Gremlins and Tantrums: Dealing with Injury

Injury. Pain. Tweaks. Setbacks.

We can do our very best to prevent these things, but as anyone with an active body knows, sometimes it's inevitable. For some, a couple weeks of rest and recovery is a welcomed break. But as my fellow movers and adventurers know, being out of physical commission is a fucking nightmare. The means is different for all of us; for some it's a solid sweat sesh, others a strong lifting day, for some it's summiting a snowy peak. It's our passion. Our sanity. It's how we press the "reset" button for not only our bodies, but minds and souls as well. So you can imagine my reaction when, after bulging a disk in my back three weeks ago, my PT said to me, "For the next few weeks you're allowed to lie down, stand, do pelvic tilts, and ingest a shit ton of ibuprofen." I held back tears and did the mature thing by accepting my current situation. My maturity lasted about a day. Probably less. I had a minor breakdown the next day while walking through the Redwoods with a friend. I happened to be in Cali when I got injured, and prior to that I was so looking forward to flying through the Redwoods on a long trail run. My body was no longer capable of granting me that bliss, and it killed me. I was in too much pain to even get on the ground and throw a proper tantrum!

And then came the gremlins. Someone very close to me uses this term to describe the anxiety and restlessness that results from going too long without exercise. Athletes, you know what I'm talking about.  Maybe it's a week or even a day without movement, but the feeling is all too familiar. We get antsy. Restless. Our mood starts to go south. All the rainbows and unicorns in life start to look like monsters. We feel like a foreigner in our own bodies. It is like being attacked by an army of gremlins that can only be killed by movement. Can I get an AMEN?!

I can't say I handled this first week very gracefully. I consumed more caffeine than is normal for me in attempt to replicate that endorphin rush, and threw more tantrums than an adult should in a single week. Watching my friends run and climb and handstand without me made me sad and irate at the same time. No lack of wallowing in self-pity here.

But every day the pain becomes less and less. Every few days I am able to add more exercises back into my routine. (I never imagined that doing a plank on my toes would be such a great victory.) I am learning to celebrate every little success in the process, and am using this time to focus on movements that I wouldn't have otherwise. Is it any less frustrating? Hardly. But I'm gonna keep moving. If I can do planks, then I'll do planks. If I can climb stairs, then dammit Ima drag my ass to Red Rocks and go up and down those goddamn things until my legs fall off. I'm also becoming a hanging machine, cuz even with an inured back I can work grip and finger strength!

If you're dealing with a setback in training, take heart. You've just got a hell of a gremlin army that your facing, and though most of the population may not quite understand, I get it. There's always something that you can do though, so DO that. It's boring as hell sometimes, I know. But do it anyway. If all you can do is walk, then walk. If all you can do is lift your big toe, then lift that toe again and again until you can move your whole foot. Visualize your next big trail run or muscle up or dance. And when you feel frustrated, come drink wine and watch South Park with me because I'm finding that that is great therapy as well.