I couldn’t move my shoulder. It felt as if my right arm was not attached to my body and hence I had no control of it. Such things can happen in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although quite painful at the time of injury, it does not seem to be severe. However, the injury has halted training. This is utterly unbearable for me. I am not talking about the pain; the physical pain is almost nonexistent unless I try and, heaven forbid, actually use my shoulder. Even then, the pain is more annoying than anything else. The couchtime is excruciating, not the physical pain. The necessary rest, the inability to do what I love, is infinitely more painful than my sprained rotator cuff. We, as athletes, feed off of our ability to use our bodies; we are dependent on it. It’s how we grow as individuals. When injury strikes, you feel stagnant. The inability to progress physically can translate into inability to progress mentally, if you view it as such.
Now injuries are frustrating for everyone, not just athletes. I’ve noticed that a similar breed of injury induced frustration is often found in individuals who have only recently began exercising. This frustration stems, in part, from the idea of being prevented from working towards a goal. It takes a lot of energy to start working out. It is an immense, difficult, and complicated lifestyle change, definitely no easy feat. So it is understandable that once someone has finally arrived to the action phase, they are reluctant to return to inaction, even if they are clearly injured. Working through the pain, of course, often makes the injury worse, and pushes training back even further. Pain is your body telling you to stop. Yep, that’s right, “no pain, no gain” is misleading. Listening to your body is of utmost important when testing its limits.
As a mixed martial artist, hell, as an ATHLETE, it is inherent that you will get injured. It’s not really a matter of IF it’s a matter of WHEN. That is not to say that you cannot minimize the risk of injury. There are plenty of ways you can, which I will discuss in later blogs. However, even when following the proper precautions and techniques, with the intertwining of determination and exercise, injury is bound to strike at some point. So what do you do when injury rears its ugly head? How do you deal with being sidelined from your goal? For starters, sitting around wishing you hadn’t done that last bench press, curl, hill sprint, kick, or kettlebell swing won’t do you any good.
As much as I cannot stand being injured, I do usually come out of it with a new perspective on my sport, and much more knowledge about “insert injury and body part here”. Unless you completely obliterate every part of your body, from every angle, there is some form of training or practice that one can do during injury season. For example, my shoulder is injured. I can focus on my jab, do body weight squats, balance drills, and strengthen my core musculature, the latter two being crucial for minimizing the risk of future injury and maximizing physical potential. Having an injury also frees up some time to study, to reassess, to think about what we were doing wrong and how we can improve upon it.
Injuries can give us time to reevaluate our approach. If having one body part injured is unbearably frustrating, chances are you neglecting other important training methods. I am not going to be worse off for working my balance, legs, and core intensely while my shoulder heals. Giving yourself a break can also yield a time to forget bad habits(come on, everyone has them). The longer a bad habit persists, the harder it is to forget. After a long break in training, one has to relearn skills to a certain extent. This allows the opportunity to reform(hopefully correct) the neuromuscular pathway responsible for the bad habit. Coming back from an injury is a fresh start, if you choose to look at it that way. Thinking like this has helped me stay motivated during my many injuries, as well as aided in preventing a relapse injury upon resuming training. One must remember to take it slow and pace yourself when coming off an injury. I’m sure the last thing you want is more couchtime.