Setbacks suck. They often hit when you’ve finally gotten yourself into a groove and are working out regularly -- late nights at work, overuse injuries, illness. Motivation is hard to come by when you feel like the world is out to get you and ruin your workouts.
I’ve personally been plagued by setbacks recently. It started with an overuse injury after the NJ Marathon. After a few weeks off, I began to resume my regular training schedule when I managed to twist and sprain my ankle during a long run. After another couple of weeks off, I managed to get in a couple of runs and was feeling great when the flu set in. The flu – in the summer!
It’s moments like these when you need a little reminder that you can bounce back. That’s where Nargus comes in. A competitor through college, she faced a life-changing experience that left her bound in a brace and had doctors telling her she’d be lucky just to walk.
27, Hell’s Kitchen, New York City
What types of fitness are you into?
Running, Yoga, Swimming
Was there an obstacle you felt like you had to overcome before you started getting really into fitness?
I have been a competitive swimmer and runner since the age of 5. After graduating from Penn, where I swam and ran competitively, I decided to focus on the marathon with a goal time that would qualify me for the Olympic trial cut.
In the fall of 2007, I was pacing out my 20-plus milers on par with a sub-three-hour marathon pace (6:30’s) when I was brutally run over by an 18-wheeler truck while running near the West Side Highway. I suffered extensive nerve damage and crushed L1 & L2 vertebrae, resulting in a loss of one inch of height.
Doctors told me I would never be able to walk normally again, let alone participate in any sports. I was told to forget about ever competing again, that I needed surgery to insert a metal rod in my spine to be able to function “normally.” I was faced with a choice: believe the doctors and get the surgery or believe in myself and surmount the insurmountable. I chose the latter.
What got you back on your feet?
The realization that I could choose to live the rest of my life doubting myself, or I could choose to live the rest of my life creating and building my own reality. It all came down to that realization of free will, as existential as that sounds!
What keeps you going?
I’ve come so far and done the unthinkable. It would be downright absurd to stop now. And I’ve resumed my goal to qualify for the marathon Olympic trial cut.
How do you keep it fun?
People. I just got back from a weekend in the Catskills. We ran 50 miles in three days -- the ridiculous jokes and made-up songs are the only things that got me through those hills. I used to be so adamant about running by myself; I still enjoy those solitary runs from time to time, but changing it up by adding some fresh faces is a wonderful thing. That, and doing different runs like bridge runs or trail runs or anything to change up the monotony of Central Park.
What do you do for work and does it affect your training or schedule?
I’m a Ph.D. candidate and a yoga instructor, running coach, academic tutor, and the Director of Marketing and Operations at Gotham Gym. Because I have so many commitments, I have to get my workouts in at 4:45 a.m. To be honest, the full schedule makes it easier to get up and go. I know I have one shot so there is no “snoozing.”
What advice do you have to help people stay on track?
The body is an awe-inspiring thing. Each day take a moment to appreciate one tiny thing your body does for you. In this way, you are creating a space for your body -- to appreciate and respect its faculties; to acknowledge that there are certain things about the body the mind cannot even fathom. These are the subtleties and complexities that propel us. Attuning yourself to these things is a prerequisite of becoming who you are.
Wow. Despite the grim prognosis, Nargus ran her official comeback race, a half-marathon in Philadelphia last fall, in an amazing 1:30:05 and has since completed her first full marathon. And not only did she comeback, she’s now coaching other runners and teaching yoga at Gotham Gym.
Nargus’s story is truly inspiring and can help you put your own setbacks into perspective. Don’t let setbacks get you down – instead, use them as motivation to work hard and bounce back. To hear more about her incredible story, check out this interview.
Ben Waldman is a writer, advertising art director, social media consultant and marathoner. Born in Queens and raised in NJ, Ben now lives in Manhattan, and can be seen almost daily running along the Central Park Loop, along the rivers and through the streets. He is tightly connected to the New York fitness community through his blog and on Twitter.