Not Planning for a Detour

detourLast September I took on a personal project; one of those once-in-a-lifetime attempts to transcend. It has been a journey through unstable terrain, but nevertheless a worthwhile adventure.

Every human being, at some point or another must embark on such a journey. If not to leave his or her mark on this planet, to enjoy the treasures of doing something out of our comfort zone. That is in essence the purpose of my journey.

As an athlete, during my best physical years, I was certain to reach the pinnacle of an amateur athlete’s career; to participate at an Olympic Games. The consequences why that dream did not materialize for yours truly are far better to leave out of this story.

fina mastersEarly last fall (September 2013), I decided to physically prepare to participate on the most prestigious event a master swimmer can take part of, the Fina Masters World Swimming Championships.

Held every two years, these championships represent the summit of masters swimming throughout the world. With over 3,000 swimmers assisting from all the corners of the world, is an opportunity for masters athletes of all levels to swim fast, meet peers, and create a network of fellow swimmers that could last a lifetime.

The beginning of my journey was not an easy one. I had not trained seriously since 2008, thus the amount of physical work I needed to do meant I had to make some adjustments to my life as a father, husband, and as a professional. Many days of early wake ups and rigorous training were ahead of me. If I were to second guess myself, the moment was at the very beginning.

The original plan was characteristic of any high performance athlete. Build an aerobic base, lose a significant amount of weight, build muscle mass, change my nutritional habits, pick up a stretching routine, get periodic massages, to name only a few.

As the months started to elapse, we started making incredible progress. I began to feel like an athlete again. My energy level began to rise, clothes I had not wore in years started to fit, and most importantly, my athletic performance started to improve.

therapy photoI was feeling very comfortable with my improvements, but then, the scariest demon of every athlete’s life showed its ugly head. I had developed a shoulder injury; the famous “swimmer’s shoulder”.

It appeared the joints in my left shoulder had not strengthen as fast as my progress in training. I had to adjust, and fast. Immediately, I put my injured shoulder in the hands of a therapist, who via ice and ultrasonic therapies had me back in the water in less than two weeks.

More months went by, swim meets came and went, thousand upon thousands of meters swam. Anyone who has been an athlete knows the trials and tribulations one has to go through to reach peak performance.

Forward to July 2014, more precisely, July 3; yet another injury. This time my right knee.

A knee injury is to an athlete like a job loss is to most people. Without the resources to perform, nothing happens. No physical adaptation, no ability to work on details, no strength work to be done. Basically, the physical ability of the athlete starts to regress.

For me, with 5 weeks to go to the day I compete, facing an injury was a blow to my confidence. Having put everything on the line, I focused solely in preparing for the big race. I had not developed a plan B. It was time to take a detour.

A detour meant for me more like a secret passage to rapid recovery. I had no time to become frustrated with things I didn’t have any control over. It was time to use all the techniques available to immobilize my knee, take it through ice and heat therapy, while at the same time avoid losing any conditioning in the pool.

What I learned is a lesson taken straight from my years as a manager; “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Of course, as an athlete I also had to prepare to achieve best physical condition, in order to be able to perform come race day. Fortunately, the worst had not happened. I had enough time to recover.

Prior to setting sail on your own personal journey, take the time to plan the road ahead. Going about the completion of a transcending stage of your life without considering a contingency plan or alternate route will most likely put a rapid end to your dreams. If anything, try to picture yourself reaching your destination to the point that you can taste your triumph. Your life is too valuable to live a dull one. Make it count, you only have one.