Monday, October 29, 2012

When You Allow Your Past Injuries to Identify You

Injuries suck. Any type of injury that creates detours in your daily life or activity level can be frustrating, stressful, and cause depression. I've had my share of injuries--both simple and complex. From simple muscle strains, turned ankles, and swollen ruptured tendons, inflamed tissue and lacerations--any injury can put a damper on your training. However, this is dependent on your attitude.

Every week, I meet new people that cannot help themselves when it comes to pointing out an old injury to me. Mind you, the said injury was suffered 5, 10, or 15 years prior and they tend to make it sound like it happened yesterday. They will grab their ankle and tell me that they had severely sprained their ankle running in 1997 and it "may" hinder their progress in the gym. Or that same ankle injury sustained years prior has been the reason why they have not committed to a training program. Or the female client that continues to use her Cesarean section scar as a reason why she cannot lose the belly flab that she adamantly grabs in front of me. You would think she gave birth within the last 6 months, however she is 55 years old!

In today's society, we tend to have a desire to be identified with something that has contributed to the cause of our present-self. Just like a handicap sticker seen from a vehicle's front window dangling from the rear view mirror, we tend to walk around life with our own handicap sticker dangling from around our necks. 

Last week, I received a message from a prominent strength coach in Canada named Rob King. He wanted an update on my pectoral tendon tear recovery. You know what? I had actually forgotten that I was in the middle of rehabbing an injury that the doctor told me would take up to 1 year. It had been 5 months and my training level had increased and I was unaware of any deficits in training intensity. Within 5 months, I had returned to normal activity levels. I was told it would be a 8-12 month recovery after surgery--but I remained steadfast on my rehab and progressed very nicely strength-wise. I updated my recovery progress with a new video:

There are entirely too many people that walk the Earth looking for reasons why they are not where they are physically. The easiest "cop-out" is blaming an old injury. This injury is by-far not my first one--especially my first serious one. However, I refuse to allow people to "handicap me" or treat me differently because of a perceived short-coming. And I think,  that is what people want when they seem obsessed with an old injury. They prefer to be treated differently. They prefer to be given low expectations, rather than high expectations.

Trust me, I am not trying to minimize any type of injury. I have encountered many clients over the years that have had substantial, life-altering injuries. However, it was their attitude that was the difference.

So why has our society become so infatuated with self-imposed "handicaps"? I think I have a few reasons that are strictly opinions:

1.) Pain intolerance. It seems that society is split between dare-devils and coach-potatoes. The shift towards more dare-devilish type competition has increased in popularity due to events such as the Crossfit Games and Tough Mudder. Many individuals are looking to push their physical capabilities without a perception for consequence. On the other hand, we have a society that is also lowering their threshold for pain and seeking sympathy from care-takers, family and the medical community. These people seek out medications or other habitual negative behaviors such as alcohol consumption, poor diet, and drugs.

2.) Specialized marketing. Prescription drug companies are rich and powerful. They lobby for legislation in politics and within the medical community. They also have alot of power within the big broadcasting companies. How many commercials do you see during the mid-day between 1-4pm on prescription drugs? Some. How many do you see later in the evening during prime time TV programming? Tons. There is a reason for this strategic marketing. Viewers are inundated with illness and disease information that "brain-washes" many to become hypochondriacs.

3.) Rise in hypochondria. Too much information can lead to hypochondria. Websites like WebMD are a pot of gold for people looking to find the right information to learn about a condition. However, many people that use websites like WebMD are ignorant to the human body and pathophysiology. The more information that a reader is exposed to,  the more they begin to question their own health state. Ignorance plays a big factor here and is something that can be rectified with localized/specialized education.

Injuries occur to be overcome. I have said this for years and truly believe that they can be a learning experience into one's character and physical hardiness.


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