Give up? Never!
The finish line of a 5K race in our home town of The Hague. After 28 minutes my love Brenda crosses the line. Nothing special really, except that she was told by her knee surgeon that she would never be able to run again, only 1 1/2 years before that. And yet, there she was finishing a race. I was so proud!
In 2008 Brenda had suffered her knee injury after a skiing accident. She basically did a 180 on her knee-joint. Torn off her ACL, damaged her cartilage. They had to fly her back to Holland, she had to wait for weeks on her operation and recovery from that took months. While doing recovery training her physio therapist told her she had to do running on a treadmill, to give her new ACL some impact training so it will attach strongly to the bone. We didn't see that one coming: she was still walking with a stick or rather: limping. But she would go faster than 7,5k/h, she would stop her limp and she was actually able to run. Six months later she started in a 10k race. We estimated that it would take her about an hour, she finished in 54minutes. A keen runner was born.
Within a year she finished a 10 mile run and a half marathon. She started to make plans to run the New York City marathon to raise awareness for the disease she lost her sister to, myocarditis. She planned to run it in 2010, but a hip injury got in the way. So in January 2011 training for the Run for Jolanda started again and went really well. The sports physician predicted she would be able to finish in under 4 hours.
With 8 weeks to go till the marathon, she woke me up real early and pointed at her knee. It was twice the size it normally is. While 2 days before that she had ran a half marathon with no pain. The sports physician thought it might be a burst (Baker's)cyst. He prescribed crazy amounts of diclofenac (a NSAID) and she would ride the spin bike or run the elliptical for hours to get rid of the fluid in her knee. And she wanted to maintain her stamina, because she hadn't given up on the marathon just yet. With only a month left to go her knee was still swollen, so they ran some more tests in hospital. There they discovered her cartilage in her knee was all but gone, it was bone on bone. The surgeons who fixed her knee in the first place actually scratched his head when he heard she had been running over 60k a week, just weeks before. He told her she would never be able to run again and she was not allowed to do any sports in which her knee would suffer impact. Her marathon dream was shattered.
During her training for the marathon, Brenda had met Wouter Duinisveld. If you have read this blog before, you know the name. He had suffered from myocarditis, the same disease that killed Brenda's sister. He received a donor heart to save his life and is now competing in triathlons. Nobody expected that: a guy who had been inches away from dying racing in one of the most demanding sports around. His dream is to complete a full Ironman (preferable in Hawaii). He refuses to let that dream go, no matter what his body throws at him. He was the main inspiration for Brenda, who missed running so much. If a fatal heart disease didn't stop him, a bum knee wouldn't stop her.
Wouter, Brenda and I went looking for a way to get her running again. She did Sportfasting to get rid of the last fluid in her knee. Wouter found a study into a cure for cartilage problems that worked miraculous on goats. But Brenda isn't a goat... so that was dismissed. In the end the cure for Brenda was changing her running technique. We did a pose running clinic together. And 4 months later she finished her first event. And now she is following in Wouters footsteps: she enrolled for a 1/8 triathlon in the fall. So she can have a 'half marathon kind-of-feel' but with less impact on her knee. After all: you should never give up, but you can pace yourself while pushing the limits.
Brenda's story is about a small victory, but it is a victory that can only be accomplished by not giving up. I love that kind of stories. I watch people in the studio facing the same choice every week: give up or push through? It can be quite the internal fight and at the same time a wonderful opportunity. Sometimes someone convinces himself/herself, that he/she is unable to do the challenging part of the training. The usually yell out: "I can't, I can't go on". The fact that they are able to still yell is an indicator that they probably can, they are just afraid. When they stop complaining and just do it, that is my favorite moment as a personal trainer. That look in their eyes, a mix of amazement and pride. I love that!
The best way to conquer those little voices in your head that say you can't, is to watch a story of someone who also couldn't... and still did it. You Tube is filled with them. So when you think you can't, watch the documentary on Wouters half Ironman in Mallorca or watch another one of my favorites: the story of Michael Maldonado. Who has diabetes, conquered cancer and is now suffering from a heart disease... and still goes to the gym almost every day. He says: "Your mind can overcome any obstacle and your body overcomes anything you set your mind to".