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Taken Down by Injury: When Stronger Turns Into Weaker

Building strength, improving mobility and posture, developing martial arts skills: all of these seem like  brilliant ideas…until you become seriously injured and lose access to all of those basic movements. One week ago I got caught in a knee bar at jiu-jitsu class, but rolled out safe, or so I thought. The next morning I went to coach rugby in a cold rain for several hours; picking the ball up and passing while running. I felt tightness and a little tweak of pain, but thought that maybe it was simply a urinary tract infection or muscle fatigue. The answer: stretch and do a few heavy squats and deadlifts to warm the muscles up.

By the next morning I could not walk or get out of bed without severe pain in my groin/adductor muscle area. I could not move my left leg outwards nor could I put weight on it.  I felt awful. What had I done to myself? Fortunately for me, I have been seeing a chiropractor for the past six months to improve my back and posture, and he was able to confirm that I had a serious level 2/3 strain of my adductor muscles, but that they were not torn. Tearing these muscles would have probably required surgery that would have ended my progress in jiu-jitsu and powerlifting. With a trip to the local drugstore I was able to pick up an ice pack, KT tape and a few other essentials to improve my situation. While I still could not sleep in the bed, I felt like I would be okay after a week of rest. I felt this way until a sneeze caught me off-guard and catapulted me into pain that felt like a rusty butter knife scraping my thigh socket. I was no longer improving, but rather, I had fallen into a chasm of helplessness.

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In a matter of a few short days I went from feeling like I was in the shape of my life to feeling like a weak invalid who might have a myriad of unresolvable health problems. I could not sit or lie down without intense pain that never seemed to cease. I worried that the strain had become a tear. I saw myself as never being able to train in either jiu-jitsu or weightlifting again. I saw a lot of darkness.

Three days later, with a lot of ice, heat and compression I have been able to reduce the pain to where I feel human again. While my experience was minor, it could have become much, much worse, which forced me to reflect on how bad my health could have become had I not begun to transform my personal fitness regime. But you hurt yourself doing all of these crazy activities? Right? Yes. I did. However, I could have just as easily ripped these muscles picking up a shovel full of snow or grabbing a puppy off the ground. If I had done that, then I would not have had a chiropractor to support me, I would not have the mobility tools or understanding to rehab my injury, and I would not have my love of jiu-jitsu to get me up off my pity parade route.

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In the end, I feel confident in my approach to building what remains of my life into a second half that is better than the first. I will need to significantly lower my weights for the deadlift and squat for a few months, but then I can use that time to improve my technique. I am off the mats until I feel like I can roll soft enough without injury recurrence. I will put much more time into mobility and small muscle strength to ensure that I can avoid re-injury, and eventually I should be back to where I left off last week: stronger by becoming weaker towards becoming stronger. On the positive side, I hit my PR of 254 pounds on my squat last week and I am getting closer to my first white belt strip in jiu-jitsu. Now I simply need to take what I have learned from this setback and turn it into a positive gain for the long haul.

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