Getting hurt sucks. It sets you back in the pursuit of your fitness goals, it robs you of the cathartic workout experience, it makes you gain weight and, worst of all, it traps you with yourself (my least favorite drinking buddy). Unfortunately, however, for many of us, injury is an inescapable part of the fitness journey, and recovering from injury is what separates athletes from the people who just tell stories about fitter times long past.
I’ve never been a natural athlete. I was an awkward kid with bad hand-eye coordination and a bony build – destined to be last picked on the playgrounds of life… that is, until I found my athletic calling. Skinny as I was, it didn’t take long before I realized that I was a bruiser; well suited for only two things: taking a lot of punishment, and occasionally, dolling it out myself.
In high school, I set records on my football team as the lightest starting varsity lineman in state history when I was one of only three sophomores to make the varsity squad. At the time, my coach attributed my success on the field to lacking “any sense of self-preservation whatsoever.” Helmet to helmet contact was my weapon of choice, and 9 times out of 10, I found that my head was tougher than the other guy’s. Of course, eventually, I’d get hurt bad enough in a game to require a week’s stay in the hospital… but in my mind, that was just the price of being me.
In college, I earned a starting spot on my rugby team without ever touching the ball. “Thunder and lightning” is what they called my best friend and I – he was a big brute that could run through crowds, I was the smaller, quicker guy (at six foot, 225) that would punish encroaching ball carriers whenever we didn’t have possession. Of course, I’d eventually be knocked out cold during a winter game, only to wake up in the hospital with staff holding me down and cutting off my clothes.