I am an athlete.
I think. I've been having this conversation a lot this summer: what is an athlete? Seems to be going along with lots of conversations, internal and external, about identity--self and otherwise. So since I am being so contemplative and self-reflexive these days, I thought I would post about whether I should ride my bike up a mountain tomorrow. It's all related, trust me.
So this summer I was diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis. It's been a major bummer that I initially (in April) had a good attitude about. I haven't been able to play tennis, but I also have not had to deal with all the drama that seems to come from playing tennis in a women's league. I couldn't run the bases in softball, but I could hit and do some fielding. I also, apparently, have a high pain tolerance which helped me push through activities like biking and spinning.
But my good attitude is turning bad. And there's nothing worse than an athlete with a bad attitude. Let's also note that this is my first major injury. And even though I am a very good sick person--seriously, I once made a witty comment when I came to after fainting on the bathroom floor from the flu. I am not a good injured person.
Round two of physical therapy seems to be promising but it just started and thus the scheduled bike ride up the mountain will likely be painful and potentially damaging. I haven't done extensive hill training this summer. And injury plus dissertation has resulted in less outdoor riding time generally.
But I'm tired of being injured and I have trouble avoiding a challenge I would otherwise tackle head on and feel fairly confident in being successful at. I've been told I could start up the mountain and just turn around if I don't make.
IF I DON'T MAKE IT! Um, no. I have to make it.
Let me state for the record that I am not someone who played sports with any great intensity--certainly nothing that rivals what I see today--as a child and young adult. I hear about coaches pushing athletes to play hurt. I know someone who was forced to have the nerve to a tendon cut before hockey season so she would be able to play her last year in college. She was threatened--by her coach--with never being able to get a job in the coaching if she didn't have this procedure.
Of course athletes push themselves too--for a variety of reasons. But where is the line? How do we weigh participation--and the joy that brings (me, at least and in this case specifically)--with potential damage and further injury? Is it more important for me to ride up a mountain and potentially delay my return to other sports in the fall? Will my frustration at the inactivity and lack of control over my own body outweigh any kind of reason tomorrow morning? Am I being unreasonable?