It has taken me a while, in fact, a very long while to write this post for various reasons. You see, I have been a professional or semi-professional trail runner since 2012 and have been running off-road since 2009. In this time, I have not been injured or had to take time off running (I usually force myself to take time off at the end of a long season) for more than two weeks.
As I am writing this post, I have been injured since 8 November 2017. During this period I had a comeback attempt at the end of December, but this was short-lived as my injury flared up worse than before. It has been more than 2 months now, with only hope & belief that the latest diagnosis and accompanying treatment will get me back on the trails, back in the mountains, back in nature, back to being where I love to be, doing what I love to do..
Another reason is that I am a person who find it particularly hard to share my feelings and emotions with others, let alone the public. However, in this case, I believe that putting my thoughts in writing can assist with the recovery & mental process.
It might sound like running or trailrunning defines me and that I cannot function normally without this in my life. And to be frank, I have questioned whether this is not in fact the case. The fact that I cannot be in nature, in the mountains and on the trails has made me miserable, angry & lost at times. A friend of mine who is currently writing a book on living a life of purpose, summarized it beautifully: ” When I think of Landie, I cannot help but to think of the Scottish Olympic Gold medalist runner, Eric Liddell, who said:”When I run, I feel his (God’s) pleasure.”
Fortunately, having more time to think and reassess my life has resulted in finding answers through prayer, friends & family. I found that life, albeit very different, does carry on and that simple things like giving, making more quality time for friends, family, doggies & my fellow human bring comfort and helps to fill the emptiness of mornings without the mountains.
I have also had to become innovative in my quest to stay sane. For me, not doing any form of exercise was never an option. Anyone who has ever been so lucky as to call himself or herself fit, know that exercise releases endorphins, valuable endorphins that kindles happy feelings. My challenge is that with my injury, the only options I have are swimming (with limitations) and stationary biking (also with limitations). The fact that I have never been a swimmer and that stationery biking is tremendously boring has certainly not helped.
So the frustration continued, until I finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and reached out to others who have battled with injury before. It was then that my mentor and Olympic Silver medalist, Elana Meyer, advised “pool running”. She found this was the best form of exercise as you employ the same muscle groups as in running and you can mimic exactly what you would have done with your regular running sessions on the road/trail, only without the impact of course. I have been at it for a week now and have to agree with her. It is extremely tiring as you’re working against the force of the water and trying to keep head above water becomes vital. Luckily we live on a farm in Stellenbosch with the most inviting, clear dams surrounded with mountain views. So most mornings, you can find me water peddling with my aqua joggers (specific aqua jogging shoes designed), with my little speaker, pumping psyche up music on the jetty, resembling somewhat of a drowning dog in an attempt to keep some level of fitness and sanity.
One of the most challenging aspects of my injury has been motivation and inspiration, in more than one way. How do I stay motivated to maintain fitness without being able to do what I love, when I can’t follow my training plan and my routine? Living life as a professional athlete along with my brand also means people are looking towards me for motivation & inspiration. Yet, how do I motivate and inspire others when I don’t feel motivated & inspired myself?? I established that keeping calm; turning towards the Lord for guidance was only solution. Romans 8:26-28 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is die mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
And that maybe this is my time to draw my inspiration from others, which is really helping. And now that I have started to feel comfortable in sharing my journey, I can perhaps share small positives in my life that can inspire others again…
After all the above and in all honesty, there are so many things I miss of being a professional trail runner; I miss feeling in shape, I miss the definition in my muscles, I miss my race weight, I miss the endorphins & feeling of satisfaction that only a day out in the mountains gives me, I miss sweating. I miss looking forward to food and cravings after hours of training. I miss the sense of accomplishment after a tough mission to the summit to enjoy the incredible views.
But I am on the journey of recovery and I am positive that I will once again soar like an eagle in the mountains.
In my next blog I will explain more details of the nature of my injury…