Running is not just something I “do” to stay active.
Running is part of my identity.
I’m a woman. I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a life coach. I’m a business owner.
I’m a runner. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.
So when the orthopedic surgeon told me, “Your body needs some down-time. No more running. Not for a while”… it felt like he had lopped off a significant part of my identity.
If I can’t run, then what? Who am I? What happens to my treasured morning routine?
What happens to my life?
I was pissed. Then full of acceptance. Then pissed again. Then, to my surprise, I felt sad. Really sad.
Even though this was only a temporary hiccup in my usual routine — a really small, fairly “bourgeois” problem, all things considered — I felt myself grieving the loss of something I love very much.
Then my inner life coach took control of the situation. I went into action mode.
I started Googling, seeking out “motivational stories” about people who made “triumphant comebacks” after suffering some kind of injury or setback.
I figured, “I’ll pump myself up full of inspiration and I’ll figure out a way to make the best of this shitty situation!”
But what I found was more than just “inspiration” to keep trucking along.
What I found — reading stories about athletes, widows, veterans, survivors, and all kinds of men and women who have suffered greatly — actually changed my entire perception about what a “set back” is, or rather, isn’t.
Here’s one story that affected me deeply:
It’s a true story about a woman named…
Olympic Judo medalist.
Currently the world’s undefeated female fighter in the UFC Bantamweight division.
She’s been called “the world’s most dominant athlete” — and if you don’t know much about her, that will change soon. She’s currently in talks to star in a Hollywood film based on her life.
Ronda is renowned for her signature “finishing move” — the Armbar.
With the Armbar, Ronda locks her opponent into a position where their arms are pinned awkwardly. If the opponent holds still, she’ll be fine. But if the opponent locked in the Armbar tries to resist, wiggle out, or jerk around, her arm will dislocate, hyperextend or even break. Obviously, smart opponents know that once Ronda has locked them into an Armbar, it’s game over. They “tap out” (signaling to the referee, “I give up. She wins.”) and the fight comes to a swift end.
(Here’s Ronda finishing a fight in 14 seconds using the Armbar technique. And here’s her demonstrating how it works on a very petrified Jimmy Fallon. Ha.)
Many people have wondered, “How did Ronda get so incredibly good at doing the Armbar?” Her ability seems almost superhuman. No one, literally no one, seems to be escape to escape this powerhouse move.
Ronda reveals the story of how it all happened in her new autobiography.
As a teen athlete, Ronda suffered a huge knee injury. It knocked her out of practice for a while and her heart was broken. Her doctors, naturally, told her to rest and heal. But Ronda’s mom — a Judo champion, herself — had other ideas.
She told Ronda to quit moping around in a pity-puddle and work on developing other strengths. Punching doesn’t require using your knees. Sit ups don’t require using your knees. Curling your biceps doesn’t require using your knees. Get moving and figure out a way to use this time effectively, mom urged her daughter.
Was Ronda’s mama a total hard-ass? Uh, yeah.
But guess what happened? Because Ronda couldn’t rely on her knees for quite a while, she developed insane upper body strength and learned all kinds of creative maneuvers that would allow her to end a fight safely and quickly, working down on the floor, sometimes even lying down on her side, relying primarily on her arms to do the hard work — minimal knees required. Hello, Armbar.
Would Ronda have become the undefeated champion she is today — The Arm Collector, as she’s known in the sports world — if she hadn’t suffered a major knee injury as a teenager?
Maybe. Maybe not. It’s hard to predict.
But one thing’s for sure:
One of Ronda’s biggest “set backs” was actually not a set back at all.
It was the “set up” for a new set of skills, a new level of strength, a new level of mental toughness, a new chapter of her life.
Think about that.
Then think about yourself.
What’s the toughest set back you’ve experienced recently? Or ever?
The divorce. The lost income. The injury. The betrayal. The unthinkable violation.
I know — believe me, I know — that when you’re deep in the portal of pain it is almost impossible to say things like, “It’s all good. This is just a ‘set up’ for a beautiful new chapter! Tra la la! Hooray!” Honey, I know.
I am definitely not urging you to be fakey-fake positive or suppress the grief you genuinely need to feel.
What I am saying is this:
The next time you are experiencing pain, know this:
You might not understand why “this” is happening to you.
You might not understand the “lesson” you’re supposed to be learning or how this pain is supposedly going to help you to grow.
You might not have any of those answers for a long, long while.
In fact, you might not receive any of those answers until years and years from now — when you’re standing on the podium (literally or metaphorically) accepting your championship trophy — and you realize, “Oh. Fuck. I get it now. I know what all of that suffering was about. I see how it led my here. It’s all so clear…”
What I’m saying is:
Have faith. Even if you don’t have “the answers” just yet.
Trust that this isn’t a set back. It’s a set up for a miracle.
What kind of miracle? It’s annoying as hell, but…
You just have to hang in there to find out.