I Can't Protect Them

Today I went to the gym for the first time since May. Astounding, I know. But it was. It is an interesting test and mixer of emotions every time I walk into the room full of treadmills and athletes of all shapes and sizes. Just around two years ago - I was those people. I loved getting off work and running my stress out, sweating my stress out, beating my stress out on those machines. Sometimes, I still love it. Or want to love it the way I did. Two years ago, I was going to train for my first marathon. I had started. Talked myself through all the "what if I can'ts" and "why would you want to do thats". Then before I could really begin, I got hurt. Not a world ending - no hope kind of hurt. But enough of an injury that running was no longer an option. After five years of running pretty constantly - I had built a world around this identity. Being a runner was my therapy, my social topic to discuss with strangers and friends, my way to stay fit and "sane", my way to prove myself every time I ran further than I had before. I knew that runners got hurt all the time, but I prided myself in cross training and stretching and taking precautions that should protect me from injury. In the months leading up to my injury - a hip cartilage tear that took almost 7 painful months to diagnose thanks to the flaming hoops of the medical world - I had gotten very competitive with myself. The pattern forming seemed to consist of me feeling like a failure at the end of every run because I didn't go fast enough or feel strong enough. The negative voice that has always lived with me in some way was getting louder than ever. I wasn't thin enough, strong enough, as good as anyone else out there. Fast forward to the race day where we think this injury took full form. If I had listened to the kind voice that I didn't realize I had, I would have let myself give up on the rest of the race when I felt an odd pop in my left leg as I ran the first two miles. If I had of worried more about myself than proving that I could finish to the world of people (who really didn't care!) it is possible that I wouldn't have let the injury get as bad as it did. To this day, I see the value in working through hard times when you need to - but what a different story it would have been if I had learned how to separate hard times from real, need-to-stop now because you're hurt, injury. There is a good side to all of this weirdness. Two years later, and almost two years since the surgery I had to correct as much of the problem as possible, I have found new strength in myself. Never a huge "yoga person" - I ignored my doubts and turned to yoga practice as a support to physical therapy and injury recovery. My goal was to get my strength back and find a "hobby" to help me with several other related ups and downs caused by my injury. What I have found instead over the past two years is a sense of kindness and redirection of thoughts and priorities through the practice of yoga and meditation. This "hobby" has turned into a way of life that I honestly believe has allowed me to start finding out "who I am" - not just "what I do". As I continue to learn from my injury, now and then I am compelled to share pieces of this (likely common, but not insignificant) story with other athletes and self-pushers who may be in need of words like these. I can't protect them. If I had read a story like this three years ago, I would have scanned it and tossed it aside. You have to live it to really get the changes that occur over time and experiences. But I can share another bit of the story and express gratitude for where I am and excitement for where I'm going.