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Thursday, March 24, 2016

What an Injury Taught Me About Overall Fitness

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Growing up I was an avid athlete. I was captain of almost every team I was on. Basketball, softball, volleyball, tennis, you name it. I also was always at the gym lifting weights and running. I was what you'd call a jock and always involved in physical activity. As I got older I continued to pursue my passion in various sports, but with work and moving across the country, I found that it wasn't so easy to get people to pick up and play sports like back in the day. One thing that I was able to continue on a regular basis was running. It was the most freeing to me. I could simply bring my running shoes anywhere I was... be it at home or on the road and go for a run. Long or short, it didn't matter. I would run day or night, alone, with friends and I'd sign up for races when I could. It gave me the endorphin rush I needed. I thought I was in great shape and most of my friends would agree.

I wasn't really one to count miles as I ran, since I mostly did it for leisure and exercise, but I'd guess I was only running about 35-40 miles a week (it's all relative, isn't it). As I was running one day, I noticed that my knees started to bother me. I thought, no big deal, I'm tough, I'll run a few less miles the next day. So I did. The pain would come and go and I didn't really think too much of it. I thought that all runners experience the same thing.

A few weeks later, I signed up for a local race to support a charitable cause. It was only a 5k. A breeze for me at the time. It was a gorgeous spring day in Texas as the race began. Things seemed to be smooth sailing, but as I was approaching the finish line, I felt a sharp pain in both my knees and I thought to myself, "Don't give up!" I continued to press on and I crossed the finished line. I finished in first place in my age bracket. I kindly accepted my medal and went home to shower up. Not even an hour after the race, my knees were swollen and black and blue. I called my mother, who is a nurse and immediately and asked her what to do. I proceeded to put ice on them and rest up. A few days past and my knees were still the color purple. I was devastated. I cried and cried and thought that I'd never be able to run again. After seeing a doctor, I was diagnosed with patella tendonitis in both knees. I was told to purchase new running shoes and take it easy for a while, but that I should be able to run again... someday.

After my diagnosis and the tears had dried, I was ready to get back out there and get moving. I realized I had to lay off the squats and was limited in what I could do as far as leg lifting. It was clear that I needed to find another way to give myself the endorphin rush that running gave me. It just so happens; my CEO at the time was an avid runner as well. He had told me about the time he was injured and took up swimming. It just so happened that there was a lap pool at a nearby high school that permitted people to swim laps around lunchtime every day. So I bought a bathing suit, a swim cap and some goggles and I hit the pool. Boy was I in for a surprise! Swimming was much, much harder than I had thought. Growing up most of my friends were on the swim team and I had just found a new appreciation for their sport. Not only does it work every muscle in your body (at low impact), but also it is phenomenal cardio! I was definitely put in my place. I felt like I was in horrible shape after swimming as hard as I could for 30 minutes. After several months, I felt better about myself in the water and I took on a love for swimming. It was truly an all around great workout and allowed me to enjoy cardio at a high level.

Once I had the cardio fix figured out, I needed to determine what I could do for strength training at a lower impact than lifting heavy weights (as most jocks have a tendency to do). I had a friend that had recently become a yoga instructor and she had been bugging me to attend a class. This was another form of fitness that I had never gotten into. I wasn't sold that it would give me what I needed since I was so accustomed to just lifting. Finally after several weeks of asking, I'm accepted and decided to give it a whirl. It was challenging, different and I became curious. I then attended another class at another studio and I fell in love with it. It was a heated class and I found that the studio, owner and teachers seemed to be the right fit. (I've since learned that this is a big part of yoga.) I signed up to be a member and had successfully added another workout to my regimen.

As I'm looking back years later, it was a setback, but I'm thankful that it's brought so many other forms of fitness into my life. It's truly broadened my horizons and I feel like I'm in much better overall shape. Although, I'm still not able to run long distances, it's taught me that by changing my routine, I've come full circle to an all around athlete. Now when people ask me what I do to stay in shape, I can firmly say, "Everything!"

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