In my junior year of college, I was entering into the spring softball season still bouncing back from a hip flexor injury the previous year. The thing with those hip flexors, is that they seem little, but can really throw you off. As a starting pitcher, I’d strained my left flexor kicking out to throw a stronger, faster pitch. And because I was stubborn and didn’t want to lose out on playing, I kept throwing on it, and tore it three more times throughout the course of that season.
The effects by the end of that April were pretty rough. I struggled climbing stairs or even stepping up into the bathtub. The littlest things could bring me to tears, like sleeping on my side wrong, or stretching too far. Over the course of several months, I’d began babying it. But that was not only making me weaker as an athlete and pitcher, but throwing my entire body off. I started having back pain and even shoulder pain because I was relying too much on my arm and right side to do the all the work.
In the fall of my junior year, I started working with the strength and conditioning staff at my college with sport-specific lifts and exercises to strengthen my hip. And I also started weight lifting consistently, alongside the running that was already doing (which, ironically, I was still able to do because running actually weakens your hip flexors…thus no pain…but thankfully because I love to run).
As I worked to get myself stronger, I faced a lot of opposition. My friends and teammates would say things like ‘Do you ever take a break?’ ‘You’re going to overdo it.’ You’re going to kill yourself.’ ‘You’re going to do more damage than good.’
Even my coaches at the time were worried, thinking that I would re-injure myself by working out alongside of practicing, pitching, and games. But what they didn’t understand was the feeling that working out gave me. For the first time in months, I felt strong. I felt confident. And I felt happy. My hip flexor felt sore, but no longer weak.
As spring season rolled around, I set expectations for myself to bounce back and be even stronger. I made goals and worked daily to get back to pitching normally–without babying my left hip, and throwing at full speed.
After games, I would often run at least a mile to not only rid myself of post-game anger, frustration, or emotion in general, but I would run to get oxygen to my muscles and relax.
This is a picture I took after a doubleheader in Nebraska at the hotel’s fitness room. Frustrated with my performance, I came back and right away changed and went to the workout room to let off some steam. As teammates, parents, and coaches walked by, they rolled their eyes or laughed. But I kept running. It was important for me to feel strong and to let go of the anger I had. It also made me feel better, knowing that I would have good and bad days, but my hip was stronger than it had ever been. And the only thing I could do now was to make the bad days better by refocusing my negative energy into positive energy.
I came across that fitness room picture today, going through my Instagram photos. I had posted it because I felt positive, despite my short-comings on the field. I had a good perspective, knowing that I would bounce back and that I would be strong. Looking at that picture reminded me of both the hardships and triumphs I faced as a college athlete. I encourage all of you, whether athletes or not, to find encouragement to overcome obstacles, be positive, and keep going no matter what people may say to discourage you.
Special shout out to Coach David Cheeks who not only pushed me, but believed in me and gave me the strength and confidence to return to the field.