The Inevitability of Injury
All people who engage in physical activity will be confronted by injury sooner or later. For those of us, who feel that physical exercise is life, an injury is particularly painful because it impedes us from engaging in an activity that provides us with profound well-being. The two greatest issues we face in dealing with injury are that we often lack self-compassion and do things that make our injuries worse, and most of the literature is focused on a band aid approach that addresses symptoms instead of the problem. Let’s break these two issues down further.
The Trouble With Self-Compassion
Commercials and biographies honor and esteem athletes that have trained and performed despite injuries, and encourage us to follow the same philosophy. If only they showed the lasting injuries sustained by these athletes for their troubles, people would raise more questions about these strategies. The reason we experience so many injuries is that our mindset is directed towards acquisition and punishment rather than compassion and well-being. We want more muscle, more endurance, more skills, more abs, and when our body yelps in pain or soreness, we ignore these signs and punish it to get what we need.
When we are guided by self-compassion, we listen to the body. We see what it needs. We work intelligently to meet those needs. Punishing our bodies leads to injury. Self-Compassion towards our bodies leads to well being. The former also leads to less intelligent training than the latter. The same results can be accomplished by self-compassionate training with fewer injuries. When one part of your body is sore, self-compassion will tell you how to heal it, and what other parts of your body are available for training. There are always endless things you can work on to help you get gains (ie: endurance training, strength training, agility training, mobility training, skill training). Punishing our bodies no longer sounds so good, when we know it is going to lead to long-term injury, and is actually unnecessary.
Band Aid Treatment For Injuries Guarantees Their Return
We all get injured. That is just a fact of life. You may have over trained a joint, slipped, fallen, slept incorrectly, or used poor cardio or lifting mechanics. Unfortunately for us, the available literature and media focuses primarily on a band aid approach. Take some Ibuprofen, a hot bath, elevate your injured limb and apply ice, and use some stretches. To remedy injuries we need two things: strength and range of movement or mobility.
If your body is not equally strong and mobile, then certain parts of your body will work too hard and eventually fatigue and become injured. Tight ankles lead to knee injuries. Lack of hip movement leads to back injuries. The list goes on.
To know what your body needs, you must take a self-compassion approach. If you are hard on yourself, you will just look for band aids that will allow you to go back to punishing your body. Hello long-term injuries! If you are kind to yourself, you will be able to put your pride down, and focus on what will help you train more effectively.
In my own life, this took many years, but eventually I trusted a master trainer named Sam Dadd, and he changed my life completely. Now, when I experience injury, I know just what to do, and I am able to return to training much faster than I had been able to in the past. I have internalized his compassion for my injuries, and slowly been able to accept pain and frustration when they arise, thereby making room for more curative means of treatment. Want to know if it works? Before Sam, I spent nearly three months in physical therapy for back problems with doctors of physical therapy to no avail. Two weeks with him, and I was able to start boxing training. Five weeks later, I was in the ring sparring people.
Do not wait for a miracle surgery that might actually diminish your range of movement and make it harder or impossible to return to the activities you love. Do not punish the body that works so hard for you by using a band aid approach to remedy pain and injury. Likewise, give up a grueling approach to training that involves training through injury.
A Self-Compassionate approach leads to more consistent and successful athletic ventures. And, just because it urges you to listen to your body and be kind to it does not mean it is weak. I box for goodness sake. There is nothing weak about that. At the end of the day, you want to do what is best for your mind and body. In this case, it is notice where you have tension in your body; name it; soften around it; let it pass; and bring kindness to it by increasing mobility, strength, or focus on an activity that elevates a physical activity that will not worsen the injury. Whatever the case may be, be kind to yourself. Your body is worth it.
365 Days Of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 99. In The Books.