An open letter to the young athlete who needs it…

Kenya
Dear A,

I was not quite sure how best to approach you, so I thought a letter would be most appropriate. From one athlete to another I think you need to read this and understand what I am saying, so you can once again flourish as a runner and use the talent you have to its full potential.

You might be already asking yourself why I am writing, but this is why.
The other day I saw you swimming in the pool, you looked frail and weak; horrific in fact. I also know that this lack of strength has affected a few running results this year and even your old Coach tried to speak to you about it, yes someone you trusted to make you the best runner you could be. However much you do not want to admit it, your dramatic weight loss has started to kill the very thing you love and are so talented at. Those results are proof you are not strong enough, how can your body compete like it used to without the muscle and fuel it requires to accelerate away from the pack like you used to? Talent will not help you with this one and your body will continue to say no, just like it has already, that is until you face the problem and focus on recovering.

Now I can hear your mind saying, “how would she know and what place does she have to say this?” Well in fact, I am in the best (or worst depending how you want to see it) place to hammer this home to you. As you know I used to be a competitive runner and lacrosse player wanting to be the best I could be, just like you. However, my naivety and obsession with success led me to believe that like many other runners and athletes lighter is always faster and just like you my body reached a point and said no, my racing and health plummeted. If you are now saying I am lying or this is not true – it is true. You only get faster to a point and after that point your body packs in, you will get injured – you may already be, you will under perform – just like you have already and you will cause your body and dreams more destruction then you can ever imagine right now.

And if you are now thinking it will not happen to you, it will. Even more so if you do not sort your health out now. I know this because the four years I was abusing my health and refusing to see I was causing it I went from one injury to the next, wasn’t allowed to train, was dropped from teams, and more importantly ruined my teenage dream of becoming an England Lacrosse player. I cannot deny there is any other reason for this apart from me being too weak, too deluded and too obsessed with my weight and body image to realise what I was doing to myself.

Furthermore, if you do not see what you are doing to yourself as a problem or you still think you are not ruining your running by being too thin and weak, the destruction will go on. So much so that if you leave it too long the regret and pain that comes with an eating disorder will haunt you even after recovery. Once again you may think this will not happen to you because you are fine or maybe I am the weak one or I am trying to take away your future – but just like your old Coach I am not, I am trying to give you a future once again and see you succeed. Even after nearly five years of recovery I am still paying the price. Yes, I thought I was doing everything right again, and yes I am now training towards a new dream of becoming a professional triathlete (that opportunity only came with recovery I might add). But this year the reality of the destructive nature of an extreme eating disorder once again came back to haunt me as I was told I had suffered a rare, chronic injury which was most certainly linked with certain health issues I still have due to the abuse I put my body through.

But I know one thing, there is hope for both of us, so do not let yourself ever think you have nothing now  and so what is the point. There is a point and this letter is to show you there is. The point being sort out your health and strength now so you can become that successful runner once again and have a long career – why ignore the principles that are needed to make you the best and most competitive athlete again. As boy what you are doing to yourself right now is giving you quite the opposite and will continue to if you do not start respecting your body.

I understand this may have been quite hard to read and I appreciate you may still be thinking this is wrong and it will not happen to you. But when you (the real you) is allowed to think about what you (the real you) wants in life and as a runner, you will see what I am saying and you will understand it – never forget there is a way out and there is a way to minimise that regret of not recovering sooner.

If you want to get in touch, grab me at the pool or send me a message on here as I can and want to help. No one deserves what you are going through and why waste that talent for another day.

Lots of love and like you also say – never give up,

Elo xxx 

 

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