The date was August 6, 2011. For the past eight months I’d trained up to 16 hours a week for this race. Despite a heavy travel schedule for work, I found time to train: my running shoes were the first item in the 24” rolling carry-on, I would scour the Web to find a nearby pool, and I’d drive to client sites within five hours in order to take my bike and my indoor trainer. Despite working 50-60 hours a week, dating my now-husband, I still found time to train. Many called me crazy – but I never knew how wise I was until after this fateful day – when a loose dog created a bike wreck that left me with an intratrochantric hip fracture – in other words, a busted hip.
The repair required three pieces of titanium and long recovery. My orthopedic doctor predicted a year for full recovery, and 4-6 months before I could walk without a cane. No one expected me to be back in the office for at least two months or more. Suddenly health seemed far away.
Actually, nothing could have been further from the truth. My commitment to health before my injury was the key to a quick and somewhat remarkable recovery. The surgeon told me that he’d never operated on bone so strong. One month post-surgery, I was off the walker and back in the pool. I was fully ambulatory by Halloween and was back on the bike by Christmas Eve. I was cleared to run by the first week of January, only five months post. I completed a half-marathon in March 2012 – roughly 5 minutes slower than the previous year.
As for work, I missed one full month, but was back part time after that. My first work travel trip was six weeks post-injury. My employer did feel effects during that time, but we able to quickly recover lost ground. My determination with returning to wellness translated into exceptional work focus: my next few months at work were some of my strongest over the previous twelve months.
As a psychologist, I could cite the sea of incontrovertible evidence supporting the positive effects of exercise on your central nervous system, cognitive processing, sleep quality, general mood and emotional intelligence. For those feeling overwhelmed by the constant demands of work, however, exercise may feel like a “luxury” you cannot afford. But consider this: what would happen if you were suddenly hurt? (Yes, it CAN happen to you!) How will a myopic work focus help you rebuild physically? Sure, you may have disability insurance or income protection, but will that get you back to health? How will that help you return to work as quickly as possible? If you are currently making exercise and wellness a priority – good for you! If you feel you could do more, invoke what I call the “10% rule:” set a goal to do 10% more exercise this week than last week. Moving the needle a little bit at a time is the best way to build lifelong positive change.
Your health is your most important work tool, period. Not only is it invaluable for effective problem-solving, goal-setting, dealing with setbacks, mood management, and interpersonal success, it will be THE critical success factor – and key to a speedy return to work – in the face of an unexpected injury. Take it from an expert!