My amazing holidays on Bali came to an end with ruptured tendon on my right hand wrist.
Initial emotions which filled my head when I sat in the hospital in Kuta (Bali) amongst many tourists with “Bali belly”, broken legs and arms and green faces, were anger, frustration, setback, pain, upset, anxiety and disbelief.
I was angry with myself, with the world, with the sport, with my holidays, with everyone and everything who might have contributed to this situation. X-ray scans arrived and showed no fractures, MRI scans showed the most feared for injury – tendon/ligaments tears. I was in need of an operation which would reconstruct my tendon for a proper healing and to grow back, however I was advised to do it in the UK and take a flight home as scheduled – 3 days later.
As the nurse immobilised my wrist and forearm with a temporary brace, the reality of the situation dawn at me. I will not be able to train for 2 months and longer, I will miss my first crossfit and weightlifting competition and my progress will turn into regress. Sad moment.
When you arrive at the point of realising that your injury is for a long-term and you won’t be able to continue to train, you’ve actually arrived at the crossroad. From here you must make a choice of how you react to this situation. Your choice is either reacting as majority would – feeling sorry for yourself and letting the weight of the situation drag you down; or you can react as a true athlete in an athlete spirit where setbacks are viewed as opportunities to come back stronger.
Choice no. 1 – feeling sorry for yourself
This choice is made by us humans too often. We choose to feel sorry and dwell on the situations from a very negative angle. It is applicable to any setbacks, break ups, job losses, injuries and other emotionally heavy impacts on our lives. The surroundings we live in, work in and are influenced by will play a big role in this choice being made.
Firstly, majority of your friends and families and colleagues will feel sorry for you and no doubt they will express it in calls, texts and their behaviour, they will encourage thoughts about your injury being “bad”, “painful” and with long-term consequences.
Secondly, all you know and are coded with from a very young age is the information about injuries – they need rest and they are a setback. Doctors will tell you “no training for 6 weeks”, they put you through operation and stick a cast on (in my case), they immobilise your injured part of the body, prescribe painkillers, drugs and suggest no exercise for a long period of time.
Thirdly, your own perception of the situation is influenced by both surroundings and professional diagnosis and treatment. It is therefore very easy and almost understandable to make a choice no. 1. It’s the obvious one anyway and you are almost pre-coded to make this choice, so don’t despair if you find yourself in this article. You can learn from it for the next time.
Sadly the consequences of making a choice no. 1 are going to mean that your setback is going to be a true setback which will impact your fitness even more than the injury alone would have. It often means that you abandon your healthy lifestyle, find excuses to eat junk and comfort foods and prolong your recovery time not only through poor nutrition intake but often alcohol intake too.
Choice no 2 – if you eat like an athlete, train like one YOU SHOULD react to setbacks like an athlete would
This choice is the one which you are not told or taught how to make. It is a choice you need to learn to make as you get older, wiser and it becomes a result of disciplined life as well as the result of making the RIGHT choices through the messages sent from the RIGHT surroundings. This choice can only be made if you love your body, understand it, listen to it and you are in a complete equilibrium with it.
Luckily athletes have their coaches and professional sports doctors who when treating them, whether surgical or non-surgical way, create just the right surrounding for the athlete and his/her recovery. In addition, family of athletes also know what kind of words/messages need to be sent to injured athlete. This type of surrounding doesn’t encourage athlete to make a choice no.1.
Sad reality is that majority of us amateur athletes, fitness crazy, don’t have the surrounding which is that powerful. We don’t have doctors who understand the underlying issue of the injury. Our families are supportive of us, but they are not trained or told how to help us to make a choice no. 2. Our friends and colleagues see you as a crazy fitness enthusiast who probably overtrained and deserved this injury.
Making THE choice no. 2 – amateurs manual to turning Setbacks into Comebacks
1. Arriving at the “crossroad” I knew I had to make a choice – you must realise and firstly be aware (many ARE NOT) that you have a choice. They are simple: Injury will be a setback for long OR injury will become a comeback in disguise – all you need to do is make the choice no. 2, BUT it starts with realisation that you have the said choices
2. Surround yourself with the right people and accept the fact that there will be friends and family who will try to influence your thoughts, but you MUST talk to your coaches, fellow athletes or even read information on sports injuries and how to cope with them. There is a lot of right information out there, but also a lot of information which conflicts with making choice no. 2
3. Accept the injury as part of the long-term goal which you probably set and keep reviewing as you progress. My goal is set for 2 years and I chose to accept this setback as part of getting closer to my goal. It might be hard to believe that injury will get you closer to it as it might seem like this is getting you further away from your fitness goals, but in a long-term it is only 2 months out of 24 which you will be out of the REAL ACTION. 2 months are less than 10%!!!
4. Don’t take it word for word when your doctor says “NO TRAINING or EXERCISE” – this is one of the biggest mistakes we all make when injured. I injured my right hand wrist and tendon. Yes, life with this injury is not particularly easy and I am uncertain about when the pain will stop, when will the operation take place and the real consequences of it, but I chose not to accept NO TRAINING or EXERCISE comment from doctors. Nothing is stopping me from exercising my core and abs, doing crunches, leg raises (on the floor) and many other exercises which will keep my form going and in fact will improve the most needed part of my body for weightlifting moves – abs and core.
Also, my legs – they are not injured! Why shouldn’t I try to work on my legs? Squats are the best way to keep training when upper body is injured. I started with air-squats and body weight lunges but I am sure during my recovery when my grip improves I will hit my back squats with supervision of my coach.
5. Avoid junk food and boozing as much as possible. When your body is injured all it needs is a lot of healthy nutrients to heal. I was also given a window of roughly 2 months before I am back on track and training. I made a choice that I will do another Whole 30 in that period and offer my body a lot of healthy nutrients in form of clean eating.
As it is joint/muscle injury I also upped intake of fish oils and other natural sources of nutrients.
Keeping your body fueled when it is injured is the key to speedy recovery.
6. Socialise wisely – time out of the gym means a lot of free time. As I now won’t be training with my fellow crossfiters and weightlifters I won’t be spending evenings in the gym for some time, there will be a reduction in my usual physical activities at the weekend, so I am faced with a lot of free time. It is going to be hard to fill, but I chose to use this time to self-educate myself and use it to improve in other areas of life. My work requires my full attention and committment as well, so I will spend more time here and get ahead of the game. My blog and writing will also get more attention and finally I will write my papers for weightlifting coaching certificate and prepare for exams.
7. Find a new goal while injured and deliver on it – I’ve decided that my goal is to perfect my abs and core along with my bum, so when I finally return to training I will be stronger and turn injury into comeback!
I am a girl and I lift heavy, so what’s your excuse?
Article credits go to: Rich Kite – my weightlifting coach, Kim – my training partner and a friend, my family – my dad particularly who is my long distance coach and other friends and athletes. Thank you for helping me turn setback into comeback.