I was seventeen and it was the Monday after our state qualifying meet my junior year of high school. The previous Friday, where all our hard work paid off, was horrible. My body was completely fatigued. I could barely warm up and every run was a battle. Pole-vaulting my way to state would have to wait another year, and as heartbroken as I was, I was prepared to start training the very next week.
I was jogging down the track, taking a warm-up jump, when I felt and heard a “POP!” in my right foot. I could no longer bear weight, and collapsed to the ground. I don’t know what fell faster, my heart or my body. As I limped to the side and sat down, the worst thought ran through my mind “I won’t be able to train”. Over the next few days I was able to wean my foot off crutches and slowly begin to train for our summer “fun” meet. A few weeks later, I got on the runway to do a warm-up run, and shooting pain went through my foot and up my leg. Not just the shin splints I had become numb to, or the aching muscles that I prided myself on. No, this was serious.
After two months of ignoring my foot, I finally went to a doctor, who determined I had fractured my heel. This wasn’t the end of the world; it just meant a summer in a boot, but I could train come August.
Well, August rolled around and I started training harder than ever. I had division-one college track and field on my mind. But every few steps I would take, my ankle would roll. After another MRI, it was determined I would need a tendon replaced on the inside of my ankle if I wanted any shot of competing in track at any level. Not only was my tendon torn; when I woke up from surgery I was told that it was hanging by a thread.
I never made it to state, and I never competed in college for the pole vault, but the lesson I learned through all of this is everlasting for me.
I see it all the time, and Jim does more so than myself:
athletes who push themselves to the brink, only to break their bodies down to the point of no return. In high school, there was no “off-season” for me. I would train all summer, fall and winter for spring track. All the weights, sprints and agility work I would do prior to spring would prepare me for a competitive season. But I would never rest, never let my muscles recover, and that took its toll on my body.
I had a chiropractor (who I trust and regularly see) tell me he could see the effects of my foot injury all the way up to my shoulder. My body has had to compensate in every way for the weakness I have in my ankle. Though my ankle never hurts, the whole right side of my body has to constantly work together, usually leaving my hips (and my right butt cheek: piriformis, if you will) aching a lot. Sad, I know. I’m only 23!
The reason I want to share this story with you about my breakdown on the track is because most of us know young athletes, whether we’re parents, brothers, sisters, or maybe we are the athletes. It is so important to listen to our bodies, and I’m the perfect example of what can happen if we don’t. If your body is fatigued, rest it. If you’re on crutches and can barely walk, don’t walk. This may sound so simple, and it is. But you’d be surprised by the amount of people who don’t attend to the pains in their body. It only costs us in the long run.
If you know of or train a young athlete, Mike Robertson is a great resource for how to train youngsters. Check out this article I wish I had read when I was in high school: http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/5-lessons-to-teach-young-athletes/