A few months ago, I gave up.
The Achilles tendonitis that I had suffered from since the second of the Sale Sizzler 5K races last July had finally beaten me. I got out of the pool with a pain so intense in my Achilles and foot that I, perhaps rather dramatically, thought that I had done it a serious mischief. A few days later some rather spectacular bruising came out. I gave up.
Until that point, I’d tried to manage my training through a mixture of cycling, swimming, and some running. Nothing odd there: I was, after all, training for my second Ironman. But I also had an element of denial. Each time my Achilles stabbed in the early morning, or ached throughout the day, I lied as I told myself that it would somehow just get better.
The drive home from the pool filled me with despair. There was no chance I could do an Ironman if I couldn’t use the clutch pedal. I deferred my entry until 2023. I sulked for a couple of days. I gave up.
That’s when things started to improve.
I knew what I couldn’t do, so I concentrated on what I could. My first goal was being able to get down stairs properly in the morning. I made the deliberate choice to recover the health of my tendon. Pain-free life had to be the priority. With very gentle stretching each time I got in and out of bed, I could negotiate the stairs within a week. From there, walking. Then, walking on a range of surfaces. Next, walking using the full range of foot movement. I added in strength work, stretching, and more walking. I used my Garmin to turn the number of steps I took each day into a game. Over the course of a couple of months, I started doing what I couldn’t. Last week, I swam for the first time in several months.
Giving up means that, sometimes, we have to accept things as they are. In our endlessly Instagrammed world, we are constantly bombarded with content that tells us that we should ‘smash it’ and ‘beat yesterday’. As a teacher and coach I, I get it. We have unbelievable levels of potential and we should, in our laughably short lives, work on bringing this into the light. We are more powerful than we think. But we are also human. We have our failings and our weaknesses. The act of giving up means that we acknowledge these. Once we stop fighting against what is not meant to be, we can focus attention on what we can do instead.
Giving up is sometimes the first step towards getting better.