Why Injuries Totally Suck Not Only Physically but Also Mentally

by - September 28, 2018

Healing from surf injury, yoga caused strain or any other sports injury, takes time and it not only totally sucks physically but mostly mentally. For most of us who love to surf and stay active, the recovery period can be a true suffering. We count on our surf-fix to release our anxieties, relax our minds, and keep us fitter, happier, healthier, and saner. Here I am, in Hawaii going on almost two weeks without a surf and pretty much going crazy, pulling my hair out. 

A few years back I injured my ribs, surfing of course, and it happened on the left side of my body where I have a large scar from childhood. Due to the surgery, around 2 cm in depth of muscle and tissue had to be removed, hence I am lacking the necessary padding to protect my fragile ribs. 

First time around following the injury I was out of water for 4 long weeks, experiencing pain for months on during the following 3 - 4 months. During my surf trip to Bali and abusing my water time, the injury pain returned. Again, I was out of the water for 2 weeks on end, experiencing pain and having to take breaks away from the ocean here & there for around 5 weeks. I am currently in Hawaii experiencing the exact same issue, the second week with no surf, lack of exercise and driving myself crazy.

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Through my injuries, I noticed a pattern in my physical and mental healing, so let me put this into stages to help you recover faster, meaning you'll get to the water sooner. YAY! 

• STAGE #1 - DENIAL
Most of us tend to ignore injuries. Broken toe? Just tape it to the other toes. Reef and fin cuts that need medical care and proper stitches? Just use some butterfly stitches and lots of lime juice.
Yeah, it mostly works like that, but what about muscle injuries?

Some pains and aches might just disappear, the bad news is that other times they might not. These little pains can turn into an actual injury stopping you from surfing - altogether. Listening to the body and taking some time to rest, can save you from having to spend from weeks to months out of the water.

Take me for example, I started experiencing pain from the attachment point of one of my adductor muscles to the pubic bone, creating pain leading down my left leg. I thought, ‘I'll just stretch it out deeper’, and I continued surfing and practicing active yoga. Which actually irritated the injured muscle and caused inflammation. Soon, I found it uncomfortable to sit on my board, sit in general or even during inactivity. Eventually, I had to stop exercising for 3 weeks to purely focus on recovery and gentle rehabilitation, giving my muscles time and space to heal. Now, even a year after I still experience occasional pain. All this, simply because I ignored the first signs of an injury and pushed through, while instead, I should have rested.

• STAGE #2 - ANGER
Yes, learning that you have to stay away from surfing can indeed be devastating. You ask yourself - why is this happening to me?! Why now?! You feel it is unfair and you feel like a victim which then only makes you feel frustrated and angry. You may be angry at your body, your trainer, your family and friends, anyone and everyone around you, and even the universe.

Having a positive attitude (even though it feels impossible) can go a long way! Use positive self-talk and giving yourself some self-love. So yeah, be angry and hurt at first but then put yourself together and focus on getting better. Set some rehabilitation goals and remember to start off slow.

• STAGE #3 - PATIENCE
Oooh, this is a tough one! I am the least patient person in the world and have been working on my patience ever since I can remember. You pass the anger stage and now you want to do it all and do it right now. Well, bad news - recovery needs time! 

Thinking that the more rehab, massage, physical therapy you do, the sooner you I'll get back in the water? Well, think again. The good old - 'less is more' definitely applies here, or even better 'time heals'. So take it one step of a journey at the time. 

• STAGE #4: MOODINESS
Yes, you know it, poor mood or even depression can lead to feelings of lack of belonging. As surfers the sense of belonging in the ocean, or as yogis - stepping onto the mat, these are such important parts of our lives. Surfers especially can experience a sense of an identity loss when placed on hold and taken away from the ocean.

Having the time and space you didn't have before CAN be a good thing. Instead of being mad that you are not able to do the things you love the most, try to switch your perspective. Pick up a new book, focus on exercises that are still safe for you to perform, get finally though that never-ending to-do list, or pick up on a new hobby

• STAGE #5: (finally) ACCEPTANCE
When you start noticing the progression, the acceptance comes in too. Anxiety and stress can cause your muscles to tense and your immune system to lower which can also delay the recovery process, so focus on practicing a positive and peaceful mindset to encourage healing along with acquiring a healthy lifestyle. 

Try to stay away from foods like sugar, saturated and trans fat, refined carbohydrates, gluten and alcohol that increase inflammation in the body. Instead, reach out for: tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, and collards), nuts and fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges).

• STAGE #6: FEAR
You put your head down, spent the time away from the surf, you’re physically ready to return to your active lifestyle, but it doesn't feel the same? 

Fear of re-injury is natural, and this is the part where you have to focus more on your mind, rather than the body. Look at Keala Kennelly (female badass pro surfer) for example, it took her two years to go back to Teahupoo after a horrific wipeout accident she experienced at that very break in Tahiti. Depending on how traumatic your injury was, it can really take long for your mind to be ready than it takes the body to recover. So this is where constant positive energy and encouragement are crucial. You got this, trust the body - it knows what it's doing. 


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Nonetheless - injuries always teach us a lesson, they can make us stronger and more aware, they teach us more about our bodies and its muscles, the anatomy and recovery, and in the long run - they make us even better surfers, yogis and athletes.

Our bodies are smart and through injuries, they speak to us when something isn't balanced, we just need to get better at listening to what our bodies got to say. We can seek help and guidance, but after all - we are the ones needing to do all the healing.  


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