January 10, 2016
Twenty-four years ago, after being hit twice with 13,000 volts of electricity, falling two stories, losing both arms and suffering burns over 40% of my body, I had two options: I could give up, or I could find a new way to keep going. However, my injury was more than an ultimatum on how I wanted to live my life; it was a second chance for how I could live my life.
My wife Wendy’s words said it all, “If you’re lucky enough to get a second chance, don’t waste it!” I really didn’t want to get stuck in excuses. I could have, of course, blamed my injury for inactivity or a sense of defeat. But who would that have helped? Instead, I got up, I got to thinking and I got going.
Completing a triathlon was at first an exciting challenge and form of therapy for me at age 43 that quickly turned in a sport I’m passionate about. I’ve completed 120-plus races in the past six years. Early on, the therapeutic value of training and racing gave me confidence in myself to later have a second chance at finding true love. I now approach life in the manner of enjoying everything that I set out to do.
I cross-train throughout the year between triathlons. I have also found ways to adapt that I would have never thought possible before. By inventing my own homemade prosthetics, I continue to play basketball and racquetball, and even actively coach my daughter’s softball team. My basketball prosthetic is even available commercially.
The challenges and obstacles of my sport though are never ending. In addition to the challenge of finishing a swim, bike and run without arms—not to mention transitioning between the three—there are obstacles that just pop up, as any triathlete or competitor knows. Jellyfish-infested waters, banana peels on a bike course, hellish heat in Hawaii: these all come with the territory. On top of everything, triathlons are a competition. I love to compete. It can seem a bit harder, when you’re the only double-arm amputee on the course. But what fun is a race if you aren’t racing?
I always have to work on ways to stop myself from making excuses and push myself to keep going. Here are five tips.
- Anticipate those finish-line feelings. Are you going to be happy with your results once you have them? Are you going to want to brag about your time? It’s also okay, however, to take tough situations into account. Are you going to be happy you ran another 12 miles with a possibly sprained ankle? Maybe not. So be in tune with your body, and act accordingly.
- Look around and get inspired. I’m sure if you asked anyone, in any given situation, if they are dealing with some sort of obstacle or hindrance that could stop their progress if they let it, they’d say yes. Everyone has stressors, but people keep pushing. Let your competition, your peers, motivate you.
- Keep a balanced perspective: For me, I need to keep swimming in perspective because regardless of how good I get and how strong I am, my main objective is to not drown (LOL). I choose to swim on my back and utilize a breaststroke kick, and I can’t complain.
- Take it all in. I make sure I appreciate every part of the competition, which includes the fans, the cheers, the signs—even when they aren’t for me. Soak up the energy.
- Tell yourself “I love hills.” I do this even though I hate hills. You don’t have to love every obstacle in order to overcome it, but you can fake it til you make it!
Here’s the thing about going through something you never expected—whether it’s an injury, a divorce, a loss—of course your life has changed, but you can change it even more. I lost my arms and I decided to become a triathlete and my life has become enriched in ways I never anticipated.
What will you use your second chance for?
Hector Picard is an adaptive triathlete and motivational speaker based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Crossroads is delighted to have Hector do a guest post for us about his #SecondChance. He is sponsored by Novation Settlement Solutions. https://novationsettlementsolutions.com/hector-picard/