Alberta Cancer Foundation

The Journey Back


TRACK A MEETING: You’re never too young or too old to talk motivation and physical activity.

Trauma and disaster blindside you when they strike, and you’re left to realize that the journey back is longer and harder than you could imagine. You have to accept where you are and take the appropriate steps to progress.

My name is Jesse Lipscombe. I’m a former professional track and field athlete turned health professional. I own Phat Training Inc. in Edmonton and it’s my goal to facilitate active and healthy lifestyles. I’ve seen athletes brought to their knees with illness or injury and subsequently rise to their former level of health. Alternately, there are people who are stuck feeling like a shadow of the athlete they once were. To them I say: Reflect on the qualities that drew you to sport, the hurdles you had to leap and the naysayers you had to silence. Harness your athletic focus and use it to your advantage.

At some point in your recovery, it’ll stop being rehab and will start being exercise and sport. No matter where you are on that continuum, you need to have the mindset of a champion. With the mind of a champion, you’ll take progressive steps. As you journey back to health, there’ll be pain, doubt and confusion, so focus on the small victories. Consider it a game of snakes and ladders: three steps forward, two steps back, but always progression.

Whether your victories come from deciding that today is better than yesterday, or that you’ll have the ability to do that extra work to get you podium side, you’ll have to lead with your mind before your body can follow. Anyone can approach the way back to health and fitness with the mind of an athlete. I can offer these tips to others trying to get back to health, fitness and sport.

Patience. Scaling back is not regression or failure; it’s an awareness of where you are and it gives your body the chance to catch up. Your head might be in the game before your body is ready.

I worked with an athlete once who was battling back after a severe ankle injury. He managed to rehab his body back to about 80 per cent, but then he’d increase the intensity of his workouts and re-injure the ankle. Before we began our program we had the “patience talk.”

We scaled back and worked on aspects of his sport that athletes often ignore. As we focused on things such as flexibility, ankle and foot stretching and balance, we gave the injury the needed time to heal. But I also noticed that his mood and general well-being changed. Buckets of positivity exuded from him. In the end, he healed and performed at a higher level than ever.

Motion. Athletes often overlook the feel-good endorphins that are released by exercise. But, as illness or injury force you to slow down, the will to even get out of bed can diminish. To get the “feel-good emotion” back, move as much as you can within your limits.

When my clients first get rolling on a rehab or workout program, nothing can stop them. Many clients have lost loads of weight and felt great. However, as time passes, that burning flame to work as hard as they did can sputter. It’s important to remember that the workout isn’t that hard; standing up and getting started is. The secret is just move every day.

Meditation. Take the time each day to appreciate where you are. Don’t lament the struggles that lie ahead. Just be.

Somebody brought meditation to my attention a few years back when I was “money chasing.” I was a professional high jumper attempting to make as much money as I could in as short a time as possible. I’d fly from country to country – sometimes four competitions a week – to compete and cash in as much as possible.This person taught me to take stock of the present and appreciate where I am. I began to learn meditation, enjoying the positive effect it had on my game and my health. So each day, take a few minutes to sit still, and “be” on the journey back to health.

Jesse Lipscombe is president and founder of Phat Training. Check out videos of his recommended exercises to get you started at unlimitedmagazine.com, search “deskercise.”