You cannot reach your Peak if you do not know how it feels to be weak

Posted: February 1, 2016 in Recovering from Injuries
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It is unavoidable that physical activities are packaged with injuries. When participating in physical activities, the possibility of injuries can never be removed but can definitely be reduced. And when an injury occurs, we can always make something positive out of it. Physical activities and sports enable a participant to enjoy & express themselves. There is a big return of investment when it comes to fitness, mental health, social interaction, and emotional well being. Physical activities makes us faster, stronger, and better as long as done in a consistent and progressive way. But they have inherent risks which may be perceived as a threat or a challenge. The process of overcoming the challenges offered by the physical activities makes them tools for self-improvement. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we finish a marathon, sail across the oceans, and climb mountains. But sometimes, when we cannot finish the race due to an injury, do we just sit back and feel sorry for ourselves? Or do we get back up? This is not only for guys and gals who are injured and are recovering, but for anyone interested in improving themselves thru training. It refers to works by psychologists and scholars and shares some personal stories, observations and experiences.

 

Physical activities require some degree of skills, physical fitness, and mental resilience. If the cumulative demands of all our activities exceed our capabilities, a breaking point will be reached.

Related:Setting initial training expectations by understanding a natural process called GAS

In the exhaustion phase of the General Adaptation Syndrome, the body is not able to cope with the stress and its function starts to decline. Injuries can be a manifestation of this phase. Understanding how we react to stress enables us to have a sense of control over our injury and not the other way around. Scientists suggest many models, like the GAS, that helps us understand the processes that we undergo. Kubler-Ross (1969), identified a five stage grief reaction response: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance or reorganization. It was again discussed by Pederson and Gordon (1986) as how athletes may respond to injury.

Basing on the 5 stage reaction response model, being angry is a part of the process but it does not stop there. The process starts like a dark tunnel wherein negative emotions like anger and depression are expected after injury, but as we learn how to deal with it, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We begin to accept the situation and then reorganize. If you have been recently injured and you are reading this part of the blog, probably you are past denial stage, maybe getting over bargaining & depression and likely beginning to accept & most likely reorganizing and looking for ways how to recover fast. Those who did not get past the first paragraph and quit reading may still be angry or in denial of their condition.

In a study conducted by Tracey, they interviewed recently injured athletes who also had previous injuries. They discovered that thoughts of the future were influenced by thoughts of past injuries and their successful recovery from the injury. “Knowing what to expect” was reported to give further peace of mind and had a “calming” effect that allowed them to stay positive and focused on recovering.

We can also learn from the experience of others. When I was 15 years old, I broke my collarbone just before the summer holiday started. Before the accident, I was really looking forward to going back to the local YMCA to continue my Karate training. I cried because of the pain, of the thought of missing the chance to train, and most of all because I was uncertain if I will ever be able to do things I like to do again. Being young, I did not know what was going to happen. But I was lucky that a kind Medical Intern talked to me. He said he broke around 23 bones before he reached the age of 20. But he is there standing strong and healthy. His words worked a lot better than the medicines. It made me stop crying when I realized that, like him, I can recover and still be strong. I must have gotten past the “Angry” stage at that point thanks to his story! I was also very lucky to have a bodybuilder for a brother-in-law and who was my first mentor in lifting weights. He had bodybuilding & fitness magazines. Since it was already summer holiday and I had nothing else to do, I read his magazines & came across articles by champion bodybuilders (of that era) like Kevin Levrone. He wrote about his injury that required surgery. Bodybuilders are judged according to their muscular development. He had great chest & upper body development but his calves needed improvement and while he was waiting for his wound to heal, he trained his calves. When he fully recovered, he ended having a more proportioned built because he was able to use the time to work on his weakness while allowing his chest to recover from the surgery. Another bodybuilder wrote about his long road to recovery after falling down from a powerline to a train track and breaking most of his ribs, his legs, and dislocating his ankles. He might have died if he was not physically fit. And he was lucky to have a loving wife who encouraged him to go through the slow and painful process of learning how to walk again. Because of his wife’s support, he eventually regained his health, trained again, and became one of the great bodybuilders of his time.

 

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An athlete with a fractured leg is still being trained. The purpose of training is to minimize leg atrophy and also to give him something to focus on instead of just feeling sorry for himself. He recovered and became one of the best badminton players in Hong Kong. To make him feel better, I told him my experiences recovering from my fractures.

After I read those stories, I began to see hope. I also read a bit about fractures and even if I understood then that there is a slight deformation of the bone due to a misalignment, it did not matter much. What mattered was that I can be as physically active as I would alow myself to be and less than a year later, I was able to top the physical fitness test of our class. It was a big achievement for me after the injury. After a few years, I again had an accident while rappelling. I was already a Physical Therapy student at that time having my semestral break. I broke my left fibula, chipped the tibia, broke 3 metatarsals, and snapped a tendon on one of my fingers (which I discovered after about 12 years later). I was actually happy after the accident. Not because I was injured but because I did not break my spine nor injured my brain from the impact of falling. I became my first patient and trained myself in my brother-in-law’s gym, that is after he mentored me on how to lift weights. Four months later I was jogging, although with a slight limp, and 1 ½ months on I went on an expedition to the second highest mountain of my country. It was a goal I set prior to the accident and decided to stick to it to motivate myself.

 

Looking back at my experience as well as those of others, it reinforces the Integrated Model of Emotional Response to Injury as developed by Wiese-Bjornstal (2). It suggests that events prior to injury would have an effect to the response to injury. The work of Tracey(1) further supports this. They interviewed injured athletes. Quoting a part of her work, it says:

 

⌈The influence on their emotional experience was described by the participants as a“learning experience.” They learned that they must take care of themselves and “not to take anything for granted.” The experience of sustaining and recovering from a moderate to severe injury was marked by a variety of emotional responses by the participants. Most participants referred to the idea that “injuries just happen,” with a few mentioning that “things happen for a reason” and they had to “listen and learn to take care of themselves.”⌋

Thoughts and affect changed over time to view the injury as a challenge which participants approached with a positive attitude. The experience of the participants was acknowledged as a process in which they learned about themselves and the many emotions involved with being injured.2

 

And here is a quote from the internet. It says it is from Bruce Lee:

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but again, the problem with quotes from the internet is that we do not know if they are genuine. So here is my own quote:

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This is for a friend who is recovering from an injury who is on another part of the globe. We have been through some of the toughest challenges that we faced and we came out smiling.

References:

 

  1. The Emotional Response to the Injury and Rehabilitation Process, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology Volume 15Issue 4, 2003; Tracey  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/714044197#tabModule
  2. An Integrated Model of Response to Sport Injury: Psychological and Sociological Dynamics. WIESE-BJORNSTAL et al. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10413209808406377#.VIloBdKUfTo

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