Injury. To an athlete the word can mean many things: the end of a career, having to stop doing what you love, resting when you want to move, surgery, therapy, pain. Whether your a weekend warrior or a competitive athlete getting hurt sucks. It sucks so much that we often choose to ignore the pain and chalk it up to sore muscles. We rest it a bit and then get back out there “modifying” as much as we can. We don’t want to go to the doctor because we’re afraid they will tell us we have to stop. Stop doing the things that we love, the thing that lights us up inside and makes us feel alive and free. The thing that relieves our stress and makes us feel strong and bad ass when other things in our lives break us down.
I was one of these people. Over a year ago I tore my labral muscle in my shoulder doing overhead Squats during the CrossFit open. I felt the tweak in my shoulder and pushed through the pain instead of stopping. My coach had no idea I was injured until days later when I told her what had happened. I went to physiotherapy and tried physio tape, laser, exercises and stretches…and it got better for a bit. Until I would do too many push-ups or try to press weights overhead while teaching a strength training class. I managed to make it through the 2017 race season and even made it across the monkey bars at my Spartans even though I did tear a pec muscle and strain my intercostal muscles on the rope climb during a hot and dry race.
In September I noticed that my Achilles was really inflamed and sore and my calves were so tight I could barely stand up when getting up off the couch. Add to that the fact that my shoulder pain was aching down my arm most nights for no apparent reason and I realized it was time to seek help.
I don’t go to my family Doctor for much, that’s not to say that he couldn’t help me, but I believe that athletic injuries are better assessed and treated by athletic doctors and therapists who have been athletes themselves and understand both the physical and mental pain associated with injuries. So in November I went to see a Sports Massage Therapist named Dean at Structural Chiropractic in Airdrie.
He properly assessed my achilles tendenitis and instead of just telling me to rest it he worked on the giant knots in my calves that were causing my achilles, foot and knee pain. Was it pleasant? Nope. Did it work? Heck ya! Within a couple visits I was feeling much better and was running pain free.
Then in February I was swinging on the monkey bars with my daughter at Injanation (a local OCR play place) and I felt sharp pain in my shoulder. This time I stopped and rested it. But it didn’t get better. So off I went to see Dean again and he assessed it and sent me to a Sports Med Doc in town. The Sports Med Doc was amazing and assessed me with a SLAP tear in my shoulder and later a Rotator Cuff tear that was confirmed by an ultrasound. I was told not to hang from bars, do monkey bars or rings and no overhead movements with weight. He gave me physio exercises to do that should eventually help heal the tears without surgery. I was cleared to race but told to avoid any hanging movements like monkey bars and rings and anything that caused pain in my shoulder.
At first I was mad and frustrated. Mad that no one caught the tear sooner (I had seen a few people prior to Dean). Frustrated that I couldn’t work on my grip work as planned and have to avoid the obstacles I worked so hard on last year like the monkey bars and rig. I was mad that I had to change my plans from running in the competitive age group category to running in the open heat because I knew I would have to skip certain obstacles and do Burpees instead. I was frustrated that I had to start at the bottom and basic things like carrying my purse hurt my shoulder. I was mad that I was so close to getting my strict pull-ups and now I can’t work on them.
But then I decided to shift my thought process, instead of seeing all the bad things about this injury I chose to see the good. No I can’t work on my grip as much as I’d like BUT I can work on my running pace and endurance. I can work on my leg strength and learn how to use them to get over walls instead of trying to muscle my way up. I can work on my mental strength and learn to quiet that I can’t voice by pushing myself in my training. I started attending classes at Orange Theory Fitness and was challenged in new ways while being able to safely modify for my shoulder. I started to notice that my endurance was getting better and my pace was improving, I could run longer intervals and run the hills easier than when I started.
The silver lining of this injury has been that I have come full circle and have been reminded of why I fell in love with this sport 4 years ago. It’s easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of it all, you start to want to earn double and triple trifectas and race competitive and do all the obstacles on your own and if you can’t you feel down and mad at yourself. But half the fun of this sport is helping others and encouraging those around you and often accepting help yourself when you need it. So what if I still need a boost over the 8 foot wall? It doesn’t mean I won’t keep working on my strength and technique to be able to do it myself but for now I will accept the foot or butt boost that I need.
So this 2018 season I’ve decided to go back to why I love racing – to have fun and challenge myself while helping others along the way. I love meeting new people on course and chatting with them and hearing their stories about why they love racing. I love seeing the look on someone’s face when they conquer an obstacle that they didn’t think they could do. I will never get tired of the smiles on the muddy faces of finishers with their well earned medals. So if you see a girl walk past the monkey bars and go straight to the Burpee zone it’s not because she doesn’t want to try them or can’t do them, it’s because she’s trying to get through the race season without further injury. We only have one body so we should probably take good care of it.
Have you ever had an injury? How did you deal with it?