In 2016 I got injured during a CrossFit Games Open workout. I’m not sure if it was actually this that caused my injury or if it was an underlying issue I didn’t know about and that heavy deadlift was the cherry on the cake.
I battled this injury for years after this moment, never going to the GP, never going for a scan, never really seeking any proper help until a few years later. Instead, I just took pain killers, a few days rest before getting straight back into it. I know what you’re thinking, ‘how stupid’. But how many of you have had an injury and just trained through it or been so sore you can’t move much but got on with it regardless? Truth is, we CrossFit Athletes are too addicted, we thrive too much from the buzz of the box, from lifting that barbell or practising something until we get it right, we love seeing our friends and that ultimate sense of achievement when finishing a workout. It’s a huge part of our lives and for a lot of us, it’s what makes us who we are. Now not going training is like telling your child that Santa doesn’t exist, you wouldn’t do it, and so you won’t skip the gym.
In April 2019 my back finally left me in a state of complete and utter emotional mess and a lot of physical pain to the point it scared me. Over the next few months, I realised how much I took for granted. I couldn’t stand up from a seated or horizontal position without help, I had to climb the stairs on hands and knees, and I couldn’t shower or dress myself without help. It was during a moment after getting out of bed and I couldn’t walk to the bathroom that I truly stopped and broke down completely. This caused me to re-think about what I wanted from the Gym and what was important to me.
I’d been doing CrossFit for nearly 7 years, but this pain shattering moment taught me that my overall health is so much more important. Did I want to stop CrossFit? No. So I had to reassess my goals in line with my body’s new limits. I no longer concentrated on heavy lifting or working towards nailing a gymnastic movement, I concentrated on rebuilding what was broken. I started seeing Charlie from Fox Chiropractic Clinic, then I sought help from someone I truly admire the owner of ION Strength and Conditioning Robin Sowden-Taylor who took the time to sit with me and others and talk about back health, pointed us in the direction of Stuart McGill (a back wizard) and gave us our own rehabilitation programs to follow.
The following months were tough, rehab work after rehab work, massages, stretches, chiropractic appointments, dialling in on nutrition, doing research on your injury, attending MRI Scans. Watching all your friends hit Team workouts, lift those heavy barbells, get their first muscle-ups all the while you’re ‘stuck’ with this injury. Injuries take a toll on you in more than just a physical way, they emotionally and financially drain you also. Below are my four steps to the road of recovery from an injury.
1. Emotional well-being
You HAVE to go through those emotions, allow yourself to feel whatever loss you are feeling, then deal with reality, and start looking to the future. Allow yourself to be angry, hurt and confused. This is ok and part of your healing process.
2. Goal Setting
Set some new goals. Don’t sit and feel sorry for yourself thinking ‘what if’ and ‘maybe if I had done that’ – every set back thrown at you in life is just teaching you a lesson. Learn from it. Set goals then work hard during your rehabilitation to achieve these goals. My goal was to Deadlift from the floor again pain-free and be fully confident while lifting again. I achieved that at the beginning of the year with the help and support of my Powerlifting Coach, Jordan Helyer. I haven’t given up on CrossFit, I’m just taking a bit of a sporting break while I tackle new goals and achievements.
I held myself accountable and I also had help from people in the gym who supported me through this process. Surround yourself with a support system, educate yourself on your injury, get the correct medical care and advice, eat healthy, and speak to people about your injury. You need to mentally recover as well as physically recover and this is so often overlooked. Having the right support group around you will keep you on the right path.
4. A New Purpose
Once you have mentally and physically recovered and back in the gym remember everything you’ve gone through. Don’t fall back into bad habits, keep up with the rehabilitation work, look after your body as a whole. Enjoy something new and different and achieve new goals that give you a different kind of purpose.
Always remember you can recover from any injury with the right attitude and the right mindset. Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey.