brings me tremendous joy. But, maybe I was missing all the signals telling me to take it easy, and I needed something bigger and worse to knock me over so I could get the message. How long could I have gone on missing the signals? Would I have just kept pushing, pushing, pushing until I found myself hospitalized for exhaustion? Am I missing other signals that life has fallen out of whack in other ways?
With all this extra time on my hands, I’ll be thinking about the answers and looking for ways to improve the health and balance in my life. I’m looking forward to extra time with my boyfriend, less muscle soreness, and focusing on all the excellent things happening in my professional life. As with other setbacks, injuries are opportunities in disguise. I’ll come back stronger and happier and more balanced than ever.