Most people who venture into the fitness community experience days where they feel fatigue, minor aches and pains, and soreness. This is seen as a sign that training is having an effect on the person in a way that facilitates growth and progression.
But sometimes these aches and pains can be more severe and cause the athlete to miss time from training, sometimes extended time. Injuries are never desired and can oftentimes be very defeating to an athlete, who has invested a lot of time and energy into their training to achieve their goals.
No athlete knows this more than Washington Commanders QB Alex Smith, who in November 2018 suffered a compound fracture in the fibula and tibia of his right leg, which led to sepsis and 17 surgeries to follow. It was nothing short of a miracle that he returned to the football field in 2020, two years after the devastating injury. But how did he do this? Most athletes would’ve retired and called it a career. Well, Alex understood that as unfortunate as it is, sometimes injuries are uncontrollable and this one was not going to take him away from the game he loves. He performed every rehab assignment, exercise, rep, etc until he was cleared to play again. To do this takes a lot of strength and willpower, which exists in all of us.
Injuries can be very defeating, but sometimes there is a silver lining. Is there something in your life that you’ve been putting off because you haven’t had the time or the energy to complete it? Recovery time can be a good opportunity to invest time and effort into pursuing those endeavors. Maybe you want to learn how to swim? Maybe you want to learn how to speak Spanish? Instead of focusing on how you cannot workout, focus on how you CAN learn a new language, or practice a new skill.
When I was in college I injured my right knee squatting. I thought it was the most devastating thing. I loved working out and I felt good about the program I was following, and now this injury was going to ruin it. But, instead of focusing on the fact that I couldn’t squat or do much lower body movement, I decided to pursue additional upper body work. I utilized the time I would’ve spent squatting and focused on the areas I COULD train (upper body, core, conditioning not utilizing my lower body). In that time I was able to increase my 1RM on the major barbell lifts (bench, shoulder press), as well as achieve my first strict ring muscle-up!
The moral of the story is that injuries can affect anyone from the professional athlete to you and I. How we decide to mentally cope with the injury will have a huge impact on how we progress as athletes and as people. We can let the injury derail us, or we can achieve new skills and new heights in areas we never thought possible!