Being an Athlete in Recovery: Not About Competing but Living my Best Life
I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I always loved working out and pushing myself to new limits. I started out as an avid soccer player and moved into tae-kwon-do. Eventually I wound up as a cross country runner for my Division One high school. I loved it, but started to notice that I was putting my goals of running ahead of myself.
As much as the running community shoves eating down runner’s throats, 47% of female runners don’t intake nearly enough calories to sustain their bodies for long, hard workouts. I had looked at all of my competition, and they were extremely thin. I assumed that if my weight matched theirs, I would have to be as fast as they were. I began restricting my food and depriving my body of the calories it so was desperately craving. With long and hard workouts, I found myself consuming a fraction of the calories my body needed.
In the spring, I had joined another sport that required heavy weight training alongside running. I felt like I was always a step behind everyone. I was struggling with not just anorexia but bulimia as well, all while working out daily. By the end of my season, I realized that I had not improved at all and was exactly where I was before, if not worse. I was at a low of knowing what I needed to do, and had to figure out where to go from there. My body was telling me to feed it and to rest, but my mind told me to keep going and push through. I hated my body.
By no means was my story of recovery overnight – it has taken years! Years of striving and stumbling, lots of time trusting the process and listening to my body. There are moments I do feel overwhelmed and look at my body negatively, but I make sure that I don’t sit in those emotions and instead follow it with positivity. I am still competing, and more recently discovered that while I am not battling my body, I still have work to do. I did a lot of damage to my body and now it is time to build it back up again; not on habits of self-harm, but rather on habits of health and a positive mindset.
I have had to learn that stumbling is ok, that taking time off is normal, and that putting myself first is the ultimate priority. If your body is not at its best, your performance won’t be either. There are moments in time that, even now, I catch myself falling into my old habits. Recovery is nowhere near linear, but continuing to try is the best decision I have ever made. I allow my body time to heal even now, taking time off to rest and rejuvenate. Making sure my body is fueled to do what it does best is no longer about competing for me, it’s about living. Living my best life with the healthiest version of my body possible.
The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous.