Phase 3: Taking Action
I’m hoping you’ve reached this page because you’ve passed through phase 1 (understanding your problem and the need to make a change) and phase 2 (making the decision to take action) of RED-S recovery. Find my advice on how to turn your motivation into action here but first, I want to share some wisdom that I would've appreciated when I was going through this myself.
When I finally decided to commit to RED-S recovery, I approached it in much the same way I’d always approached my training: with ultra-enthusiasm and intense impatience to improve. I studied all the scientific literature, read all the blogs, analysed every blood test and laid out my motivations for action. I thought that knowing exactly what to do in my mind would make it easy for my body to follow suit.
As it turned out, the recovery processes was exactly that: a process, and one that taught me you can do all the wrong things and make progress and all the right things and stay right where you are. You can make use of all the resources, distractions and mental strategies in the world to relieve the frustration of it, but RED-S recovery cannot be rushed. Just as your body took a while to work its way into this position, it will need time and patience to get out of it too. The hard days, frustration and temporary discomfort will pass, but the benefits of recovery will last a lifetime.
Be patient and trust the process.
Accept support but don't depend on it
There are people out there (family, friends, coaches, other athletes etc) who care about you and will no doubt want to help. These people can be a huge source of comfort (or major source of irritation!), but unless they have experienced this kind of thing themselves, it can be hard to appreciate how you may be feeling: how much you might miss training, how hard it could be for you to embrace weight gain, how stressful it can be to de-stress.
As much as you might want them to, they can only go so far in alleviating the discomfort that may well accompany the actions you take. You may find this frustrating, unfair and demoralising but ultimately, you cannot afford to depend on anyone else for your recovery. You are in control of using all the knowledge, resources and support available to help you do the things you need to do. You are in charge of taking your recovery process seriously and of repeatedly taking actions to finish what you started. No one else can do this for you, but you can do this for yourself.
Redefine your success and celebrate it
"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." ~ John Wooden
One important lesson I learnt while recovering from RED-S was that success comes in many forms. Before my illness woes, I measured my success by my performance in sport. I wasn’t particularly fussed about passing my driving test, scoring highly in exams or other (far more important) forms of success like achieving life balance, happiness, and being the best daughter/sister/friend I could be. So I rarely stopped to celebrate success in any other aspect of my life, until I lost the consistent dose administered through running.
Recovering from RED-S forced me to redefine my own ideas of what success really means. I realised that it doesn't just come from the race win or the PB achieved through hard work, commitment and overcoming challenges. It comes from pretty much anything that involves hard work, commitment and overcoming challenges—RED-S recovery included. I know it doesn’t feel quite the same as nailing a hard workout, producing your best ever dance routine or securing a goal for your team, but remember, you are not just an athlete and this is an chance to work on getting the best out of your whole self. And, when you’re through the other side, you’ll have it all 😊.
So, how to take action?