Before my surgery, I stocked up on a few new books to keep me occupied during the recovery down time. Naturally, I chose books related to sport because if I can't be out engaging in it, why not read about it?? One book that particularly intrigued my interest was Deena Kastor’s memoir, Let Your Mind Run. Not only did this make for an exciting read (learning more about Deena's running career), it was also exactly what I needed in terms of a positive mental boost. When it comes to coping with an injury or setback, maintaining a positive outlook takes intentional work. Going into surgery, I was thankful to be moving forward, yet also dreading the inevitable downtime and feeling defeated by the fact that this was my 3rd major setback in a year. Even before reading this book, I was seeking out ways to infuse positivity into the process.
My most notable memory of the power of positive psychology comes from Ironman Louisville in 2016. At the midway mark of the marathon, I was showing signs of hyponatremia and barely making forward progress while dropping 17 min miles. I contemplated the quitting and dreaded the thought of walking it in. Instead I chugged down a bunch of chicken broth, forced a smile on my face and took it one step further in singing to myself the lyrics to Vitamin C's hit single, Smile. My mood and energy were quickly elevated, I slowly picked up the pace and somehow managed to make the last 10k the fastest of the day.
^From IM Louisville, 2016: On the left, feeling absolutely awful about halfway through the marathon. On the right is one of my favorite race pictures. Not necessarily because I achieved the goal that I set out for that day, but because I overcame the challenges of the day to finish on a strong note and with a smile!
I applied a similar approach after breaking my collarbone. Looking back, wow... that absolutely sucked! But I know without a doubt that adopting a positive mindset played a big role in my ability effectively cope with the setback and in optimizing my recovery time (also acknowledging that being married to a PT certainly helped:). That said, going into my more recent surgery, I was determined to put my frustrations aside and do whatever it took to stay positive throughout the process. It’s taken a lot of intentional reframing, but I can definitely tell that my work in doing so has made a huge difference.
If you’ve been following along, then you already know the past year has been a tough one in regards to my health and fitness. Instead of dwelling on the setbacks of the past year and how hard (or disappointing) it has been, I have been intentionally putting more energy into appreciating all the things good things that have happened and the little and big victories I’ve made along the way. Here are a few highlights:
In Deena's memoir, she accounts attaining a fractured foot during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and how the mental tools that allowed her to develop as an athlete assisted in her effectively coping with the first major setback of her professional running career:
"I was fine because running had prepared me for this moment. It taught me to pay attention to goodness. It gave me the tools of resilience and gratitude, of awe and optimism. And even without running, these were with me... I was laid up, but already healthier. Simply holding that thought helped me feel stronger."
It's amazing how the tools and lessons we attain during the struggles and challenges of workouts and races prepare us for similar challenges we face in our life. Being an endurance athlete has taught me how to endure, and I thankful for the strong sense of resilience it has given me, Another quote that really caught my eye came from Deena's coach, Terrance Mahon:
"No two training cycles are alike. It's your job to run your best in the season you are in. There's no benefit to judging if you are better or worse than before. Find a way to be your best in this moment."
The setbacks of the past year have obviously paid a toll on my fitness, but constantly comparing my current self to the past is only detrimental to maintaining a positive mindset in the present. Even though my fitness is lower than it has been in most recent years, there are definite positives:
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
The Power of Positive Psychology
Iliac Artery Repair & My First Overnight Hospital Stay
Learning to Let Go
Full House, Full Hearts
No One Ever Said It Would Be Easy
Hearty Miso Soup
Proud Athlete Of
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