Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

It’s time

Prague-97
It’s time to sit up (literally) and get over it. Yes, I know I still have healing to do. I know I have to recover from surgery three days ago, but I think lying prone for about 98% of the last 72 hours ought to be about sufficient for lying around like a blob feeling sorry for myself. It’s time to man up and accept what has happened and move on. And it’s time to learn the difference in feeling sorry for myself and allowing myself some compassion.

I read a lot of words from a lot of people in the fitness world, but there are only a couple that I admire and respect like I do Krista at stumptuous.com. I asked her if she had any advice for dealing with career-ending injury a couple weeks ago and she sent an incredibly wise email that she later turned into a blog post titled Keep Your Head In the Game: Dealing With the Mind-fuck of Injury & Illness

I am working on all of the steps she outlines … I’m grieving the loss(es), I’m trying to practice resilience, but the one most important to me being able to mentally get back in the game is #5.

Soften towards yourself.

Practice compassion. A common approach is something like this.

Think about being your own best friend in this moment of pain. Imagine your body and spirit being like a frightened little child. Comfort yourself. Give yourself a little hug. Your body needs love and care right now, not criticisms like “How could you be so stupid!” or “How could you let me down like this!?” If you wouldn’t say it to a lost and scared little girl who’s just fallen down and scraped her knee, don’t say it to yourself. Ever.

Yes, compassion sounds woo-woo, but it’s based on good solid neuroscience and it works.

More on compassion — I highly recommend the book.

Either she read my mind, or everybody who goes through this reacts in similar fashion, because I’ve been beating myself up since this happened. The constant refrain in my head (and out loud) is to wonder how I could do this to myself. I’ve also wasted a lot of energy imagining how stupid other people think I am for doing this to myself. But Krista makes a good point. If my little niece was  running down a hill, having the time of her life, wind whipping her hair, nothing but sheer joy in her being, and she fell and busted herself up, would I berate her? Duh. So why am I doing it to myself?

I was having fun. I was having the time of my life getting strong. And yeah, I made mistakes. Some in judgment, some from lack of knowledge. I never questioned the amount of weight I was lifting because I liked lifting heavy. I liked lifting heavy every day even better.  I loved every minute of it. So I didn’t speak up often enough or loudly when the pain went from bad to worse, but if I’m being compassionate with myself, it was too late by then, anyway. The damage was done. I might have gotten it fixed sooner if I’d stood my ground and insisted that yes I was too injured!, but with that oh-so-accurate hindsight, I see now this was an injury built over months of excessive loading of my lumbar spine in my pursuit of strength, not in one workout, and I. Did. Not. Know.

I wondered why I was able to lift so much more than women my size and heavier, what with no athletic background whatsoever, but I thought it was because I was working so very hard, not because I was putting myself at risk by working stupider. I didn’t know. And while that will never be an excuse again, because I will make sure to arm myself with information, I have to forgive myself for this. It was no single person’s fault — including mine.

So it’s time to stop worrying what other people are thinking (my mom has always told me it’s none of my business anyway) and time to stop kicking myself while I’m down. And just get up. And in the spirit of #9. Come up with a new game plan, time to see what’s next when I finish my job right now, which is just to get better.

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