Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoBloPoMo (Nov 16): The Bone Cage - Great inspiration for athletes, and perspective

It's been awhile since I've wanted to do a review of Angie Abdou's The Bone Cage. I read it a few years ago while I was training for a marathon, and it really resonated with me.

The book is about the story of two young athletes, both of whom have qualified for the Olympics - one in swimming, the other in wrestling. They have spent their whole live training for this moment, and it is about to arrive.

Both spend literally all their time sleeping, eating, training, sleeping, eating, training....Their whole worlds revolve around their sport and their goal of winning an Olympic medal. He is still in university, but she has graduated and is working at the fitness centre to try and make enough money to keep training. And if it doesn't work out, neither one really has a career option other than what they have directed all of their life's energy towards since they were little.

Once they qualify for the Olympics, they become so isolated from those around them - their competitors are now a threat, their families don't really understand how important and isolating it all is - that the two athletes turn to each other and become friends.

As one reviewer put it, The Bone Cage is about the struggle of self actualization while being trapped within the physical body and trying to push it as far as it will go.

For me, it's also about the lengths to which professional athletes have to commit their lives to a sport to even make it to the Olympics, let alone win a medal. There's a sort of pathos about this story that made me feel that I was glad I had something more than my sport. As a teenager, I used to bemoan the fact that my parents hadn't put me into competitive gymnastics earlier. I had the strength and the determination, but I had started too late and all of the girls my age were years ahead of me.

But reading this book, I realized that I'm happy that I haven't committed my entire life to a single sport. Because if something happens to you while training, that could be it. And then you have to refocus your entire life on something else.

Every so often, I'd run into girls in my gym club who would tell me they used to compete with such and such girl who was now competing at the national level - the only thing is, the first girl had gotten injured and lost months' worth of training, while the second had been lucky enough not to get injured...yet...

Reading this book also helped me put my running training into perspective. So often, because marathon or half-marathon training require us to put so many hours into our training, the running does begin to consume our lives. Till all we do is eat, sleep, breathe running...

But I'm not a professional athlete, and my only competition on race day is myself. So it's ok to sometimes take a step back from things and live a little outside of the running. And that balance can only serve to make us happier, healthier individuals.

Long story short The Bone Cage is well worth the read, and I recommend it to anyone, whether you're training for your first 5k race or marathon. It'll give you some much-needed perspective.


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