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Control

One of the 1,354 highlights of the Ironman Lake Placid Athlete Dinner was the keynote speech from Matt Long, a NYC firefighter who was hit by a bus while biking to work in 2005.

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Matt, a fellow sweat addict and Boston qualifier, made an unbelievable comeback after this near-death experience left him unable to walk.  Like, unbelievable really doesn’t begin to describe this guy. While the doctors initially thought he might not be able to move without a cane or crutches for two year, it took him only three to recover, train and finish the New York City Marathon. AND in case 26.2 miles wasn’t impressive enough, he went on to finish Ironman Lake Placid the next year. From unable to walk to an Ironman? It’s impossible to not be in awe of this guy.

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The thing that stuck out from his speech the most to me, other than the many tears I choked back while watching the inspirational video about his comeback, set to Coldplay’s “Fix You”  (yes, I’m a total sucker for cheesy sappiness. hit me with a montage of an endurance athlete making an epic comeback and I’m donzo), were his words of advice for handling what you can and cannot control about your life, training and racing. Or, for those of us who consider training and racing our lives, really just “life” would sum it all up.

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Matt, as someone who was handed a positively shitty hand at one point in his life, is the biggest proponent for accepting the things you can’t control, moving on, and focusing on the things you can influence. Because there’s no point in wasting time and energy worrying about something you can’t change, when you could devote yourself to caring and focusing on the things still within your control.

If you wake up on race day morning and it’s sleeting out, you’re not going to magically make the sun appear by stressing out. Instead, accept that the weather sucks, and start strategizing about how you’re going to run faster to get to a hot post-race shower (for temperature purposes only, obviously not for hygiene.)

When talking to us about how this philosophy could impact our Ironman race day, he told a story about someone’s bike falling off their car on the highway on their way to Lake Placid and shattering all over the road. Shitty? Hugely. But something that could be reversed with stressing, dwelling on the situation and getting worked up with frustration and anxiety? Not even a little. He told the coach of this athlete to tell the guy to accept what happened and start putting his energy toward finding a new bike and getting ready to race his heart out.

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When I was out on the course the next day, I encountered a few of my own obstacles that were also completely out of my control. First, my tire went flat with 10 miles to go on the bike leg. And then, my stomach stopped accepting food or water while I was running the marathon. Not gonna lie, both things sucked. And would have caused me to breakdown in certain frames of mind, but I remembered what Matt talked about the night before, accepted that shit happened, moved on and focused my determination on finishing the race instead of dwelling on the fact that not everything worked in my favor on race day. And guess what? That mindset help me cross the mother effing finish line to become a mother effing Ironman. Have I mentioned that I’m an Ironman yet on this blog? Didn’t think so.

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This attitude about control is one of the biggest things that is getting me through this injury. I can’t control that my foot broke. And obsessing over how miserable it is not to run is not going to get me back any faster or happier. Like I’ve said before, I’m moving on.

Because while it does me no good to dwell on how shitty a broken foot is for a runner, there’s a lot of good that I can do for myself right now that’s completely within my control.

I can control how smart I am about my recovery. I can control how much Doctor-approved exercise I do to stay in shape while I’m sidelined from running. I can control how big I dream for my comeback marathon next year (my girl Dorothy, the biggest proponent of dreaming big should approve of that one.) And I sure as hell can control how hard I work to achieve those dreams.

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Let’s talk about control. Are you someone who internalizes shitty situations that are out of your control or do you have uplifting stories about the countless occasions you’ve overcome a circumstance you had no control over and still persevered to succeed?сайткопирайтер ценакак взломать почту gmail

43 Responses to Control

  1. Ohhhh this might be one of my favorite posts of yours, ever. It’s an admirable outlook: accepting the situation, moving forward and dealing with it. I am the queen of stressing out over things and honestly, if I were in your situation, I wouldn’t be handling any of this with half the grace (and style — hot pink crutches with accompanying bell) you are. I hate being out of control and don’t deal well. So fine. I’ll try to be more like you. I heard you did an Ironman once, so you obviously know what’s up.

    Really though, love this post. Your foot will go on. #celineisamazing

  2. I try to think positively about most situations but I also tend to freak out when something happens to me physically. I need to learn to deal with injury better I think.

    Hope you are healing well :)

  3. I love Matt Long, I listened to his book The Long Run while training for my first half ironman. it was so inspirational, I would recommend it to anyone but especially for endurance athletes. You have such a great attitude about this injury I tend to wallow and I really wish I would have focused on the things I could improve while injure. Think about the six pack you will rock by the time you are all healed up!

  4. I met Matt Long (along with Runner’s World staff and his co-author) while at dinner a couple of years ago, the night before his book came out. It was pretty awesome; I was talking about reading Runner’s World while on the treadmill, and the article was about injuries and dealing with them. Which, I was doing at the time. His co-author and RW Deputy Editor happened to walk by at that exact moment, hear Runner’s World, and come over to our table. Then my friends (and fellow Girls on the Run coaches!) and I all went over to meet Matt and chat with them, as they were all celebrating. Fun and random!

    Matt is inspiring; as are you! Go girl with your mega-pilates and sweatfests even with an injured foot. I was very frustrated during my ACL recovery, but tried to keep a positive attitude and work on getting my knees better. I knew I couldn’t control it and was fine with that, but endless days on crutches were annoying (but you move on from them!).

  5. Matt Long’s story/ book was really f*cking inspiring.

    my coaches always told me…you can only control what you can control. dont worry about the rest. IMLP 2008 had torrential downpours…it was an insanely rainy day. instead of bitching and complaining, you just take it for what it is, and enjoy the day – i was doing my first IM – no amount of rain was going to stop me!

  6. i love this post and I love your ‘tude. thanks for posting this- I was actually thinking last night of all the shit that could go wrong at Coz and how I want to handle the situation instead of freaking out. I am going to try my best!

    • you are not just going to try, you are going to do your best! can’t wait to stalk you all day long! it’s SO close!!!

  7. I’m in tears and BY far your best post ever. It’s not about the crappy things that happen in life. There are tons. It is about how we react to them. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, eating like crap, and sitting on the couch for months because you have a broken foot. You are finding other ways to *sweat* You are seriously an inspiration to me. Every time something truly crappy happens in my life, which is more often than I care to admit, I ask myself am I going to let this BREAK me or am I going to let this MAKE me stronger? I WILL BEND BUT I WILL NOT BREAK> Or in your case it make BREAK a bone but it can never break SWEATY EMILY’S SPIRIT. Honestly I can’t even type right now because I’m just crying. DREAM BIG girl DREAM BIG. Nothing can hold you down!

  8. Very relevant post for all, Emily. Thanks for sharing. I’m about to watch that video…I’m also quite the sucker for sappy montages. It is REALLY hard to accept crappy situations but you are right, you have to just deal with what you’ve got to the best of your ability. I’m sure you are going to learn so much and look back at this time in your life as one of great growing experiences. Keep truckin’ :)

  9. I love this attitude. I have spent the past few months complaining about stuff and making excuses. I like the attitude in this post and will have to think about what you said. There are no excuses.

  10. That’s exactly my problem. I stress over things I can’t control all the time. Thanks for the post. And it’s so admirable that although your foot has been broken, you’ve been focusing on still getting your workout in and killer abs.

  11. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I had three surgeries in three years and wasn’t allowed to really exercise at all, which was hard when you swim for your D1 college. For awhile I felt depressed because I thought it wasn’t fair that I was always injured or sidelined but eventually I learned to accept the things I cannot control and to focus on what I can control. Having a positive attitude really helps too

  12. One of the best lessons is that (1) things do not always go the way you plan (which makes them even more awesome when they do work out, and (2) you are strong enough — mentally & physically — to deal with it when things don’t go the way we plan. Grab hold of what you can control, and make the best of *that*. And yeah, sometimes it takes a few times of getting knocked around in a rut before the lesson sinks in!

  13. I LOVE this post. You are such an inspiration. I have really been getting in my own head about my upcoming first marathon, and this post really made me reel it in a little. You are going to kick so much butt when you are healed.
    Also! Hi! I love your blog!

  14. Man, I’ve been there. I got a heart infection when I was 21 which took me from being super active to super invalid and about the space of a month. I struggled with heart issues and medication issues for years until I finally had corrective heart surgery at 25. Attitude was the ONLY thing I had going for me! I remember going for a run two weeks after the surgery and crying the whole time because it hurt, it was hard, I wasn’t going fast, wasn’t that surgery suppose to fix things? (in retrospect: it’d been two weeks. Jeez. But I didn’t get it at the time)

    Two months later I ran a half marathon, six months after that I ran a full, and almost three years to the week of the heart surgery I finished my first Ironman. I really had to work to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop being pissed off at how unlucky I had been to have such a random and unlikely thing happen to me, but once I got there – once I stopped looking back and started looking at things I could control — well, that’s when life got fun. And sweaty :)

  15. I’m a serial internalizer and over-stresser. It’s super annoying. I’m working on it! Letting go of things you really can’t control is hard, but the benefits you reap by doing so are many!!! Matt Long is a serious inspiration. So cool you got to hear him speak :)

  16. I just started reading your blog recently, and wanted to let you know how much I love it. I am a huge bookworm and will definitely be looking into getting my hands on Matt’s book in the near future.

    I handle stress in a super weird way. Whenever I feel overwhelmed I get really exhausted. It’s like my body’s reaction is to put me in hibernation mode. This is definitely not very effective because it does not solve anything.

  17. Excellent post! I think a lesson like this can be applied in so many ways, and I admire the way you are processing and handling this. Keep it up!

  18. i think people stress MORE when they can’t control something (or is that just me?!) because if they could control it they’d be focusing their efforts on that, instead! i think it’s always good to remind yourself to stay out of the negative thoughts and focus on what you CAN do instead, but darnit, it’s really hard for those of us who are definitely control freaks.

  19. Such a great post! Stressing over things in life that are out of our control are a waste of time and energy. That’s a great video that anyone who needs some motivation should watch..wow!

  20. “If you wake up on race day morning and it’s sleeting out, you’re not going to magically make the sun appear by stressing out.”

    I love that line. Over that last few years, I’ve changed my outlook to embrace this. I used to freak out over everything until I realized that all I’m doing is hurting myself. Too wrongs don’t make a right and a bad hand plus a bad attitude do not make things right.

    Best of luck with your recovery :)

  21. It’s funny you should write this post about him, because I just put his book on hold at the library. I don’t know how anyone could hold back tears after that video! I did not even meet him or am not going through an injury and I was crying.

  22. oMG i m in tears after watching the video

    very inspirational post, no worries you WILL run again very soon

    a hug from barcelona

  23. Great post! A must-read for anyone going through an injury or difficult time. I truly believe that overcoming obstacles makes you STRONGER and want it MORE. I know it has in my case. Since my stress fracture I treasure every day I can get out there and do what I love. Hang on! 2012 will be your PR year in many racing distances I’m sure!

  24. This is a fantastic post! It really puts into perspective the situation you are going through but also the feelings we all have when we can’t quite get what we want. Your attitude is admirable; I’d be stomping my (broken) foot angrily and probably push myself much too hard and then have to endure an even longer wait to return to normalcy.

  25. I am so obsessed with Matt Long’s book and glad to find someone else who loves him too! I think you have a great attitude – I can be pretty immature about things I can’t control. I always want life to be FAIR… and unfortunately, it’s not :(

    • Next time I’m in NYC, can we take a trip to third and long? I want to go now that I’m reading the book!

      • Um, already went there and made a total fool of myself by being like “IS MATT LONG THE OWNER HERE TONIGHT?!?!?!” He was not. I think we should stalk it until he shows up.

        So all that is to say – yes, count me in :)

  26. New follower here…

    I loved this post. I don’t have any specific example, but I love your outlook. It can be so hard to remember what you can and cannot control. Good for you for figuring it out!

  27. What a lovely post Emily! Your optimism is so inspiring. I’m sure that it is unbelievably hard for you right now not being able to run, and I’m sure that sometimes you just want to cuss out the world, but your positive outlook is helping so many other people out there…just like Matt’s! What a great story you will have once you overcome the broken foot and sub 3:20…because it IS going to happen!

  28. This is a great post! You are amazing truly. Read the book about Matt Long too. It is very inspiring and so unbelievable to read about what he does.

  29. Seriously Emily, look this up. I’m bawling. This is the most beautiful story, especially as a teacher, I have ever watched. http://triathlon.competitor.com/2011/11/news/youth-triathletes-featured-on-espns-e60_42819

  30. Loving the post. I’m a wallower & I hate myself for it… which makes me wallow even more. When I DNF’d my first marathon attempt in October, it took me 2 weeks to grieve & get over it & deal with the reality of my situation… & I’m still not “there” yet. In my head, I know I can’t change what happened & can only affect what I do next… but that’s always easier said than done, I guess. Trying to be better at the “not wallowing” part of fitness/injury.

  31. I love this post and find Matt Long so inspiring! (yes, even after you showed me that awful video this weekend ;))! His message about control is one that I need to hear – I am pretty bad when it comes to things that I don’t have control over. My impulse is to try to control everything, which is dumb because so much in life is outside of our control. And stressing about that causes more stress/anxiety/issues than the situation itself. I love your attitude about your injury – how you’ve chosen to focus on the positives and what you can control. For that reason, I KNOW you are going to come back stronger than ever. You are also an inspiration Emily, for how you’re handling your injury and focusing on making a huge comeback. I can’t wait to be there to see it happen!

  32. […] I read a fantastic post by Emily, at Sweat Once a Day on Control. Sometimes you read a post and it just sticks in your head. It makes you feel something. (I don’t […]

  33. Lisa @ Cow Spots and Tales

    So very true! I love this message, and it’s one I often think about when things are going badly. What’s done is done, and you can only control your response and the choices you make going forward. Congratulations on the Ironman!!! Hope the foot heals up quick.

  34. […] I wrote my post the other day about my huge endurance sports crush on Matt Long and his story of an epic comeback, I hadn’t actually read his book […]

  35. Hi Emily!

    I love your blog! I came across this post and loved it! I did IM LP in 2011 as well and mindset is everything! Congrats on being an IM! It is such an amazing feeling isn’t it!
    Did you get the tattoo?

    Erin