To the injured, broken hearted and lost Hayley,
I know that right now, it feels like your whole world is crumbling. You would give anything for the magic plan that is going to get and keep you healthy. You want to get back to running, swimming and biking and you want to get back fast. Girl, I wish I could give that you.
Here comes the part that you don’t want to hear: you need this time, this hurt, this confusion, you need to feel alone in this, at least for a bit. Your current pain is going to bring you to the realization that you are so much more than your sport. You need to let go. Wave your white flag, surrender to this plan not because you are done but because you know that this is part of the long road. Don’t worry, sport isn’t going anywhere. You are young and smart and incredibly strong. When you want something, you let very little stand in your way. So, when the time is right, you are going to come back.
You know those long runs at the tail end of a tough training week where all you can do is focus on putting one foot in front of the other? The runs that hurt and don’t look like anything special on paper but make you so much stronger both mentally and physically? This is exactly like that. You are going to get through this, it may take 3 months or 3 years but if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are going to gain so much from this time.
I know that right now you are scared, people know you as “the athlete”. You believe that they love you more because you swim, bike and run fairly well. Hayley, you gotta get over that. Believe it or not, even after being injured for 3 years, the good ones still love you. They don’t care if you are winning races or binge watching “The Bachelor”. If you are happy, they are happy. You will come to realize that your sport does not make you more appealing to anyone. Your character does that.
I know that you are anxious. Anxious because you care way too much about looking like an athlete. You love when people comment about how fit, how strong, or how fast you look. You put so much into maintaining that image and it is absolutely terrifying that this is going to go away. Hayley, know this: the good people don’t care what you look like and the ones that do don’t have a place in your life. Be kind to yourself. If you want to read more about identity, go here.
I challenge you to lean on your faith. It is so hard for you to give up control and trust in a plan that is not your own. You think that relying on your work ethic and perfectionism brings you peace and success. Unfortunately, this mindset also brings you a lot of hurt and shame when you don’t live up to the high expectations you put on yourself. Put your trust in Him. He has a plan for your life that is so much greater than you could ever imagine. Instead of feeling shame when you fall, you will be able to see the doors that open up because of that fall.
Hayley, so much good is going to come into your life because of these tough couple years. I encourage you to say “yes!” when you would have said “no”. From trying a new sport (cycling), to moving to a new state, even taking a job that you never saw yourself doing. Go for it! Saying “yes” when you would have said “no” is going to bring you joy, community, happiness, opportunities and best of all: these “yes” moments are going to show you that life is so much more than sport, and you have so much more to offer beyond being an athlete.
I have to warn you, there are going to be people who doubt you. People will tell you that “maybe running isn’t for you” or “have you thought about trying (whatever else) instead?”. Girl friend, If your heart is longing to run, you are going to run again. Choose to listen to the people who encourage you, that believe in you more than you believe in yourself, the ones that can see beyond this situation. These people are plentiful, they are your biggest fans and they will be cheering you on with every step. These people are the ones that prove that you aren’t alone in this.
Hayley, don’t forget that time passes quickly. Even in your darkest moments, you are just around the corner from light. Every time you get knocked down, you will stand back up. Before you know it, this season will be a thing of the past. Slowly but surely, you will regain fitness, speed and endurance. You will appreciate every opportunity to move and before you know it, you will be toeing the line once again.