Injured? Remember These Things…

Injuries are awful. I hate them. I hate the uncertainty. I hate the waiting. I hate the patience they require. But goodness do we experience a lot of injuries as gymnasts.

I remember going to a doctor’s appointment one time and the doctor asking me to tell her all the injuries I had had. I looked at my mom with a look I’m pretty sure said, “Are you kidding me?! We’ll be here all day!” But, I sat there and did my best to go through each and every injury I had ever had as a gymnast. And let’s just say that’s a VERY long list.

If you name it, I’ve probably had it. Not to mention the two tears I currently have in my shoulder from spotting. So I’m having surgery in a month to fix that up. Basically all I’m trying to say is I’ve been there. I was pulled out of my level 10 state meet because I found out the week before I was supposed to compete that my back was fractured… for the third time. I missed an entire season because of a tear in my shoulder (completely unrelated to the ones I have now). I competed level 9 Eastern Nationals on a fractured arm (not recommending you do that.)

But injuries are something you have to be able to navigate as a gymnast. You have to learn to take care of your body. You have to learn to be patient and actually listen to your doctor… even though it’s not fun. At all.

I’m writing this to encourage you today. I want you to know that when you’re facing an injury and aren’t allowed to do anything, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to get through it. But there are some things you need to remember as you wait patiently for your injury to heal.

 

  1. It won’t last forever.

It’s so easy to get caught up in being miserable and bored because you can’t do anything. And because of that, it’s really easy to just ignore your doctor and do what you want. Please don’t do that! In the grand scheme of things, this injury is only a very short part of your gymnastics career. And if you push it too much, you might end up prolonging your injury even further, and I can tell you right now that you DO NOT want that! It’s much better to be patient (I know it’s hard) and listen to your doctor. Give your body the time it needs to heal. It won’t last forever. And you might even heal faster than expected if you do what you’re supposed to do! But it might last longer than you want it to if you jump back in too soon.

  1. You only get one body.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the body you have now is the only one you get in this life! And it has to last! I know it might feel like a good idea to take your boot off your broken ankle so you can test it to see if it’s better yet, but DON’T DO IT! You need that ankle to last until you’re 100 years old! And if you push it now, you’re probably going to live in pain for a big chunk of your life. And it’s just not worth it. I promise you, you do not want to live in pain. And you do not want to have to have surgery because you didn’t take care of your body. I’ve been through both. It’s not fun.

  1. You have time to get stronger!

I know, I know. Conditioning isn’t fun. But in this sport, it’s 100% necessary. Use the time you would usually be spending on skills to keep your strength up, and maybe even gain a little! Your skills will be so much easier when you do get to come back if you keep on strengthening your muscles. If you get lazy and depressed because you “can’t do anything”, you’ll lose a lot of strength and your skills will be that much harder when you’re released to start training again. This time can be so beneficial if you’ll actually use it to your advantage!

 

Sometimes it’s tempting to lose hope and give up when you’re injured. Especially if it means you miss out on competing for a season. But I promise you’re going to be okay. I remember waking up with back pain every single morning, so much so that bending over to brush my teeth was excruciating. And I was only seventeen! I was so scared that I was going to have to live with that pain for the rest of my life. Now my injury did require surgery, but I remember a few weeks after surgery bending over to brush my teeth and all of a sudden realizing I wasn’t in pain anymore! It was amazing! But I had to be patient. I had to do what my doctor told me I needed to do.

Thankfully, most gymnastics injuries don’t require surgery like mine did, but they ALWAYS require patience. If you do what your doctor tells you to do, if you do your boring physical therapy, if you’re patient throughout the healing process, you’re going to wake up one day and realize that you’re not in pain anymore! Doing your skills will be fun again because they won’t be painful! So choose to be patient. I promise it’s worth it.

Excuses, Excuses

Oh, excuses. Let me be the first to raise my hand and say that I am totally guilty of making excuses. And if we’re really honest, everyone is! Excuses are our cop out of things we don’t want to do. It’s amazing the excuses my brain can come up with sometimes. It’s so easy to come up with a reason why we can’t or won’t do something. Especially as a gymnast! We face so many things as gymnasts – fear, injuries, soreness, exhaustion, etc. The list goes on and on. And those are legitimate things. But, it’s super easy to let those things become excuses.

So what’s the balance? How do we deal with these real issues and not let them become a crutch we use to get out of the things we just honestly don’t want to do?

Here are the three most common excuses I hear as a coach (and made as a gymnast) that I want to confront.

 

  1. “I’m scared.”

Now, I’ve talked a lot about fear in other posts, but I want to mention it here as well because it’s a big one! And it’s also a silent one. How many times have you avoided a skill because you’re scared? You spend the whole workout pretending like you’re actually working on something, when really all you’re trying to do is avoid that one skill. And you’re hoping and praying that your coach doesn’t notice because you’re “working” on something else.

Did I just touch a nerve? Like I said, this is a BIG one! Unfortunately for the girls that I coach, this doesn’t work very often. Because it wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes doing the exact same thing. So I am VERY aware of this little trick. Sorry ladies! But not really. Because this doesn’t do you any good. Instead of talking to your coach about your fear and letting them help you work your way up to that skill, you just stand there. And you do nothing. And that, my friends, will do absolutely nothing to help your gymnastics.

Maybe you’re afraid to do that skill on a high beam. So instead of avoiding it completely, you could talk to your coach about a game plan of how you can work your way up to the high beam. Maybe today you do it on the low beam and by the end of the week you set a goal to do it on the high beam. Most importantly, you don’t just stand there and do nothing. Open your mouth and talk to your coaches! They understand that fear is real! And they want to help you.

  1. “I’m tired.”

Listen, I know that being tired is a reality. And it really does affect your gymnastics. But let’s be real. We’re tired almost everyday. Especially late in the afternoon when it’s time for practice. You probably were up until midnight the night before doing homework (because you got home late from the gym), woke up at 6am for school, spent all day in classes and taking tests, and now you have four hours of gymnastics ahead of you. Um, can I have a nap please?

Just like being scared, this requires communication on your part with your coaches. Don’t just be lazy! If you are really especially tired one day and feel like you can’t focus on anything, talk to your coach. Now, this doesn’t mean you ask if it’s okay to not do your skills at all that day or if you can go home and curl up on the couch. But maybe you ask if you can lower your numbers for the day. Ask if you can do drills instead. Perhaps you ask if you can spend a little more time on conditioning where you don’t have to focus quite as much. Whatever it may be, there’s always something beneficial you can be doing, even if it’s not your usual full out practice. And do whatever you choose to the very best of your ability.

  1. “I’m hurting.”

This one is really important. Please hear me: If you are injured, listen to your doctor. Don’t push through the pain. Let your body heal. But if it’s just convenient to say something is hurting because you just really don’t want to do that particular skill that day, that’s not okay. Use wisdom in determining if you feel injured or if maybe you’re just a little sore from yesterday’s conditioning. It’s important to know when it’s okay to push through the pain and when you actually need to stop.

Always listen to your body and let your coach know if something is hurting. If something new is really bothering you and keeping you from doing your skills fully, you need to let them know. Ask if you can do the things I mentioned above… lower your numbers, do drills, or maybe just do conditioning.

If something is continually hurting and does not get better, GO SEE A DOCTOR! Don’t just keep using that pain as an excuse to get out of doing skills. It’s important that you get it checked out so that you and your coach know what’s going on. It can be dangerous to just keep pushing yourself when you’re really injured because you become more focused on the pain than on the technique of the skill you’re doing.

Speaking as a coach, it’s very difficult to help you as a gymnast if you just continue to hurt without having a professional determine what’s wrong. If there’s an injury there, we want to help you take care of it. We want you to heal! But we can’t do that if we don’t know how to treat it.
You are a smart young woman, so use wisdom! This is your gymnastics. No one can read your mind or feel your pain. Use your words and communicate with your coach! Don’t be afraid to talk to them. You have to take care of YOU. And they care about you and want the best for you. So be honest with them.

If you want to progress and succeed in your gymnastics, it’s time to get rid of excuses. You can do this! I believe in you.