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How a Running Injury Helped Me Become a Better Athlete

For so many people, an injury means sitting out from their workout routine and relegating themselves to the couch. That wasn't the case for Melissa Mazzo, a 24-year-old applied physiology doctorate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Here, she tells her story.

"I've always been a runner. The kind that will wake up at the crack of dawn to pound the pavement no matter what. I've even stopped mid road-trip to log a few miles if I spot a trail from the highway. I was training hard for a shot to run on my school's track team. (Which has bred greats like steeplechase Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn.) I finally ran a qualifying 5k time when a glute injury sidelined me for four long months. (BTW, this is a common cause of glute pain in runners.)

 

Summer miles #globalrunningday #onedaylate : @mhannag

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My doctors told me all I could do was swim. This was not good news, considering I've always hated it. Really—I even hated getting in the water at pool parties as a kid. But I needed a way to be active and a training goal, so I signed up for my first sprint triathlon. Learning to swim as an adult was incredibly humbling; I didn't have that knack for breathe, stroke, breathe, and I swallowed a lot of water as a result. The first time I tried, I couldn't even make it across a 25-yard pool.

It's difficult, as a super athletic person, to fail so hard at something. But learning a new skill is its own kind of high.

 

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Six months (and a lot of slow laps) later, I faced the mosh pit that is the beginning of a triathlon, eyeing the dark, open water. I stayed outside the pack and focused on moving forward. I made it to shore without having a panic attack (which actually happened during one of my open-water training swims). Sped through the bike (which I'd was nervous about, because riding in a huge group takes some serious bike-handling skills). Finally, I transitioned to the run—which is when the fun really began. Now in my most comfortable leg of the race, I could really turn up the heat, chasing people down and letting my legs fly. Where I lacked in the swim, I made up for on my feet—finishing first among all the women. And although snagging the top spot at my first tri was a huge #win, I'm most proud of graduating the slow lane at the pool." (Even if you're not into the idea of a tri, consider one of these other multisport races.)

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