First time back at the Dojang after injury. Taking extra time to stretch.

Picture this: you train hard and often to become a better and fitter you.  If you’re a martial artist, you also are energised to keep perfecting your skills. You do this even though you know that ‘perfection’ is always a moving target.  You’ve been training for months, if not years.  Then something happens.  You sustain an injury.  It’s not just any odd injury that you can jump back into action after a few days.  It’s one of those injuries that will greatly impact what you do and how you train for some time coming. 

Gutting?  You bet.

However, what if I told you that you don’t need to reduce the effort you put into training. Instead, think about reallocating the direction of your training during this period of recovery. 

This is something I have realised after I tore my hamstring in early September 2019.  Shifting the mindset in this way has led to many benefits.  Let’s unravel it.

The challenge of the mind and body

You may have heard people say that many things are down to the mind.  Essentially, if you could move past a mindset barrier, you could achieve things otherwise not thought possible. 

Now considering the injury example above, it’s reasonable to think that this statement doesn’t hold true.  After all, if the body is injured, training through willpower may make the injury worse.  This thought typically leads many people (including me), to take time out completely from their fitness and/or martial arts goals.

However, my realisation has proven to me that your mindset still has a vital say in the direction you take.  It’s still possible to advance in your training during this period even if your physical capabilities are limited.  This is because your training focus could shift to increase the mental and spiritual dimensions more whilst you are physically recovering.  By doing this, your total training time and intensity remains the same, but just with a different composition overall.

The values of patience and perseverance

This realisation came two weeks into my hamstring injury, at a time where I became increasingly disappointed with my recovery rate.  I always find there’s a danger of everything starting to unwind during injury: less exercise and a higher temptation to eat comfort food – and so the downward spiral begins.  Perhaps others can relate?

For some reason during this time, I remembered the values of martial arts, and in particular – that of patience and perseverance. 

As practitioners, or even fitness enthusiasts, we display patience to train hard to develop ourselves.  Our skills, fitness level, and abilities didn’t come overnight but through having the patience to keep working towards our goals.  Similarly, we persevere because each attempt is a step forward towards progress.

In the context of injury and training, patience could be applied as giving sufficient time for the body to recover.  Our ability to be patient is tested during injury.  By contrast, our will to persevere could be tested by seeing how we can problem solve.  In the case of a severe injury, this could be through seeking training opportunities that may not necessarily be physical.  These may include, but are not limited to, greater planning and understanding of the martial art or our fitness goals, and an increased awareness of our diet.

The outcomes

Applying the values of patience and perseverance for nearly two months now, I’ve noticed several benefits.  Although I’m still physically limited due to the slow recovery, I feel I’m much healthier, fitter, and content overall.  The injury challenged me to think about a solutions.  These solutions have enriched my mind and changed some habits. The result is an overall benefit to my health and fitness journey without going backwards.  It is because I have applied what I’m suggesting that I’m sharing it.  This message may especially be helpful to anyone reading who may naturally divert to train less intensely or stop completely for a while when injured.

In other words, when you meet a challenge, such as an injury, look for a way to overcome it so that you could keep training and moving along your journey.

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