Archive | November, 2012

Take A Step

13 Nov

www.takeachallenge.org recently posted a photo with the following phrase: The first step is the hardest – take a step. This really struck a chord with me, especially as that day I had found the diary I kept for my rehabilitation after heart surgery. Each step then was a huge challenge, starting with a walk around the ward. I was told to walk every day and slowly increase the distance. Determination to improve, get better, become fitter and feel ‘normal’ again were the motivating factors.

But what if you lack the motivation to exercise, to take the first step? Or if you have previously had motivation but somehow lost it, what can you do? My personal drive is to focus on a very specific goal, be that a big race, a specific target such as my 6 miles in 60 minutes run goal after my surgery, or a dress to wear in Las Vegas :) If you lose sight of the reasons for wanting to achieve, chances are you won’t see it through.

When I have experienced low points, I have had to remind myself of the importance of health and fitness. I recently had a humbling experience when I went to see a sports cardiologist. Not satisfied with the input I received from the NHS, I sought out a specialist who understood why we do sport. I wanted to get an honest opinion from a professional about how safe it is to continue with training for Ironman, when you have or have had a heart condition.

Whilst there, I had a full set of tests to determine both the state of my heart and my fitness levels. The results were quite pleasing, however, the cardiologist sat me down and literally asked me how many marathons or ironmans I wanted to do. I found that hard to answer but was honest and said I’d like to do as many as possible! He explained that that wasn’t a great idea long term, that my heart as a muscle will never be perfect again and will likely tire if I continue with these endurance events. He also told me that I shouldn’t ever hope to be competitive or go for ‘fast’ times. This conversation was humbling because it put into perspective mortality, health and the reality of living with a heart condition (even if it is ‘better’).

My second method of motivation is thinking of those less fortunate than myself, those who can’t exercise for whatever reason. The consultant I saw does a lot of work with the CRY charity – cardiac risk in the young. With many stories of athletes and non-sporty people who have dropped down dead from an undiagnosed heart condition, how can you not appreciate your own health? This is just a subject close to me, but I believe everyone could relate to a cause or health condition that might have affected a family member or friend.

A friend said the following to me recently: “The ONLY reason I “came back” was to complete an IM.  While there is a lot of other good stuff about life that I appreciate, the dumb IM is the mountain I wanted to climb, and quite frankly, I didn’t much care if it killed me to try since one cant ask for much more than to be living life on the path you want to be on, rather than a path everyone else thinks your life should be on.”   Without realising, I was of a very similar thought process. Before completing Austria, it was my overwhelming goal, to finish, to achieve what I had set out to do. To be completely honest, there isn’t much that could have stopped me finishing that day. It meant that much to me. But on completing my goal, is it realistic to continue to pursue it again, over and over? This was my reason for seeking out a specialist, one who actively promotes sport, is passionate about it and has a desire to help athletes overcome physical obstacles.

When he told me that ironman is not for me forever, I had a sad moment. I thought of all the joy training brings, the build up to the day and the race itself. The experience was the most positive one in my life so I had been keen to continue getting that feeling. The cardiologist then went on to discuss the possibilites of my races in 2013. With the go ahead for 2 iron distance races next year, my sad moment turned into exhilaration. So what if I can’t race forever, I will just enjoy the time I do have and will spend it doing what I love – Ironman!!