“You are what you do daily” 

These were the words from a friend this week who is a neuroscientist.

They explained to me that who you surround yourself with rewires your brain and what we engage with has the power to rewire our brains. 

Is this one area that makes stepping away from international sport so hard? 

As the world watched Mark Cavendish crash out of what might have been his last Tour de France - provoking discussions about the record he was hoping to get in this year’s tour, it is maybe more than just the record that will play on Mark’s mind. 

Stepping away from life as an athlete is very hard, it is a big part of any athlete’s identity and where they have placed their focus on for most of their life.  

It is hard enough to retire on your own terms, but when an external event takes it away from you, then that can be even harder to process. 

I know for me my tribe and friends are all in sport, it is where I feel my happiest. 

I always have massive amounts of empathy for athletes who end sport in terms that aren’t their own.

It is something I still wrestle with today and probably why I have never fully said I have retired.

Even now as I wait on classification for discus, I feel it is me trying to hold onto that feeling of being an athlete.  

And it is without doubt the hardest part of this 13-year journey of tumours and spinal cord injury, as I have written about many times.

“I lived to move”.

I know I am not at the top end now to win, but I struggle most with this body I have been left with, and this week has been a hard reminder of that and the future. 

As Cavendish recovers at home and we as cycling fans wait to see if he signs for next year, with Astana already offering him that opportunity, I sit looking at a wall with the Rich Roll podcast playing in the background.

Rich is chatting with Cam Wurf - who I reckon is one of the best endurance athletes in the world having moved from Olympic Rower, to Pro cyclist with team INEOS - not to mention being and one of the top Ironman athletes in the worl.

I try to pick up a 4kg dumbbell that sits next to my chair. 

I feel the endorphins rush through my body as Cam explains how much he just loves to train.

His love for sport is infectious and I try to press the dumbbell above my head.

I so badly want to feel like the athlete I once was. 

I push out 20 reps in pain and look up at a rowing photo on my wall from an early morning session in Spain back in 2011, where I was doing a 20km session at 7am.

With the mist on the water it is hard to pick out the boat, but just looking at the photo I remember what it felt like to not just row, but to walk, to move my limbs and feel free.  

I feel as though I am both a prisoner of my flat in London and of my paralysed body.

Having left Scotland I found my legs not working on Monday morning, the drive down had caused havoc with my nervous system and that means not leaving my flat since arriving home. 

I feel the instant drop in my mental health, the slippery slope into sleeping all day to numb the pain of both the boredom and the pain in my back from my twisting spine caused by my spinal injury.   

As I listen to Rich and Cam talk, I am not fully present, scrolling the phone between lifting this dumbbell.

I search for the updates on spinal cord injury recovery, has there been a breakthrough since I last looked? 

With so much sport on currently I feel even more lost, trapped in a world I don’t want to be in with a body I don’t want. 

I try to find strength from listening and watching fellow athletes, but it is not doing much for me this week if I’m honest.

I would give anything right now to turn the pedals on my gravel bike or feel the cold water on my face as I swam through Loch Morlich but unfortunately events out of my control took me back to London. 

“Breathe David”.

That is what I mutter to myself. 

‘I must find a way to fight, to keep going’. 

I haven’t given in once in this 13-year fight for my life, but I can’t lie, the stress of everything hitting at once is sometimes massively overwhelming.  

I leave you today with one wish.

Move your body today as if tomorrow you would be paralyzed, the gift of health is your greatest gift.

Don’t waste it when you have it.