5 minutes into the ride, I realized I’d forgotten my bike gloves. Though I cursed my forgetful nature, I wasn’t going to let it stop me from riding this time. I had waited all day to be outside on two wheels!
In hindsight, I’m starting to think maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. Specifically, I should have stayed inside.
Within minutes, I found myself splat on the ground. Blood was everywhere. At first, I was stubborn – I’m fine! Get up and ride! But as I took stock of my injuries, I had to admit defeat.
At the hospital, my doctor told me I’d need stitches. I was fine with this plan – until he said that I couldn’t swim for a week.
I almost bit his head off. As with my stubbornness in riding that morning, I couldn’t imagine taking that much time out. I rationalized: I love to swim. It’s over 100 degrees outside. I have a race in three weeks. I can’t stop swimming!
When life’s obstacles get in the way, athletes have a tendency to want to push through. Instead of gracefully handling the day-to-day setbacks, we obsess over how much we’ve been derailed. This stress, however, interferes with healing and recovery.
Sometimes, life hands out a rotten deal. Accepting it, looking for the positives and – perhaps most importantly - seeing it as an opportunity to learn, can be critical in gaining perspective. If you look long enough, it’s likely you’ll find something to be grateful for, even in the worst moments.
While at the hospital, I learned that I didn’t break anything. My husband broke his hip in a bike crash last year, and his recovery time was far longer than mine would be. In that moment, I was also thankful I had put on my elbow and knee pads in the first place. I marveled at how much worse my road rash would have been without them. Gloves...yes, remember the gloves too next time.
It’s time now to focus on what I can do, to use this opportunity to come back stronger. I won’t be cycling or swimming for a week, but I can pick up my running, muscle conditioning, and skills training to enhance my sports performance in this cycle of healing. Learning to accept situations as they are, to seek the opportunities inherent are important for my growth as an athlete. A so-called setback does not have to actually set a person back when the opportunity for growth is explored. It can be time to grow, rest, recover and come back stronger.
But the stress of being out of control, of feeling worried, anxious and uncomfortable can be more debilitating than any obstacle an athlete faces. Facing trials and turning stressful adverse situations into growth opportunities allows us to be better athletes, parents, workers, spouses and friends.
Athletes will have injuries from time to time. But learning to expedite the healing cycle starts with acceptance and gratitude.