Sometimes you just can’t…yet.

Javelin - Desenzano 2012

Can’t. Unable. Incapable.

School teachers, sports coaches, music instructors, mentors, and parents will tell you that these words have no place in our vocabulary. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

Ultimately I agree, but I’ve come to think that in the interim, there’s a catch.

Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes things stand in our way, bring us to a halt, inhibit us from achieving our goal. Sometimes “can’t” seems an accurate adjective.

In my case, as much as it pains me to admit it, I can’t throw. In the seven years I’ve been competing in the heptathlon, gains made toward my strength, speed, and technique have propelled my results in most of the heptathlon events into world-class territory. Yet in those seven years, my progress in the throwing events, most notably the javelin, has inched grindingly forward.

I have tried just about everything, from switching hands, to switching techniques, to working with coach after brilliant coach, to scheduling many emotional sport psychology sessions. I spent an entire winter working alongside Western’s throwing team lifting heavy weight, pulling hefty sleds, flipping huge tires, and throwing what seemed like an infinite number of implements. I grew tired of hearing “it will come”, of feeling increasingly incompetent as time wore on and the same numbers appeared on the results sheet.

My days throwing as a south paw.
My days throwing as a south paw.

It has been a frustrating journey to say the least, and I have worked hard to remain optimistic. I’ve always believed in my heart that I can and will throw far, even in the face of such conflicting direct evidence, as day after day I showed up with a smile and threw as best I could.

Happily, the optimism is not so hard to conjure up as of late. Working with an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist has, I fully believe, uncovered the key. I don’t need to try any harder or focus more intently, strength isn’t the limiting factor, and I am quite confident that I understand the theory behind throwing far. Instead, I physically can not throw: my arms and back do not have the mobility to reach the positions that are necessary to take advantage of the kinetic link and propel implements a great distance.

What a relief. With some diligent work in the right areas, I can and will improve my range of motion, and finally be able to apply the techniques that I have been so intimately studying for so long.

Acknowledging that I physically can’t throw has transformed me as an athlete. Without the knowledge of my physical issues, at the very least I would have continued struggling to throw as I have been (and struggling to keep a smile on my face), or I would have faced serious injury to the tight areas, or to the areas that overcompensate for those tight areas. I was not on a sustainable course!

While I diligently adhere to a physio routine and receive weekly treatments, I am now listening carefully to my body. I am learning to recognize where to draw the line between what I am ready to do, and what I need to postpone until my flexibility has improved.

In conclusion, we can certainly do anything we set our minds to. But the fastest and most pleasurable way from point A to point B might be to admit a temporary limitation or two and, subsequently, devise a plan to push those limitations much, much further.

I can’t throw…yet.

What is limiting you??

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3 thoughts on “Sometimes you just can’t…yet.

  1. Wow! What a powerful revelation! I guess there had to be something holding you back, and it turns out it is physiology. I had the same revelation when I tried indoor skydiving in Vegas. I understood what the instructor was telling me, I did it to the best of my ABILITY, but I simply could not arch my back any further to get the optimum amount of lift. Not enough flexibility. I think I know how you must have been feeling – frustrated, discouraged and a little angry at yourself? Normally anything new comes easily to me – I “see” what I’m suposed to do, and then I’ve been able to mimic the physical motion / sensation to achieve the desired result. Because of that, it is even more frustrating when it doesn’t work and I “can’t” do what I want to do. Well, good for you! I wish you well in your therapy and I hope you soon unleash the power of “Can”!

  2. This is very, very encouraging – for a lot of people, the knowledge that you “can’t” do something means giving it up. For you, it means, “Well then…how can I?” I’ve seen you compete and I’ve always been impressed – there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll overcome this. To know that this isn’t a plateau, that you’ve reached your limit for the event, and to be able to look forward to when you can and WILL throw huge numbers is awesome. Can’t wait to watch, RIO 2016!

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