"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." -Albert Einstein
I want to share an experience that my husband went through. I hope it can give you some inspiration for your own health journey.
My husband Chris was a competitive runner in high school and college. But after college he took a 12-year break from running. He stayed active and fit, but he wasn't competing at all during this time.
A couple years ago he started running more consistently, and his competitive drive kicked in. In the spring of 2015 he ran some local 5K races, and by October, he had committed to a 50-mile run through the Grand Canyon. (When he makes up his mind to do something, he goes all out. :)
He recalls the Grand Canyon trip as a life-changing event. He says he went "through every emotion" during that experience. He recalls tears of joy and feeling truly alive as he took in the stunning scenery and breathed in the fresh October air.
He also recalls tears of frustration and fear when he later found himself alone in the darkness with an injured right knee. At mile 32 he and two others came across a woman who had broken her leg. They carried her 1.5 miles to a spot where a helicopter could reach her. In the process, Chris hyperextended his right knee. So for the remaining 18 miles he was dealing with extreme right knee pain.
For the 5 months that followed, Chris was unable to run on the knee. No surgery was needed, but the persistent pain was an indication that the knee was not okay and needed time to heal.
He was disappointed and depressed about the situation. Just when he was getting into great shape, feeling good, and enjoying competition again, this had to happen.
He could have given up, become sedentary, given into unhealthy habits. But he didn't. Instead, he faced his new reality, came to terms with what he couldn't do, and decided to focus on what he could do.
He got a membership at the YMCA. He decided to start swimming. He watched YouTube videos on "how to properly swim." He sought advice from other simmers at the pool. At first he felt awkward, uncoordinated, even "suffocated" as he swam. But he stuck with it. He kept trying, kept learning, and was determined to get better. And better he got. His form became smoother. The breathing got easier. He became stronger and was able to go farther and faster with each swim.
He also biked on the stationary bikes at the YMCA. A friend of his, who competes in triathlons, lent Chris his old bike. Chris had the bike fitted for him and learned how to properly ride it. With each ride his biking improved.
As you might have guessed, Chris set his sights on competing in a triathlon. Because he had avoided high-impact activity while swimming and biking, his knee got the rest it needed. Eventually he was able to start running again. Since running has always been a natural talent for him, the running part came much easier.
Chris recently participated in his first local triathlon and ended up placing 1st in his age group and 13th overall. He exuded exhilaration, excitement, and pride (quite different from the disappointed and depressed guy I had seen months before). Now he's "hooked" and looking forward to competing in more triathlons.
Interestingly, had he never injured his knee, he would not have done a triathlon. I think his experience is a great illustration of how sometimes our obstacles are really opportunities in disguise.
How about you? What difficulty on your path might be a hidden opportunity?
This post was originally published on July 11, 2016.
7/9/17 Update: Chris ran his first half Iron Man on 7/8/17 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). His time was 4:53, and he placed 20th in his division. He is signed up for his first full Iron Man (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, marathon run), which will be in November. :)