For an amputee, to adapt is to thrive. Many people think of the term “adaptive” only in regard to adaptive athletes. This kind of thinking can be detrimental to our personal growth and self-image. Let me explain…
For myself, some days just getting out of bed can be a daunting task. I can’t speak for others with physical challenges, but for myself the thought of going through the tedious steps of putting my leg on and facing another day of aches, pains, stares, comments, and frustrations… it makes me want to lay back down. This isn’t because I’m being a defeatist, it’s just how I feel some days. Therefore, I adapt. Just getting out of bed can be a victory on days like that. That, I believe to be the biggest lesson. Some days I can CRUSH it; everything comes easy, every weight is light, miles and miles of walking seem like nothing, other days, not so much.
The biggest thing to keep in mind about this lifestyle is that the bar can move. What I mean is that some days are easy, some days are hard. We need to make sure that our focus remains inward in this respect. I look around on social media, and I see others with similar impairments doing so much more than me, and I almost feel like I’m failing. That’s the trap! We cannot compare our abilities to anyone but ourselves. This is especially true to someone who is new to having their abilities challenged. It’s easy to see others, with similar challenges, and to unfairly compare ourselves to them. I know that this phenomenon is not limited to people with physical impairment, but for the sake of this entry it’s the only instance that I’m addressing.
Social media is like a highlight reel. Whether it’s day to day normal stuff, or it’s the crazy Tough Mudder, CrossFit, sky diving, Ninja Warrior stuff… it’s still the highlight reel. I know when I post, I post the best pictures of myself mid-stride while running down range, or in the middle of a hard carve, snow flying, or a video of me going deep in the squat rack at the gym. I’m here to tell you that after all these big adventures, I still need to take my leg off and tend to my limb. I would venture to guess that it’s the same with almost all amputees. I don’t post the normal, everyday, boring things; just the big “HOLY COW” things. When we look to our peers, we need to remember that everyone had to start small, everyone has to work hard to get results, and that nothing comes easy.
I want to make it clear that I’m not trashing adaptive athletes here. Though my sports aren’t mainstream, I do consider myself an adaptive athlete. I love following my brothers and sisters as they do everything from CrossFit, powerlifting, snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, diving, swimming, etc. From the daily “get it done” gang, all the way to Olympic Gold, I am proud to know some of these extraordinary people; I want to make it clear to anyone who is challenged, especially those that are new to this life, that it doesn’t come “easy” to anyone.
It’s all about setting goals. Some days we crush it, some days we struggle; both are completely acceptable. Set your goals but be flexible, some days those goals will seem unattainable. Keeping your goals realistic is very important. This isn’t a new concept, and as much as I’d like to take credit for it, I can’t. Having goals that present a challenge but are attainable is key. On the hard days, I have a whole bunch of small goals, like: “get out of bed”, “make it to first break”, “make it to lunch”, “get to the end of the day”. On the strong days, my goals are a bit bigger. Setting realistic long-term goals is important too. For example, I personally want to lose 70 pounds. I set small goals, which work towards the end goal. Personally, I shoot for 10 pounds at a time. If I just focused on the big number, I could easily be disheartened and quit. By setting the smaller goals, I can climb the ladder towards victory one achievement at a time.
Be flexible in all aspects of life. That is the very heart of being adaptive. It’s not always about being an adaptive athlete, some days it’s just about being adaptive to everyday life.
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