During an early morning workout December, 2017, I was inspired by a conversation between Arianna Huffington and Tim Ferriss regarding their own experiences around burnout and exhaustion and what it took for them to realize they needed to slow down and start listening to their bodies. The content resonated with me so deeply that when Arianna invited us listeners to share our stories, I felt compelled to share my own experience.
I always had a passion for running, and after completing my first half marathon in 2011 I soon after faced the challenge that each time I ran, I would strain my groin, marking the beginning of my setbacks. I convinced myself I would never run again, and I began to create an unhealthy relationship with food as a counterbalance, rather than focusing on my nutritional consumption, it began to consume me.
For five years I tirelessly tried to find new ways to rehabilitate my legs to run again, then finally in late 2016 a close friend of mine referred me to her physiotherapist that helped her achieve her Olympic dream. I have been working with him since, and have now successfully been able run again through persistence and a whole lot of patience. Inspired by this mini-miracle, I decided to explore my passion for fitness, ultimately achieving a NASM personal training certification.
As a fitness enthusiast with strong determination, I was absolutely thrilled to now be running again – I envisioned running marathons and achieving what once felt so far out of reach. Over time I started to notice a tightness and burning through my right hip and decided I would continue to push through. The pain persisted and one year after solving my five-year setback, I was told I had hip bursitis (hip inflammation due to overuse) and would need to take a few months off to rest. What would be a minor setback to most, for me this was my greatest fear, my mind racing back to places of when I had told myself I would never run again – this was now a mental challenge I had to face head on.
The reason I am sharing this is that when I was told I needed to rest, I was devastated. I started to panic knowing I had to settle into a new routine, that did not include my early morning workouts. My mind raced to dark places from the past but I knew how disappointed I would be in myself, and more importantly, my partner. He had helped me through those darker days with the strength and encouragement he instilled in me to stay persistent and focused on the recovery process.
I decided to use the lessons I had learnt to do what I could in the gym and slowly and patiently progress forward. I had to trust the process and have faith in my physiotherapist that I would be back in due time. I have now come out stronger on the other side of this second-setback, but more importantly, it has been the lessons learnt and the mental strength that I have gained, that are the real wins. I no longer feel the need to push my body beyond its limits of complete exhaustion, but rather listen inward to my body, mind and soul. It’s essential that we feed the body want it needs, not what your routine or your schedule is telling you. Sometimes rest can show up in the most frustrating of ways, and in the most inconvenient of times, but if you simply slow down and enjoy the process you will be surprised what you will learn.
I remember subtly praying one day, “dear god, please teach me patience” and this is how it showed up for me. Through the setbacks of exertion, exhaustion and injury, but it has let me reflect on how strong I have become, both mentally and physically. Although we become vulnerable when we share our moments of weakness, darkness or difficulty, this can be translated into inspiration for others – showing the world that we may put on a brave front (just as I had) but that everyone is fighting battles we know nothing about. Our setbacks in life do not define us, but what truly defines us is how we manage to get back up. Thank your setbacks for what they have taught you, but don’t ever let them dim your sparkle.