Coping and Dealing with Injuries

Mike Gillette, mind coach and record-breaking strongman, used to be a US Army Paratrooper. He relates the story of how he dealt with a major injury back when he was only 22 years old. At that time, he was “the guy who got perfect scores in every one of his army PT tests.” But then, he was involved in a climbing accident which broke his back and ankles. During his recovery process, he was told that he could never run or jump out of an airplane again, among many other things. However, he was able to recover and do those things again. He actually became stronger, to the point of achieving feats of super strength.

Before he was able to recover, he did have to deal with a lot of doubts because everyone seemed to be discouraging him. When you are injured, you do have to ask yourself a few questions. You even have to listen to those discouraging you, as well as the voice within you who is discouraging yourself. This is actually a normal and protective mental mechanism. “Engage the brain, and start asking some really deep soul-searching questions right now… but do not get consumed by that.” Just take a step back and acknowledge that there might be some things you cannot do yet during your recovery process, but try your best to keep from getting overcome by discouragement. Focus on the things you can do and take it one step at a time.

More recently, Mike had another injury sustained during combatant’s training. “I was coaching a guy through an arm bar control hold… I was encouraging him to put some pressure on me.” What Mike didn’t realize was that the guy he was training was actually putting too much pressure already and it caused a significant right bicep tear off the bone. Strangely, he said that he didn’t feel much pain because his pain threshold had been set too high due to all his super strength training over the years.

Once again, this was a learning experience for him. First, he was reminded that you have to be conscious about things that may not hurt yet, even though you think they should. These might actually represent “things that are going on that you’re not aware of.” Second, he had to hear those voices of discouragement again. Being 49 at the time of this bicep injury, he got a lot of advice from people, “well-meaning people… people who may be close to you…” as well as “people who maybe just never understood.” He heard a lot of these people say this was a sign that he should stop or cut back for his age. He asked himself the same questions as when he was 22. “Have I been pushing it too hard? Can I come back? How do I rediscover who I am physically? Where do I go from here?”

Mike says that the best way to deal with an injury is to always do something. You do have to scale back the intensity, but you have to find something to do. “If your legs are biffed up, then do something that doesn’t involve them. If it’s this arm, do something with the other, or work a lot of squats.” The key is to find a way to work around your injury in order to stay proactive, keep moving and still progress at a certain level. He asserts that “it will be tremendously therapeutic for you to not stop.” So whether you’re dealing with an injury, be it serious or not, keep your head on right and keep doing something. Remember: “forward movement always, and whatever you can do, make it as excellent as possible.”

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