Are you injured or just sore? Whenever I feel discomfort during training, this is the question my coaches ask. I have had injuries and I am often sore (it may be easier to count the times I’m not). I have dislocated toes in the spaces between mats, I tore a meniscus in a tournament taking down a guy 20 years younger than me and 70 pounds heavier, I have broken fingers due to poor placement in executing techniques, as well as bruises and strains from sparring and other tournaments. Pushing myself has left me open to the risk of injury, but to grow one needs to push oneself. Although many people disagree with me, I believe that if you don’t get injured once in a while, you are not training hard enough, but I think we can all agree that getting sore is part of the experience.
The biggest challenge to training is your brain. Your brain can talk you into believing you are injured when you are only sore. When I train after work, I can get distracted from mental fatigue. This fatigue can magnify stiffness, the wound-up feeling from stress, and soreness from the previous day’s work-out. All of these things conspire with my brain to convince me that I am too sore, too stiff and/or too tired to train. At the end of a long day the couch can look a lot better than the dojo. This can be exacerbated when you have minor injuries. I have trained with injuries. I have had to make adjustments but I kept up. At different times I have dislocated both my pinky toes. I would tape my toes and wear martial arts shoes to continue training. The tear in my meniscus was a bigger deal. That injury required surgery. I was unable to train for two months and even my stand-up coaches thought I was out for good. Again my brain conspired with my pain and insecurities post injury. The inertia of not training built up and in those two months not training became a habit.
Training and not training are both habits but not training is the path of least resistance. You will be pushed toward the path of least resistance at every turn. Once you build up positive inertia (training regularly), your training becomes a habit and it is easier to avoid or overcome pitfalls. The one pitfall that is always hard to avoid especially as we get older is our bodies rebelling. A severe injury can completely derail a training routine. We need to prepare ourselves, so we don’t fall into the trap of not training when we are able to. I jumped back into my stand-up training after my doctor cleared me from my knee surgery, but I always had an excuse for not starting up my ground training again. Because I stopped training, I have fallen behind my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training buddies. They have all moved on to blue and some purple belt and I have trouble getting out of my own way. That is a mistake that I am correcting now.
There are always obstacles to training including limited free time and recovery time. This just means that one needs to have more commitment to train. Commitment to train at 5:00 AM, to watch one’s diet more carefully to have enough energy to keep up with routines. It is hard to keep a training routine, but if I can do it, so can you. When my training-self wins, I am still tired, sore and stiff so I am unfocused at the start of class, but I get focused on the class quickly and when the class is over, I don’t regret training.
If you have been injured, talk to your doctor and listen to your doctor’s instructions. When you are cleared for training, get back into it right away. The longer you wait the harder it is. Make sure your diet is supporting your energy needs. Let your training become a habit. Martial arts training is like riding a bike up a steep hill. If you stop in the middle of the hill, it can be hard to start up again. You may need to walk next to the bike for a while, but you need to get back on if you are going to continue riding. Train hard, eat well and take care of your body.
Thanks for reading. NOW GO TRAIN!