Last week I had a really cool chat with a member of our community regarding injuries and motivation and I wanted to share the theme we ended up at with you all.
Although our and your intention should always be to avoid injury and to limit your exposure to the risk of injury, they do and can happen. In the gym, playing sport, at home or at work there is always the risk of us picking up an injury. Thankfully the vast, vast majority of injuries are small and heal up pretty quickly. They require us to rest or adapt our training for a short period of time and then we are back to beasting it.
Unfortunately there is always the risk in life of something more serious or long term and that was the focus of my conversation last week – how do we cope with long term or direction changing injuries.
Some context for you: I used to be a lot ‘fitter’ if we think of fitness as being good at the sport of CrossFit. I could lift considerably heavier, push certain movements and ranges of motion a lot harder and ultimately compete at a lot higher level. Then I injured myself through bad movement in the garden. Keeping it brief my injury prevented me from training for a long period of time, when I eventually came back to training I was extremely limited in what I could do and even to this day, over 3 years on, I have to scale and adapt my training to work around the after affects.
I am more than aware of the crushing effects a long term injury can have on you. I personally tied a lot of my identity to my ability to train, to compete and to progressing in both of those things. I felt a considerable drop in my self worth when I was no longer able to do that to the level I had previously. It put me in a very deep funk.
Back to the point of the conversation: How do we cope with that funk, that feeling of despair, that lack of motivation or frustration that comes from an injury?
Now we have two types of injury to consider. Long term and direction changing. Long term is self explanatory, an injury that is a long road to recovery but recovery is achievable – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Then we have what I call direction changing injuries. An injury where the chance of complete recovery, either physical or mental, is extremely slim and we need to focus on adaption rather than recovery.
So for long term injuries coping is hard, no doubt, but it’s doable and the mind is primary. How we react to an injury that is long term is purely down to how we view it. We can take a negative stance or a positive one and obviously the later is the way to go. Rather than get yourself down about what you can no longer do we have to find goals in what you can still get done.
One of the first things I could do after my injury was pull ups and dips. So I did them. 100’s of them and then 1000’s of them. I set myself goals for reps completed in a day, in a week, and then max sets. Then I set about beating them. This allowed me to forget about the fact I couldn’t touch a barbell and my squat was awful as I could focus on the improvements my gymnastics game was getting.
Now each circumstance will be different but I guarantee there will be something you can focus on whilst you are recovering and chances are it might be a good time to turn a weakness into a strength!
My injury was somewhat direction changing and this change of direction was the point of my chat last week. It is how I got passed my funk, eventually, and it is what keeps me motivated and training hard today. It is something that in all honesty has given me more purpose in training and more drive than competing ever did.
Previously my goal, my purpose was always to be better. I gauged my progress by improved stats – lifting heavier, moving faster or completing more reps or placing higher. If i wasn’t doing better I wasn’t progressing.
If I kept this as my focus I would now be in a very frustrated place. I am unable to push olympic lifting in the same way I used too and regularly have to cap the weight I squat to avoid pain and discomfort.
To fend off frustration and keep motivated I changed my goal posts. My goal now is simple. How long can I keep a high and well rounded level of fitness.
Now I don’t strive to squat 200kg. I focus on being able to squat 120kg for many, many more years.
Now I don’t worry about PB’ing my clean and jerk. I work on being able to always have the capacity to clean and jerk 100kg in any circumstance.
Now I don’t worry about being able take 5 seconds of my 5K time. My aim is to have a 22 minute 5K for the rest of my life.
Now some might see this as defeatist, as giving in to injury and giving up on my goals and that is exactly what I used to think. I tried to ‘come back’ several times and get back to where I was but my body was always more than willing to remind me of the discomfort my injury was capable of inflicting. So I got real with myself, what was really important to me, why did I really train in the first place.
For health – my biggest fear, experienced partially during my recovery, is being incapable of looking after myself. I train so I can move freely, fend of disease and be healthy into old age.
For ability – I want to be able to defend myself and my family if needed, one day play with grandchildren and enjoy the experiences life has to offer.
For fun – I enjoy training and moving. I like seeing what my body is capable of and I love the feeling training gives me.
For my mind – the 6 months that I couldn’t train were horrendous for me. The implications for my mental state of not training were a tough burden to bear and I know I was not the best person to be around during that time.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, don’t compete sometimes or that every session is easy for me. I still grind, can still bury myself on a lot of movements and am still progressing in many aspects of fitness. It just means to don’t get disheartened or frustrated when I find a squat 50kg off my lifetime PB heavy or that I look at my peers moving up levels with jealousy. It just means I stay in my lane, think long term and support those more capable than me in any way I can.
So if you have an injury that prevents you from doing what you’d planned or your lifestyle doesn’t support your goals and isn’t chanegable, then move those posts. Find something equally challenging but more inline with your current direction and work hard. Energy spent wishing things were different or feeling frustrated is wasted.
(I know this turned into a bit of ramble so sorry but if you do need help setting a goal, finding some direction or focus or are struggling with an injury get in touch and we can talk it out.)