A few weeks ago Sandi wrote an article called “I’m hurt! Dealing with the physical and mental challenges of working out while injured” which hit pretty close to home for me. I’ve been a walking sports injury since I was about 12 years old when I was told I had achilles tendonitis in both of my achilles tendons from gymnastics. That was just the first of many sports injuries I would acquire over my life (my physiotherapist called me a “lifer” the first time I walked into his clinic); torn rotator cuffs, dislocated shoulders, torn meniscus, hips out of place, pulled muscle after pulled muscle, torn and strained back muscles… The list goes on and on. Honestly, it seems like I’m always in pain but because I’ve always played sports and I’m ALWAYS injured, it’s just something I’ve learned to deal with and push through and I’ve always played anyway. Is this just me being stubborn and stupid? Probably! But also, in reality, it’s something I may have been brain washed to do.
I can remember when I was 16 pulling all the muscles in my lower back playing hockey (I’m a goalie) and having my coach telling me to “suck it up princess” to which he proceeded to give me some pain pills and rubbed some “blue lotion” that was used on horses to relax their muscles, so that I could keep playing. You see this kind of thing in movies all the time as well. Any Given Sunday, a football movie, shows this with one of their side stories where they just keep giving the guy needle after needle so he can keep playing. I know professional sports and Bantam hockey aren’t quite the same, but the fact that my coach said that and did that (and it wasn’t the first or last time I’d encounter coaches or trainers with the same mind-set in my sports career) actually caused me to start thinking like that as well. I ended up finishing out the tournament that weekend with a strained (or torn) muscle or two in my lower back, popping pills and putting on horse lotion all the while only to have it catch up to me a few years later where now I have chronic lower back pain.
Flash forward 13 years and I don’t know how many injuries or how many pills later, to a month ago to when I tore my left rotator cuff playing volleyball. Usually after I hurt myself like that (it’s been known to happen) I just suck it up and push through the pain and play anyway. People always give me shit about it and always tell me to go to a doctor, but I never listen and I’m sure I only make things worse by doing so. After reading Sandi’s article I decided to try something different; I decided to actually take some time off and try to heal properly. I ended up taking 12 days off from the gym to rest my shoulder with no weight training at all and no volleyball. After 12 days I was feeling good and feeling like I could workout again with some light weights and was starting to strengthen my shoulder again. I started playing some volleyball and was feeling good. I was happy. I even felt like I learned something from all of this experience.
Now, flash forward to two weeks later; My shoulder felt good enough to play in the last volleyball tournament of the year so I went out and played. About half way through the day I rolled my ankle beyond explanation. I saw stars, thought I was going to throw up and couldn’t put any weight on it at all. But instead of bailing on my team and saying I couldn’t play, what did I do? I sucked it up and played out the rest of the tourney (we lost in the finals). After that I didn’t do much of anything for 10 days, again taking the advice that I’ve been told a million times, to stay off of it (mainly because I couldn’t walk). I stayed off it, iced it and stretched it every day for the 10 days and once again, was feeling good! The thing is that in taking all of this time off, I started to LOSE MY MIND! So, I decided to go play some hockey Tuesday night. I figured I’d be OK in a skate because there’s support in it and my ankle won’t move. I was wrong. I caught my edge going side to side in my crease and once again, rolled my ankle. I once again saw stars and almost threw up. It was not pleasant. So, here I am again, icing and stretching and starting at the beginning again after 10 days of healing.
I know this is a long story, but I want to get across to you all that I think I may have finally learned something. You need to let yourself heal PROPERLY when injured. My ankle wasn’t ready for me to play hockey, but because I felt “good” I decided to play. You need (and by you, I mean me) to take the proper amount of time off when injured and make sure you’re healed and don’t push yourself when you start to feel better. If you’re someone like me who is very active and have always been told to “suck it up princess” and have always played through the pain, I know you feel like you’re going to lose your mind if you actually sit-down or don’t go for a run or don’t play your sport, but it’s for the best! The way to stay sane is to do the little things that you CAN do without any pain. I’ve been doing my kettle bell class but modifying the workouts so I have the least amount of pain possible. Doing cardio machines, like the bike, that don’t put any pressure on my ankle. Basically, all the crappy workouts I usually hate and don’t do, I’ve been doing them because it’s still doing SOMETHING.
Keep your spirits up and let yourself heal, because if you don’t, you’ll end up being off longer than you should have been in the first place.