“When in a hurry, take the long sure path.”
While I can’t remember where I stumbled across this gem of a quote*, I’m glad I did. The truth in it applies to many aspects of life, but perhaps none more apt than recovering from injury.
For a good chunk of time following the crash, I was on bed rest. There isn’t much you can do with a broken pelvis, so my training plan looked something like this:
I’m making progress and celebrating small victories, but with each, I want more and struggle with patience. I desperately want to be healed, feel whole, and find my form again.
I am in a hurry.
But this is exactly when to choose the long sure path.
We athletes love to believe that we’re special, that our vascularization and muscle tone (for which we admittedly dedicate great effort) grant superhuman healing abilities and allow us to hurry back to competition faster than the average jane. While those adaptations certainly don’t hurt, we are nonetheless very human indeed and rely on the same physiological healing processes as all other human beings. My human body needs rest and time and very tedious physical therapy exercises to re-gain mobility and stability, which must come before the training necessary to re-gain strength and speed.
Sure, I could let desperation get the better of me and attempt to shortcut to VO2max efforts and five hour training rides, but that would be hubris. I would have to bypass critical steps and risk further injury, further setbacks. There are no shortcuts without consequences.
When in a hurry, take the long sure path.
The long sure path requires grounding expectations in reality. For me, that means letting go of ego and meeting myself very honestly where I am. A great deal of my personal identity rests on my strength and speed on a bike. I know my first rides outside will demonstrate — quite harshly — how very far I am from my usual strength and speed. (My ego winces just thinking about it.)
But there is no shame in those first difficult, slow steps. Humility, yes — humility as the corollary of respect for the path ahead, for what I know it will demand of me.
We all travel many paths, and can define them in arbitrary ways of our choosing. For this path, I chose to reset my Zero Point. The next phase — getting back to training on the bike — will require letting go of my ego (getting out of my own way again) to start rebuilding.
My athlete ego would prefer to hide away from the world during this phase. My athlete ego would not want anyone to see me on a bike until I’d reached some arbitrary threshold of form, to avoid judgement. (She calls herself a pro? But look how slow she is! She has no quads!) My athlete ego would love to buy into the fantasy that being an athlete makes me special.
But this is a fact: I am not special. I am a human being. I happen to love racing bikes, but being an athlete does not give me a special pass to shortcut the healing process or the training process.
I am like you, whoever you are. We are human. We have goals and want to reach them, the sooner the better. We are in a hurry. So let’s take the long sure path.
Setting aside my ego, I’m going to post all of my slow, humbling rides to Strava as I build back, starting with my first ride outside since the crash — today. I realize that “slow and humbling” is relative, but so are most things in life. Your Zero Point is different from mine, as are your goals and measures of progress, but probably for both of us, the beginning is the hardest part.
All things considered, sharing these early rides will be hard for me. I’m sure plenty of folks will look at my files and judge away. I’m going to work on choosing not to care about that. I’m not going to pretend that this process wasn’t slow and difficult and humbling. I am, after all, a human being.
So, my fellow human being, will you join me? Chances are, you’re looking to improve something. Maybe you’re also a cyclist, and would like to be stronger. Maybe you’d just like to get outside and move more.
Well, every path to a goal has a beginning. Meet yourself where you are. Decide to begin. The first steps are hard and feel very far way from where you want to be. But that is the nature of a path: you are always furthest from the end at the beginning. And that is okay. We are on the long sure path.
You can find me on Strava by clicking here.
Why not start with me? Sign up on Strava and record your walks, runs, or rides. Post your profile here, and we can progress together.
You don’t have to be fast. You don’t have to beat anybody.
And keep going.
*If you know the reference for this quote, please let me know!