How a Running Injury Helped Me Become a Better Athlete
You can let an injury sideline you—or you can use it to get outside your comfort zone and try something new.
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.)
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.
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.)