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By Kevin Rutherford,
Nuun Chief Electrolyte Officer
As I entered 2015, I was feeling confident that this was going to be my best year yet for endurance racing. I had qualified for Boston and was building a strong base of mileage during the winter months and I felt unstoppable. My sights were laser-like on competing in Boston followed by the IRONMAN Victoria 70.3 which was a couple of months later. The Ironman Victoria race in June would be my first race in my “adult” life back in my homeland of Canada. This was going to my year. However, like many visions in life, the path to reach a desired goal is rarely the exact path you expected. That vision didn’t come to fruition.
This February, I strained the muscles and ligaments on the anterior of my lower right leg which is much like a severe case of shin splints. It was so bad that I could barely walk after trying a 3-mile run. It felt like something you would see from a torture chamber in a movie, as strong electrical currents were running through my injured leg. I stopped running for two months in the hopes that come Boston Marathon weekend, I would be good to go on the run, albeit, speed wouldn’t be my goal any more. Unfortunately, my nerves and ligaments were so damaged that two months would not be enough. In fact, 4-6 months was not enough to compete in Victoria.
I have managed to keep my sanity and remain upbeat despite this very discouraging injury.
5 things I learned about being injured to make me better
1. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Fortunately running is natural for me but this injury took that away. Swimming on the other hand is not natural for me so I tend not to do as much as I should. This injury made me prioritize it along with the bike, and in the end, I will be a stronger athlete, and specifically, triathlete.
2. Knowledge is power, become an expert on your injury and plan.
I got connected with one of the best physical therapists in Seattle to get treated. I asked questions and more questions. I researched on the web. I talked to athletes that have experienced similar issues. Perhaps misery does love company, but it felt good to know that I wasn’t alone with this injury and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
3. Rejuvenate your entire body, not just where you are injured.
In the heat of training, we tend to focus on the aspects that improve our performance directly connected with our sport of choice. However, think of the power of mind-body-spirit. To keep motivated, visualize why you were training to begin with—visualize being stronger than before your injury. Focus on nutrition and hydration to expedite your recovery but also to make you better than ever. Lastly, incorporate eastern medicine to help recover and prevent injury (chiropractic care, acupuncture, meditation).
4. You are who you surround yourself with.
This is a life lesson my dad taught me at a young age that I still apply today during my training. To get better at swimming, I need to train with swimmers. So I joined a triathlon team, hired an amazing coach, and swam with a masters swim class twice a week. I’m not a Michael Phelps (yet) but I’m sure not my former fearful swimmer of the past.
5. Where ever there is a vision, there is a revision.
Get a race scheduled, even if it’s next year. Without a goal, you are less likely to be committed to pressing forward to recover quicker. Once you have a goal, set milestones in between so that the end game isn’t so far away and less tangible.
I’m determined to make 2016 my year. If, on the off chance, that journey is not what I expect next year, at least I know how to capitalize on the gift of injury.