By Lee Anne Grace
It wasn’t even 6 a.m., and the morning was already hot and sticky. Drenched in sweat, I rounded the last curve of a track workout. I was imagining myself as an Olympic track star, with a gold medal as the prize at the finish line. The crowd leapt to their feet, cheering wildly as I broke away from the pack.
Adrenaline kicked my effort into overdrive as I accelerated. In that instant, I heard a loud pop and felt a red hot searing pain behind my knee. Suddenly, I crashed back down into reality. I was not an Olympic star, but a 47-year-old woman in a great deal of pain.
Several hours later, I received the verdict from the doctor. I had torn my gastroc muscle right behind my knee. I didn’t even know I had a gastroc muscle to tear. It sounded like it should be part of the stomach, not the leg.
I held back tears as he told me my injury could take up to three months or more to heal before I could run again. I was fitted with an orthopedic boot and crutches, and instructed to rest. In a blink of an eye, I went from being fiercely independent to a person who moved at a snail’s pace, at best.
A friend offered to lend me her elderly mother’s rolling walker to help navigate the long school corridors. My prideful self scoffed at the idea. I knew I was injured, but I was not ready to be seen with a rolling walker. The second day, after several near falls from my clumsiness using the crutches, not to mention my arms begging for relief, I ditched the crutches and humbly accepted the rolling walker with gratitude.
I shamefully admit it. I had a huge pity party the first days after that loud pop in my leg rocked my world. I had worked really hard all summer to become a better runner in anticipation of another marathon attempt. I was feeling as strong and fit as I ever had.
My feelings of self-pity came to a screeching halt when I saw Oscar Pistorius competing in the Olympics. Pistorius, known as The Blade Runner, is a double amputee runner from South Africa. He is the first amputee to compete with able-bodied runners in the Olympics. His speed and agility were astonishing.
As I watched him toe the starting line alongside world class athletes, I tried to fathom all of the obstacles and challenges he had to face to become an Olympian. If Pistorius could accomplish what he did, then I should quit cowering in a corner licking my wounds and rise to meet the challenges facing me.
I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks. I hope my sharing what I’ve learned will give others something to ponder as you examine your own mountains that need to be navigated. Adversity and overcoming obstacles help shape us into better, stronger people, if we approach the adversity with the right attitude and a teachable mindset.
• Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do. I can’t run right now, but there are other things I can do. I’ve been cleared to start swimming, so I’m putting my effort into becoming a stronger swimmer.
• Remaining physically active is a key component to weight management. This is particularly true for those, like me, who struggle with weight issues.
• Patience is important. Just as vegetables in a garden won’t grow faster if we try to speed up the process, the tears in my muscle will take time to heal. Assistance gained from a skilled physical therapist has been very helpful, just as a well-tended garden does better than one left to grow on its own. The skill of Mark Bresee at Bresee Outpatient Physical Therapy has been instrumental in getting me back on my feet.
This small chapter in my life has left me wiser and more cautious when trying to push progress too fast. Most importantly, I found the value of embracing what I can do instead of what I can’t do.
I challenge each of you to find something you can do, regardless of your own personal circumstances, then do it. No more excuses.
Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for three years. She is the mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.