He’s back and no one is more excited than he is today.

Not long ago this amazing cyclist had to dig deep to simple ride his bike around the block.

For the past two years my friend Bill has been dealing with his personalized version of hell.  Suffering with a great deal of pain, joint stiffness, muscle weakness and, most difficult of all, battling unanswered questions about his health.  Poked and prodded with too many tests to count, he grew tired of doctors unable to clearly determine what the future had in store for this 40+ year old athlete.

To respect Bill’s privacy, the specifics of his medical issues will remain private.  We can all learn a valuable lesson from Bill and I appreciate his permission to include him in my sports medicine blog.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bill as a person and a biker.  The manner in which he has handled this daunting challenge has impressed me beyond words.

As a highly successful cyclist on a national level, Bill’s recovery road back was an uphill climb.  With a physically demanding occupation and a strength oriented sport, he feared his life would never be the same if he failed to out duel his declining health condition.

In talking to Bill three days ago, he said something that stuck in my head and is the reason for this blog post.  As he humbly discussed his recent workouts, I was pleasantly surprised how hard he is training based on the type of symptoms and limitations that he dealt with only a few short months ago.  After which Bill solemnly stated:  “I’ll Never Take My Good Health For Granted Again”

How many of us take our health for granted?  Should we simply assume that we will be able to run and jump and golf and do whatever it is that we want to do forever?

The 400 Meters That Changed My Life

Personally, my lesson on appreciating my athleticism took place during my junior year in college.  I was a 2-time All-State middle distance runner in high school and I continued my running career at Central Connecticut State University while I pursued my degree in Athletic Training.  With a personal best of 3:58 in the 1500 meters during my sophomore year in college, I was well on my way of reaching my life-long goal of running a sub-4:05 mile.

Just before the start of my indoor track season during my junior season, I dislocated and fractured my right ankle.  My running career was in serious jeopardy.  I have to admit that with a schedule that consisted of a full academic class load, working my mandatory 20-25 hours per week in the athletic training room and running on the Cross Country team in the fall, the indoor track team in the winter and the outdoor track team in the spring, I was pretty burnt out with running.

What I quickly learned was that I didn’t just “like” running……I LOVED to run.  I will never forget the day: March 12, 1984.  Exactly 10 weeks and 3 surgeries after my injury, I ran for the first time.  It was a mere 400 meters around the track at CCSU and I was thrilled.  It took me about 7 minutes but it made me truly realize how important running was to me as an athlete and as a man.  I sat on the lone muddy bench next to the finish line and cried.

Taking Control of His Health

What did Bill do?  First and foremost, he locked his attitude into a positive and healing mode.  He knew exactly what he wanted his body to do and his mind never let go of that image.  This is a very powerful step for the healing body and mind commonly found is highly successful individuals who overcome difficult obstacles.

He found the best medical specialists available to gain direction and insight.  Next Bill returned to working out and eating very healthy.  Addressing the needs of his recovering and healing body are enhanced by the right thoughts and nutritional fuel for an injured athlete.

Bill battled back one pedal stroke at a time.

Take Home Point

The important Take Home Point of this story is Bill’s positive attitude and his appreciation for his active and healthy lifestyle.  He has plenty of other activities in his life to keep him busy and no one would have ever questioned the reasons if Bill did not return to bike riding.  His Excuse Flag was right there waiting for him.  All he had to do was accept his illness, pick up his Excuse Flag and get used to the fact that he was no longer an athlete.

Instead, Bill focussed on the carrot (riding his bike very fast) and started working very hard.

What’s your excuse?  Is it REALLY that strong of an excuse to keep you from your dream of an active and healthy lifestyle?

Sports Medicine Tips for a Successful Recovery

Challenge Your Medical Team – Remember, they work for you not the other way around.

Always Room For Change – Medicine is not an exact science.  Miracles happen every day in the medical community so why shouldn’t it happen with you?

Visual the Outcome that YOU Want – Don’t simply accept a label or a projected outcome as a 100% guaranteed slam dunk if it’s less than ideal.  Whenever the mind is involved, your ability to change the results is always an option.

Challenge Yourself – In my opinion, the #1 reason for bad recovery results and poor fitness is “Feeling Sorry for Yourself“.  If you allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself, you’re giving in to negative thoughts.  Don’t do it!  Challenge yourself to get back to doing what made you happy during your “younger” days.

The time to appreciate your health and your abilities is TODAY.  Throw down the Excuse Flags and stop taking your health for granted.

It will be well worth the effort.