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  • Relearning to Walk

    By Travis Steffen on Wednesday, October 20, 2010in Help & Motivation  

    I want to tell you a story.

    Growing up, I was one of those kids who knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

    Ever since I can remember, I wanted to play in the NFL. I worked myself to the bone day and night trying to achieve this goal. When I got to college, I felt like my goal might actually be within reach. After all, I was only one level away from getting to the pros.

    Then it happened.

    During the first day of spring practice my sophomore year, we were warming up and running some drills. All of a sudden, I felt something hit the back of my right foot. Thinking a ball had hit me, I turned around and looked for it.

    Not seeing anything, I took a step forward and immediately realized that something was wrong. It felt like there was about a 2 inch block of wood under my right heel.

    Hobbling off to the sidelines, I sat on the turf and took off my shoe to examine it. It appeared to be normal, which confused me. I hadn’t been hit by anything, but something just wasn’t right.

    One of the assistant athletic trainers came over and I told her what had happened. Immediately upon examining my right foot, she muttered a few panicked words and ran to get the head trainer.

    About a minute and a half later, the head trainer looked me in the eye.

    “I’ve got good news and bad news.”

    “…What’s the bad news?”

    He took a deep breath and put his hand on my shoulder.

    “You’ve got a pretty significant tear in your Achilles tendon.”

    This had to be a joke. The good news HAD to be that this was a joke.

    “What’s the good news?”

    “…You’re not dead.”

    If you know anything about sports injuries, you know that an Achilles tendon tear is usually a career-ender. The next month was one of the toughest months I can remember. When you work for something your entire life, seeing it ripped away from you in an instant can be tough to accept.

    After a while, I was able to accept what had happened. In fact, it ended up being a blessing in disguise.

    If I hadn’t torn my Achilles tendon that day, it’s likely that I would never have started my first company, written my first book, traveled the world to train amongst some of the most elite fighters on the planet, or run my first marathon – which I did exactly one year later (more on this in a second).

    So how did I go from being at one of the lowest points in my life to feeling blessed for being seriously injured?

    One step at a time.

    See, when you’ve got your leg in a cast for an extended period of time, your muscles atrophy. By the time I got my cast off, my right calf – which had once been part of a lower body that had helped me to do so many things – had withered away to skin and bone.

    I had to reintroduce my right leg to ambulation. In other words, I had to relearn how to walk.

    I was terrified. I could barely put an ounce of weight on my right foot without feeling as if I was stepping on a thousand nails! How the hell was I going to relearn to walk – let alone run?

    To avoid panicking, I shut out the thought of running – or walking – entirely.

    Instead, I placed my focus on limping gingerly to the other end of a swimming pool.

    It was tough, but I got there. The next length was just as tough as the first. From a day-to-day basis, it didn’t seem like I was making any progress at all.

    However, after about a month, I realized that I had progressed from limping while submerged up to my neck in water, to walking semi-normally while having half of my torso above water!

    As physical therapy continued, I realized that the more I focused on the task at hand, the easier it was for me to reach my goal – which seemed nearly impossible when I started.

    You see, the day after my surgery, I made myself a promise.

    “One year from today” I said, “I’m going to run a marathon.”

    Before I got my cast off, I outlined each and every goal I needed to accomplish in order to reach my goal. I didn’t know if it was realistic, but it kept me from feeling sorry for myself. The list was long and detailed, but it looked something like this:

    • Get cast off
    • Learn to walk in pool
    • Learn to walk on land
    • Walk a mile without stopping
    • Perform a calf raise
    • Learn to jog
    • Jog a mile without stopping
    • Train for a marathon
    • Run a marathon

    I didn’t focus on the marathon. I just focused on the next goal. Little by little, I achieved every one of those goals.

    There was no marathon scheduled for the one-year anniversary of my injury, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I had one of my college buddies drive me 26.2 miles straight out of town. I instructed him to drop me off.

    As a disclaimer, I don’t recommend anybody do what I did that day. It wasn’t my most brilliant idea, and it was one of the most difficult (and dangerous) physical tasks I’ve ever experienced – but I did it.   I didnt even have life insurance, so thank god I made it back safley.

    How did I do it? How did I go from having a completely torn Achilles tendon to completing my first marathon exactly a year later?

    One step at a time.

    The moral of the story is this:

    Your journey may seem impossible. It may seem like walking through hell. But if you’re organized, dedicated, persistent and smart, you CAN get to where you want to be. Don’t ever give up hope.

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    About Travis
    Travis Steffen is a Master Trainer and founder of WorkoutBOX. After years of experience training professional athletes and thousands of others just like you, he knows exactly what it takes to get you in serious shape. Follow his expert guidance and you're guaranteed to get amazing results.
    Want to hear even more of what Travis has to say? Keep in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter!

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