On my to-do list, I schedule out when to write my posts based on when I should have completed my next adventure to advance my training for Mt Rainier. This morning you were supposed to see a picture of gorgeous snow-capped mountains and my frozen face in half-smile, excited and tired on my climb to the top. If you can’t already tell – this post is going to be a different view of my journey towards the summit. I actually sat down at my laptop to pay bills and I was going to delete the task of writing this post off of my to-do list, when the words of a friend about this “being part of my journey too” crossed my mind and I decided to share my heart and share the whole journey and not just the successes.
So far I have had nothing but a serious go-get-em attitude, waking up every morning with fitness on the brain, prepping my kids for school while donning my gym uniform, shaking up a pre-workout and grabbing a banana or protein shake before rushing out the door to drop two kids off at school, another at the gym daycare and then spending two very productive and sweaty hours at the gym. It was a routine I’ve come to rely on heavily for the last 6 months. It was….a lot.
This morning I was supposed to be waking up before the sun somewhere cold, either my car or a tent near the trailhead of Decalibron in Colorado. I was planning to hike three new summits to add to my list of completed 14ers. Rationality is most definitely not a strength of mine and I ultimately made the final decision to not go after seeing the doctor – a mere 30 minutes before I should have been on the road. Instead of waking up to the majesty of the mountains that I crave, this morning I woke up in a warm bed and I was disappointed. This post is not going to be long enough for the all the thoughts that went through my head this morning, I’ll likely be touching on them on in other posts so back to the subject at hand.
Two weeks ago I was reaching the peak of my personal fitness, I was lifting more weight than I’d ever lifted before and it was a high. I was running up to three miles like I’d done it my whole life. One part of me felt like I was on my way to my ultimate goal while the other part of me was getting a little frustrated and mostly exhausted. I wasn’t letting my body rest like I should because the idea of being my best was filling my head and I couldn’t look past it. I hate labels so I’m skirting around what I’m trying to say – but my fitness was becoming an obsession. I am no newbie to obsessions, I’ve been in this head for 34 years and have been through a few. It didn’t feel good.
Two weeks ago I was in the middle of a cooldown stretch and my body literally decided at that point it had enough. Something in my back gave out. I am literally surrounded by the best people at my gym and I was able to get some relief, gather Ruby from the daycare and get out before I was overcome with pain and couch-bound. The rest of the day I was unable to find a position that kept me out of pain and it was quite simply awful. The most awful part was I could not believe how quickly my thoughts turned to “now you’ve done it” “there is no way you can come back from this” “you’re going to have to cancel the climb” “you just aren’t cut out for this”. These thoughts and so much other awesomely debilitating and fear-driven self talk crossed my mind for hours. These thoughts were simply untrue but they felt so true and so nasty and I was easily pulled into depression. I felt like an absolute failure and looking back it was so silly but so REAL. I had devoted so much of my heart, mind and desire into this goal that I was being crushed by the weight of it all.
I felt like an absolute failure.
This kind of crippling fear is what happens when you have put all of your worth, thoughts and energy into one ultimate goal. Our family obviously has a million other things going on in life like everyone else but it’s pretty obvious that my primary goal has been preparing my body to climb Mt Rainier.
Over the course of the week I had friends and family reach out to me, and every single time they said exactly what I needed to hear and every single time it brought me to tears. I have been so wrapped up in myself that I didn’t realize that other people around me have been watching. I am an incredibly introverted person and asking for help is distressing to me. So having friends reach out to me because they knew I wouldn’t ask for it reached me on a pretty deep level. Putting my pride completely aside, I was humbled.
One friend told me a harsh truth that (and I’m paraphrasing) “at least I didn’t have it as bad as XYZ”. To be honest, her words stunned me and left me a little angry because I was in the middle of a pity party and physically couldn’t get off my chair without searing pain. Every single day following our conversation I thought back on her comment and my anger eventually chipped away to nothing and turned into a realization that she was absolutely right. We are literally all in the middle of some sort of struggle, whether it be internal or physical – it is all about our perspective and mindset that will determine how much of our well-being it will overtake while we dig our way out.
One friend gave me the truth that I think I’ve known deep down for a while about the limits I’ve been pushing my body to and it gave me the motivation I didn’t know I needed to reevaluate every single thing I’ve been so hyper-focused on for many weeks by putting the physical demands of my training into perspective and how I’m going to reach them without hurting myself again.
Unknowingly, I was looking for pity and the people around me were not going to give it to me and I actually cannot thank every single one of you enough for that.
Almost the same second I knew I was hurt, I was immediately fighting against recovering with every single thought. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to still go to the gym, but swim instead of my regular routine. How I was going to still go on the hiking trip not matter what. Once I had my situation put into perspective and realized I was literally going to be forced to be inactive for a week, it was up to me to change my mindset. Again, thanks to everyone who reached out to me I had quite the support system to prop me up for success.
Turning lemons into lemonade was not easy and I won’t go into detail by detail but eventually my week looked like this. I’ve been putting off dealing with nutrition issues and I had the perfectly ideal opportunity to start intermittent fasting since I wasn’t constantly hungry from all the calories usually burned at the gym. I truly rested my mind and body for an entire week, even typing that seems insane to me because it doesn’t seem possible that I allowed myself to do that. I returned to the gym this week. I was happy to be back but my mood was not great. It was a mixture of being afraid to hurt myself again, not knowing how hard I should work, being irritated at all the unknown factors, knowing I was going to be “a week behind” and dreading the given that I would be starting a few notches below my usual energy level. Keeping myself honest and honoring the recovery process, I let my body guide the week and put in a little less than half of the hours of a typical week. And that was ok. I put aside the negative thoughts and let the truth reign loud and clear – I cannot heal if I push myself too hard.
At my most recent chiropractor appointment, (this is not verbatim) he told me that I had been spending so much time focusing on building my big muscles that the smaller muscles weren’t able to compensate and resulted in injury. I had to laugh because he has no idea how applicable this was to my situation. I have been so focused on the big picture with all of its shiny spotlights that I wasn’t nurturing all of the components that will ultimately be just as important to get me there. Daily working on my mental health and the “why” behind my goals. Most importantly – giving myself grace. I am 110% the hardest person on myself, I care about things that aren’t even rational.
In closing, I have to share the exact words I received from a friend and fellow gym goer. As soon I read her words I felt this weight lift off of me and I immediately could feel my mindset begin to change. There is a group of us there every day – pushing ourselves to the limit with our earbuds in and determination on our faces. We workout alone but there is a comradery among us that is pretty awesome as we all silently cheer each other on.
“You have every right to be pissed off and upset and discouraged. You are training for a heart-felt, passionate goal and now you are not able to train at your potential for a bit. But this is far from a stopping point.
You now get to exercise your mind versus training your body for the next few weeks. And trust me your mindset is going to make you summit Mt. Rainier and your body will just follow even when it hits absolute true fatigue during your climb.
Seriously have a bitch fest and scream fit!! Get it out of your system!!! Then turn it around and use this time as a huge tool for your training.
You pamper that back make your core strong and keep up your stretches. In the meantime Focus your passion and training to knowing this hiccup WILL make you a stronger hiker. And is part of the journey towards completing the hike.
Because I guarantee when you are in the middle of the mountain and fear and doubt and pain wants to start settling in before finishing or quitting too soon, your MIND will be that much stronger because you are dealing with this now!”
This morning I didn’t hike a mountain (or three). I got up and sent my oldest off to Scouts camp in the fleece sweater I would have been wearing at over 14,000 ft and an old pair of my hiking boots. I kept my pjs on and cuddled my younger two on the couch while I read a book. I’m currently writing this while drinking hot coffee and planning a slow Saturday spent in the sunshine in our backyard. My morning looks a bit different than it was supposed to but it is still every bit as fulfilling. There are many adventures to come this year and I honestly feel better than I have during this entire journey. I have different truths, altered priorities and new standards to hold myself to. I am not going to go as far as to say that an injury was necessary but something needed to get my attention. Yes I’m obviously returning to a serious workout regimine, but I am returning with the new perspective that every single day