On Bouncing Back
On the night of June 29th, I packed my suitcase for what was supposed to be just 10 days in Italy.
We would be spending some time with family before and after the trip, but we could do laundry there. So I needed only 10 days’ worth of clothes, my running shoes, my Kindle, and my computer. My wife, Erin, packed her suitcase and our kids’ similarly.
What we never could have guessed was that come October — more than three months after we left home — we’d still be living out of those same suitcases. Or that that night at the end of June would be the last we’d ever spend in our house.
People often ask me to write about how to bounce back from a running injury. How do you come back after not running for two or three months? Beyond just the physical rebuilding, there’s the psychological challenge: it’s hard to be so bad at what once came easy. How do you even get yourself out the door again?
I’ve been fortunate to be mostly injury-free for the past seven years, so I’ve never had much advice to offer in this realm. But now, even without being injured, I know exactly the feeling.
Italy was amazing. The time with family and friends afterward was nice. And then a few days before we left to return home, a phone call changed everything.
Our house was flooded. Who knows how many days or weeks water had been pouring into our kitchen, but mold everywhere and the plant growing out of our rug gave us a clue. The ceiling underneath the kitchen had become so heavy with water that it collapsed onto our kids’ playroom. Anything there was lost, too.
Things had been going so well. I had been running consistently when we left for our trip, in the early weeks of training for my first marathon in several years. We were eating cleaner than ever, and loving it. No Meat Athlete was cranking along, with two new blog posts and two new podcast episodes being published every week for a few solid months. New shirts, a site redesign, and new products were in the works. Our team was really clicking too, keeping the content and social media posts flowing even while I was traveling.
But being without a house has a way of turning your life upside-down. Especially when your home is your office. When cooking healthy food is such a focus in your life. And more than all of this, when you’ve got two young kids, ages five and two.
For most of August and all of September while we looked (and then waited) for a new house, we slept on a futon on the floor of friends’ houses. All of us — me, my wife, two kids and two dogs — in the same room.
It’s hard to express how grateful I am for our family to have had those places to stay while we were without a home. But it’s just as hard to express how sad it made me, as a parent, to take my son’s “first day of kindergarten” picture in front of a house where we didn’t live. And then, a few weeks later, for him to bring home a picture he drew at school titled “Where I Live” … this one of a different house, and one that still wasn’t ours.
I don’t want to write a woe is me post. Lots of people don’t have homes at all, or enough to eat. For them, my family’s two months of inconvenience would be a dream. My “disaster” is one big #firstworldproblem.
But I’m writing it to acknowledge, to you, that I haven’t been at my best recently. Two podcasts a week quickly became one, and two posts a week became none, for a while. What content I did get out didn’t have a hope of being as heartfelt as usual, because in all honesty, my heart was elsewhere. (And I’m so indebted to our team — Susan, Doug, Billy, Maggie — for keeping the ship afloat during this time.)
Emails piled up by the hundreds. Any good habits I might have had, have unraveled — I haven’t turned on my Kindle since August, haven’t meditated in weeks. My training faded and running became the last thing on my mind, neglected for weeks at a time. (This hit me the other day when I got winded playing football in our new yard — yes, there’s a happy ending to come — with my son.) And although I’m proud of how we managed to eat without being in our own kitchen, we certainly lost some ground there, too.
I’m so relieved to say that we’re back in a house now. And it’s wonderful, better than our last one. This was our fourth move in three years, so we certainly wouldn’t have done it without being forced to, and maybe we’ll eventually come to see that as a blessing.
And there are others. I set a rule shortly after starting this blog that I wouldn’t write about anything I was struggling with until I had learned a lesson worth sharing, and you may be wondering what that lesson is. Well, this experience has taught me several:
- I learned to value stability. This work-on-the-internet lifestyle has allowed me a lot of freedom to travel, and in Italy we decided that next year we were definitely going to live in Spain all of next summer. But after a few weeks without a place to really live — much more for our kids’ sake than our own — that great idea suddenly seemed much less appealing. We wanted to be home and stay home, for a good, long time.
- I learned to appreciate my family. When the kids would complain and say things like, “I just wanna go home,” I reminded them (and myself) how lucky we were to all be together. That many families have a mom or dad who is gone for months at a time, sometimes in actual danger, and what a gift it is to be all together … even if together means in the same room for way too long. How minor that inconvenience is, compared to the joy of being able to hug my kids whenever I want to.
- I learned some perspective. These few months felt really uncomfortable … and they would be an absolute dream for a few billion people on this Earth.
- I learned to enjoy food more and stress about it less, which I needed. During these few months I definitely let food be a comfort, a source of enjoyment, rather than simply fuel. I drank a few more beers than usual. We stopped eating oil-free for a few months, and relied on take-out and delivery a good number of times. And a few boxes of well-placed Newman O’s really hit the spot when we needed them. While none of us (well, maybe the kids) want to keep eating this way, it felt good not to worry whether a beer a night or cup of coffee each morning might be bad for me. Or whether the arsenic in my rice would eventually kill me. You know, to just sort of be normal when it comes to food.
- I learned to care less about things. What’s really funny is that during the extra two months of living out of a 10-day suitcase, I got into the routine of wearing only about half of the stuff I packed. And I can’t think of one time where I thought, “I wish I had my ___ from our house,” for anything except maybe a cooking utensil. These may seem like trivial examples, but it really does feel like this experience helped me internalize the minimalist mindset I’ve been fascinated by for a while now.
And with this rough couple of months now behind us, it’s time to bounce back. To quit wallowing … our big, two-month-long excuse has officially expired.
It’s a relief to be able to focus on the things I love again, but I’ve learned that rebuilding those good habits is no easier than it is to get back to running after an injury.
I’m having to relearn things like standing at my desk, which took some time to get used to, and is doing so again. We’re back to eating oil-free at home, but only just getting there (the Newman O’s are done, however). Meditation hasn’t happened yet, but I know that once I’ve caught up some with other things, it will.
One thing that has come back easily, even better than before, is family stuff, like playing games and playing outside with my kids, which just wasn’t easy to find the energy for over the summer. Each time I do this now, I’m reminded how much I missed it, and how much I took it for granted before.
And as for running? That’s been tougher to get back to — my motivation level is zero because of how much rebuilding there is to do, just like after an injury.
But for now, I’m okay with that. Call me an optimist, but maybe, just maybe, the complete separation from it — and so many other things — is exactly what I needed.
I’m looking forward to things returning to normal, and really appreciate your sticking with me while they weren’t.
Really sorry to hear Matt, but great job to you and your family for bouncing back. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!
I know you didn’t publish this to get sympathy, but I am still sorry you had to go through the experience. Good job focusing on what matters and taking the lessons learned. I know you’ll be back on track in more and more ways over time. Best wishes for the new house.
You’ll come back even stronger
Thanks for sharing
My prayers are with you and your family. Be proud how you turned a difficult challenge into a life lesson. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.
Great post! It never hurts to be reminded that while we all go through rough patches (and yours was pretty rough), there are usually quite a number of people who have it much worse. For every one of us caught up in the agony of getting back to running, there are so many who would love to be able to run or even walk. This post was also a great reminder of how we can get so caught up in the details of our lives that we lose sight of the big picture. Thanks!
Thanks so much for sharing! I also feel sorry for you, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through such an experience. But I have to say, by sharing this with us I thought: it’s exactly this openness and humanity that makes me love your blog and podcasts. Keep up the good work, hang in there and bounce back 🙂 Best wishes from Berlin.
Great post! I am so sorry for your loss of your old home but your new one sounds wonderful. What a great example for your kids you’ve created. I’m sure this will be in their long-term memory of “we got through this together AS A FAMILY!” Stay positive and running will come back to you when you are ready. Glad you are back. 🙂
thank you for sharing your experience. I had an accident last week and in a week I have been shown how much i took for granted. Overnight I have gone from being independent and self-sufficient to depending on others for the basics of everyday living. Though my injury will recover and things will get back to normal in a few months this is a huge learning curve for me.
Getting back on track for anyone is not easy, thanks for taking the time to share and inspire.
Wishing you and your family all the very very best.
I know how that feels! Wish you the best of health. I recommend finding lots of things like writing, drawing, etc to keep you occupied. And listen to lots of music. It keeps you sane while you can’t move around much! 🙂
Thank you for enduring, reflecting and sharing. Authenticity is beautiful. And even when reality “bites”, it is often God allowing us to hit the pause button, reset and come back even stronger. You all did it! Your relationships with your kids, wife, friends and readers will be more meaningful—a great reward from suffering.
I had this same thing happen to me too, only mine was the result of fire, and I discovered the same lessons: a love and appreciation for stability, how few of my “things” I actually needed, or even missed, and coming to see what really matters: I teared up when I read how all inconveniences faded in the realization that you can hug your kids whenever you want. The fire happened to me almost exactly 6 years ago, and while I definitely dont want it to happen again, I do miss the clarity that came when my priorities were so suddenly and drastically realigned, and my wish for you is to keep what you learned in your heart as you reacclimate to your routine inthe months amd years to come.
Without realizing it, you made it through these past couple of months because of what you already knew…your drive, your ability to withstand discomfort, your ‘don’t quit’ attitude. These skills carried you and your family through and enabled you to handle an event so disastrous. Without those skills, you would have suffered much more. You are entitled to a bit of a break now while you recharge your batteries and get back to where you were….job well done. Sorry to hear, but congrats for coming out on the other side.
Hi Matt, sorry to hear about your recent challenges but thanks for being so open and honest. It’s great to hear you let yourself of the hook, when it would have been quite easy to get frustrated you couldn’t necessarily live how you’d like. It sounds like you and your family got some great lessons from your experiences. Thanks for sharing.
I love what you said about not missing your stuff. This morning, while it was still dark, I woke up because the coyotes were howling right behind my house. I put on my shoes and sweater and tiptoed up the hill. I got close enough to determine there were two of them. I saw the constellation of belted Orion taking up a lot of the sky.
But, at the same time. There was a lot of commotion going on down in the valley. A roar of industry. Why do we have to work at night, have lights on at night? Even the purity of the sky was marred by airplanes and satellites. If only humans didn’t consume so much! I lived out of a backpack while thru-hiking the Colorado Trail. Yes, you can live on very little!
Thank you for sharing your experience and reflection. The reminders about “things” really resonates. You have an attitude of gratitude and that is certainly not lost on me or, from what it looks like in the other comments, your other readers/followers. So glad to hear you are in a new space and I’m sure this fresh start will bring many wonderful surprises your way!
Wow, sorry to hear your family had to endure this, Matt. It’s definitely a reminder to me not take for granted the comfort and security I have — and also to take advantage of that comfort and security to get out and do things! Thanks as always for sharing your experiences and perspective, and best of luck in your new home.
Thanks Matt for the words of “truth”. I know you will get back to your own “normal” and the running will flow like your words. You have reminded me to be grateful for my running, cycling and swimming. To be grateful for the my family and for all that I have.
Thanks for all that you do. I imagine that in writing a blog and doing a podcast you may not always realize the impact you have on folks….well realize this….I am grateful for you and your message…
So sad…but good outcome! I have a feeling you’ll be running just as good soon, but family always first…good lessons.
Thank you so much for sharing that. I was just starting to feel uprooted myself given a divorce and a “woe is me attitude” about ever finding ‘true love’….but you helped reconfirm that even if things are upside down, we are all so fortunate just to have a place to sleep, food on the table, and kids to hug!!!! “Love sustains” and God only gives us what we can handle. Things will all fall into place. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story. I am sorry you went through that, and please know your honesty and humble attitude are an inspiration! (You also made me want to eat some Newman O’s, but I forgive you for that, lol!!! ;)) Thanks for being there to cheer us all on, while we cheer for YOU! ;))) Smiles from Florida, Jill
We got flooded out 2012. It’s just so hard to think of day to day stuff. As a man I felt it was my job to get us back in our home.
6 months we where in. It’s very stressful. I know you know this but really look after you and your family’s amine system now after the event
You’re human! Your honesty and story shows you’re human, things happen and your lessons will help others go through this too. Taking time to reflect and slow down and be present even if it wasn’t in the way you may have chosen. Thank you for sharing. It’s what I needed today!
This was a really great message and thank you for sharing it.
This is very inspirational and real. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for sharing your struggles with us.
I’ve been following your blog since I decided to run my first marathon (as a novice runner) in 2014. The blog and everything that came with it helped motivate me to cross the finish line in many aspects of my life.
Today, I’m writing from my “home” which I will have to move out of, due to financial concerns, into a couch or small room in my sister’s house. While I’m thankful to soon be spending more time with my sister and her family, I’m also disheartened, because in the past 2 years, I have moved several times due to a divorce, a flood, and finances.
We all have our struggles, but sometimes when we share them (even through the internet), we feel a little less alone in the obstacles that lay before us. It matters not whether they’re first world problems. They’re Human problems. And as I sit here writing and re-reading your post, I feel grateful to be part of this large community.
We’re all routing for you – and struggle with you and your family. Because we’ve all been there, in one way or another.
Thank you again, and I send my best wishes to you and your family.
Good luck to you, Katie! If you can run a marathon, I’m guessing you can pull through this period of difficulty, too.
Wow..Matt. What an ordeal! And what a wonderful opportunity to learn what you have. I’m glad you’re picking up the pieces and have a new place to call home.
My email was no doubt one of the several hundred that got buried in your inbox, but no worries! I’ll give you some time and get back to you later 🙂
My thoughts and love are with you and your family! I think any one of your loyal readers and admirers would welcome you into their home and provide a warm embrace. Please know that your kind spirit is evident. Thank you for sharing the lessons of this story!
I have temporarily completely down-sized and have a bunch of stuff in storage. I realized that I do not need one-single-thing from a HUGE storage facility where a lot of my “things” are currently sitting. Amazing and eye-opening. I have stopped buying so much stuff and it is wonderful – and cost effective 🙂
Good luck and all my best.
Thank you for sharing and for being so open with us. You are inspiring beyond words and your experience has helped me to put many things into perspective for myself. It is awesome that you & your family were able to spend so much quality time together and to reconnect. In the end, what really matters is what you and your family are focusing on: each other, healthy living and rebuilding & moving forward. Keep up the great work and feel confident in each step that you take. Thinking of you all 🙂
Dear no meat,
thanks for this. Ive bern traveling for months now about 5 do far and in honesty im exhausted and not mysrlf in anyway.
I love fitness yoga walking meditation all of the above however the last month has nearly destroyed me.
im working in england and at first I was so happy the sky was beautiful the air was fresh in yhe last 10 days I have become sad stuck in my room and only wanting rice cakes peanut butter and sleep.
dont know what to do. Im desperate.
Im leaving tomorrow butbnot sure how I will nounce back. I need some support please.
Shani, not matter what happens in life, you have reason to HOPE – nothing and nobody can take HOPE away from you. Your darkest days will fade and the sun will shine again.
The best advice i can give you: lace up your walking/running shoes and get out, in spite of yourself. Even if you promise yourself just 2 minutes. To quote Nikr: “just do it”. Movement helps and lifts your spirits. And remember: even baby steps get you moving foreard! Hang in there! Hugs!
Matt, thanks so much for sharing the story of your ordeal. You just gave all of your followers permission to be human! I remember an interview of one of my favorite gurus, Jack Kornfield. He is calm and cool and the picture of awareness perfection. He was asked, “So do you practice all of this awareness, love and compassion in your own life?” He answered with a smile, “On a good day.”
All the best to your and your family,
Thank you for sharing! Sending hugs to you all.
Welcome back! I am grateful that your story has a happy ending. I appreciate you sharing your story with us, and hope you will be feeling great in no-time-at-all.
I really enjoyed that post, thank you. You have definitely had a rough few months but it sounds like you have your mojo back which is great!
By the way, it’s the eve of my very first marathon, which I’m running in Osaka! And so much of your work has me here today. Your book, blog, marathon roadmap and podcasts have really kept me going. I know it’s going to be a struggle and will be the HARDEST thing by far I’ve ever done and it’s probably going to be slow. But I’ll be at the start line and the finish line at some point tomorrow. And I have you and your team to thank – so thanks, especially for your honest words these last few months, especially the podcast with Doug talking about his run that didn’t go so well. It really put my running in perspective for me. After all this training, I guess I was was expecting it to all get easier…but it doesn’t. You might run faster as you improve, but it still hurts the same.
Anyway, just wanted you to know that even though you may not have felt you’ve been at your best for a miniscule couple of months in your life, you have made a massive difference to mine ?
I’m sorry to hear about the problems you and your family have had for the past few months, but it’s nice to see that you are able to look back on the experience and recognize what you learned from it and learned what is important to you. I wish you the best moving forward, and I look forward to more of your posts.
Good luck with your new house & best wishes for the future.Thanks for all you do.
Matt, this is my first time back to your blog in a while and really enjoyed this post. Sorry for your loss and struggle, but so glad you have learned from it.
I feel I have learned a lot of the same lessons, but from the choice to live in an RV full time with our two kids. It has been an amazing journey and the whole process lead us to downsize our life significantly. It’s amazing how much we enjoy simple things like you have, like playing with your kids outdoors.
I hope you bounce back from your injury soon. I’ve had some of my own but finally feel they are healing up completely. Godspeed!
Thanks for sharing, Matt. I followed along the tidbits you shared with your family’s abrupt displacement. Sounds awful, but you really sounded like you were making the best of it. Yeah, maybe there was a little dip in the frequency of posts or podcasts, but you did a lot more than most people. I would have thrown my hands up in the air and pretty much shut down. I’m sure I’m not alone among your readers and listeners when I say THANK YOU for continuing to do the work you do. Your podcasts and posts keep me inspired on my road back to running. You and Doug have kept me company on my journey back to distance running and I ran my first half-marathon this morning. Could not have done it without the positivity that comes from the No Meat Athlete team. Thank you for your work and I’m happy to hear you and your family are settled into a new home.
As a person who’s just getting back into running consistently, and a mom who was forced to move this summer as well, this post means so much to me. I haven’t been on the site in a while, and this is what I saw when I returned. It’s funny that I’m reading your post while lying down on the couch that’s been my bed for 2 months now. First world problems, definitely, LOL. Your transparency is inspiring and encouraging. Thank you.
I wish you the best as you recover from this struggle, appreciate you showing me that you’re just a regular guy after all, and look forward to whatever you post next.
[…] On bouncing back. Not after an injury, but after your life is turned upside down. The “when your house is your office” is particularly relatable right now. […]
Thanks for this post, Matt. Having gone through a break up recently, I’ve been weathering a different sort of instability, and I can relate on a number of levels. The process of bouncing back asks a lot of patience, but this post is good reminder of the lessons to be learned along the way. Good luck to you and your family as you get everything back on track!
[…] //On Bouncing Back – from an injury and in life. […]
I will keep your family in my thoughts & prayers. Looking back I’ll bet your kids remember this experience in a much more positive light than you expect. Congrats on moving forward!
Much of 2016 has been this way for me for reasons I won’t get into here. Thank you for sharing…this is a post I intimately relate to…and what I really needed this morning.
My condolences for the loss of your former home – here’s hoping your new home is THE one for you and your family. I have been places where electricity is not reliable and water is not potable – I’m still grateful I can turn on the faucet at home and actually drink what comes out, so those lessons you’ve learned in this experience stay with you!
Many blessing to you and your family!!
Thanks for sharing that. I think it was a timely read for me. Sending out positive thoughts to you and your family.
Thanks for sharing. Perspective is everything!
Thank you so much for posting this. I, too, have gotten away from running in the last few months .. and it wasn’t due to injury. I’m just starting to get back to it, and the only way I get out the door is by setting out everything the night before – then waking up at 5, throwing my sh*t together and getting out the door before I actually start to wake up!
I heard you apologizing several times at the beginning of your post -I too, don’t like “burdening” people with my “sad stories” . Perhaps what you don’t realize is that your willingness to show vulnerability by sharing allows others to be patient with themselves.
It shows true grit to post about your personal life publicly. Thank you for sharing your story!
Great post. I’m sure your kids have gained more than you know from this experience.
Thanks for sharing.
So sorry for your struggles of this past August and September, but so happy to read how you and your family got through it together and that you’re now settled in a new home. I’d like to echo Jennifer’s of yesterday morning.. May you “keep what you learned in your heart as you reacclimate to your routine in the months and years to come”. Thank you for writing about how you overcame your challenges and for keeping us inspired.
What an awful experience – I am glad you are back and able to regain some sense of normalcy. Great turning a lemon experience into lemonade and I wish you every good wish for very positive weeks to come.
What a great blog Matt.
I’ve been living out of a rucksack for last 4 months with 4 more to come on a very small budget. Less is more. And very true you really get to appreciate the little things in life that usually get lost in ‘stuff’. Something as simple as a hot shower or making a special meal last 2 days. My running mojo has been lost for a while trying to pick it back up. Worried about the loss of fitness. I know I can do it. All the very best
Wow, I can totally sympathize! We sold everything we owned and moved out of our house at the beginning of July (moving to the UK for my husbands job for 3-5 years), as we bounced from house to house before the actual move happened I lost motivation to train (Ironman) and eat properly. We moved September 20th only to get here to no house still (odd system of house sales) and having to restart looking for a new home (takes a couple months to purchase here), keep our 18yr old doing school online, husband traveling, and living with family (they’re a blessing). All I want is my own house, so I can cook and find the motivation to run again and lose the excess weight I have gained from not eating well and drinking way to much! Praying our new house closes in a couple weeks! Here’s to great comebacks!!
Incredible, inspiring, and real. Thank you for sharing what could be the toughest journey your family has had to (& is continuing to) fight through together. So happy to hear how you have reflected so positively on it and amazed by how grounded you stayed through the whole experience. My prayers go out to you and your family as you find your normal again.
I needed to read this today. Thank you Matt!
Just read your blog and it hit home. Just what I needed to read right now. I’m recovering from ankle surgery and have become frustrated with the time recovery is taking. No exercising for two months, seven weeks on the couch with my ankle elevated, wondering when and what I was going to be able to do for exercising in the future. My physical therpaist keeps telling me to take my time, listen to my body but I have feelings of guilt as I do so much less than I was doing. Your blog has lifted the guilt. If a marathoner says its okay to take a break and get back to things when you are ready, then I guess it’s okay for me to allow the time needed to heal. Although my surgeon says no running unless I want to use his services again I now have hope. It may take a year or so but maybe I can get back to running.
Thanks Matt for relieving the guilt and giving me hope!
I love the post, even though is sad to hear what happened to you. but the best part is you make the best of what you got. things happen for a reason (I always think) maybe it was time to take new routes in life… I wish you the best and glad you and your family had a happy ending.
Matt, thank you for sharing. I am truly sorry for everything your family has gone through these past few months.
Such positive, wise perspective. I can relate. Our entire basement was flooded in sewer water a couple years ago. I lost my treadmill, my washer and dryer, our hot water heater and heater, camping gear, some clothes and many keepsakes. My kids lost nearly all of their toys. While it was tough, we kept explaining to our kids, they were just “things” and that we still have our health, still have each other.
We only replaced the essentials and haven’t missed the rest. It made me love running outside that much more. I never used to run in the rain or winter and now I run outside all year around, in all weather and love it!
Recently, we went through a house remodel and were displaced for 6 months. Our dressers were boxes with only about a week or so worth of clothes. It again, reinforced on how little I need to get by, to be content.
Now, we have moved back into our newly renovated house and are hesitant to move so many “things” back. We figure, if we could manage for six months without them, we probably don’t need so much.
It’s the simple things that matter most. Thanks for the reminder.
Life for sure teaches us lessons, also reminding us not to take anything for granted. That’s life, but the reality is getting back without anger animosity regret pity. You have got back with absolute integrity. May the power above bless you, your family, your team and everyone who supported you during this trying times. Stay bless
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