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…and pop came the sound of the muscle tear at the end of the heavy barbell shrugs movement. I knew immediately what it was & what it meant.
Just when I had thought that my workout was regular & I was making some real good progress in muscle gains. Just when I had thought I would be able to achieve my goals if I just keep up the momentum I had built in the last 18 weeks. Just when I had invested so heavily on the supplements stack. God damn it.. I didn’t need this now.
Trust me guys, if you are an athlete who is serious about his goals, then injuries are inevitable. They are definitely avoidable if you are careful about your form and your train-rest-recovery cycles. But an athlete is all about pushing his/her physical & mental barriers of performance. When an athlete is IN-THE-ZONE then the rush of endorphins suppresses the pain & pushes you to train harder. Hence my statement- injuries are inevitable.
I am not going to delve into the physical aspects of recovering from an injury. Ice, rest, elevation and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory tablets are pretty standard as initial precautions so as to not aggravate the injury. But what is a matter of greater concern is the state of mind of the athlete. If the state of mind is right, then one will take the right decisions and with great discernment. If the state of mind is anxious, hopeless, in despair or in denial then the injury will be prolonged, stemming from the wrong decisions made.
So this article is an endeavor to provide a step-by-step guide to your emotions to keep your mind stable and positive in the face of adversity.
Step 1: Acknowledgement and Acceptance
If the injury is something major, the pain is excruciating then you just can’t help but come to full terms with it. But it is usually those Grade1 or Grade2 injuries that tend to get ignored. It starts with a pain in a certain movement. The problem is that after a warm-up set and into the workout the blood rushes to the spot of the injury and soon there is an Endorphins and Dopamine release that suppresses the pain and you start to feel that it is going to be alright. Soon it starts to hurt in that area even in a regular free movement without weights. That’s when the injury would have progressed to the next Grade.
It happened with my Shoulder injury last year. It started with a pop sound near the AC joint which I undermined as a small injury that will go away. Instead in 6 weeks it had become worse.
So learning from such injuries in the past, the earlier we accept the gravity of the situation the faster the recovery.
Step 2: Dealing with Anxiety
An injury completely derails an athlete’s momentum towards his/her goals. How long is the injury going to take to heal? How fast can he/she get back to the normal workout routine? When will the same intensity return with which one used to push himself/herself? Is it an irreversible damage? Could this be the end?
This is the phase when you turn to multiple opinions from the Orthopedic surgeons to sports Physios, who will give their opinion on the recovery and rehab time. Also you start reading about various athletes who have had similar injuries and their experience with it. My advice to the reader is to be extremely discerning as each one of them may have a different thought. Go in for an intervention surgery as a last resort. The more knowledge you gain about your injury, the more your mind will relax and come to terms with it.
Step 3: The Depression and the Blues
One can’t help but feel this way. Once you know it is going to take 3 months or 6 months or a year to heal and there is nothing much you can do about it, then what do you do?
The dark, depressing thoughts are bound to creep. I remember weeks going by sulking, as I saw my muscles shrink, my fat percentage go up, my diet slacking as I was tending to eat stuff that I won’t normally eat. When the momentum is lost, the discipline and the rigor is broken, the motivation to remain regular flies out of the window.
Step 4: Adapt-Improvise-Overcome
“Fight Back You Bum”
Yeah I love that line from Rocky, the way Mickey says it.
I feel that anyone obsessed with fitness is nothing less than a warrior. The battlefield is always in your mind. If there was no warrior within then there will be no challenging the plateau, pushing yourself when you feel like giving up, to just show up at the gym when your entire body feels like it has been beaten to pulp and come out saying, “That was some workout!”
So you have had an injury, but that’s not the end of the line. Unless you have had a major accident and it hurts everywhere, there are definitely other parts of the body you can continue to train. Become innovative to design a workout for yourself for 5 days a week so you keep the momentum going.
My shoulder injury prevented me from any movement of the shoulder. So, no back, no chest and of course no shoulder exercises. Also no swimming, no rowing and no cross trainer. I designed a workout where Day1 was Quadriceps & Calves. Day2 was Abs and Obliques. Day 3 was Biceps, Triceps and forearms. Day 4 Cardio with running, cycling and some days skipping. Day5 was Hamstrings, glutes and Calves.
A lot of folks I know become so demotivated post an injury that they suddenly give everything up and their life comes to a grinding halt. Soon all bets are off and they give up completely. It is extremely important to view your injury as ONLY a Set-back.
Finally, I would like to give you the example of Franco Columbu, Arnold’s best friend and workout partner. In 1977 when he was participating in the World’s Strongman Competition, he slipped and fell forward with a fridge strapped to his back in the Fridge Carry event. Now imagine falling on your knees with 400kg. His knee cap shattered, he had multiple tendon tears, severe cartilage damage and also knee dislocation. The doctor looked at him and said I am afraid you won’t be able to walk without crutches again. Franco laughed and said, “Walk Doctor? I plan to be running and lifting weights again.” The Doctor said,” You don’t know how bad is your injury.” Franco replied, “But you don’t know me.”
3 years later, in 1980 not only was Franco back to squatting 900lbs but also went on to win the 1981 Mr.Olympia.
When I read about this incident in one of his interviews I couldn’t help but think a champion is first made in the mind and then the body follows.
Wish you a speedy recovery!!
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