How do I deal with not being on the mat?
I seriously, seriously appreciate the honesty that girls approach me with when they want advice on injuries. I can just hear in their voices that gut fear of falling behind. From experiencing plenty of the same fear myself, I wanted to give some insight into what it has taken me to come back from an injury and be able to try out for an Olympic Team a few months later.
I think the mental side of being injured doesn't get discussed often enough. For an athlete, we have worked and trained ourselves to be out of our comfort zone. It is only natural that during an injury, we can't turn that side of ourselves off so that our bodies can heal and we can focus on the slow methodical process of rehab. We want to GO. And go hard.
We worry that others are watching and paying attention to what we can and can't do. We envision our opponents wrestling hard and drilling daily. A task that is not currently an option to us. How do we handle these thoughts in our head? How we can in turn, create something positive for ourselves so when it comes time to compete, we are ready?
Understand this is where you are, and re-direct your focus
First things first, you need to work to move past denial. If you keep getting on the mat with an injury and keep hurting yourself, it's time to wake up and smell the roses. You are no longer doing yourself a service by wrestling through your injury.
Injuries are (mostly) out of our control. But the way we decide to let the situation effect us is within our control. If you use a meditation practice or a another great way of escaping and re-focusing your attention (writing, art, music, socializing, etc), use it! I can tell you that the stress and energy you spend worried about what could happen in the future, or if someone is watching what you are doing (or not doing), is much more exhausting and distracting to you psyche. I promise you, everyone is way more focused on themselves. Re-focusing your energy to an activity that is joyful is a-okay, and doesn't change that you are still a tough wrestler. Whatever feelings come up are validated and justified. Notice those feelings, then move forward.
Use this opportunity
It can be a rare opportunity to take a break in the middle of a career or season to focus on other aspects that attribute to wrestling. It can first, be a physical break for your body, and second, a break for your mind. How many times has a coach said, "I wish I knew this when I was competing?" This can be your opportunity to grow mentally and gain perspective in ways you hadn't imagined.
Watching video of not only yourself, but of top wrestlers in your weight class, age category, or of senior and Olympic level wrestlers is extremely valuable. We don't always get to spend dedicated time watching and taking notes. While watching video, you can let those visual images of other wrestlers sink in, then determine where you can apply it while you watching teammates practice.
How much time have you spent in this department? I'm sure for many of you, not much. Its not comfortable to dig in and answer questions about how you think during competition. If you want to try out some sports psych techniques that I have personally used, check out the blog I did HERE.
This is a great time to not only set goals pertaining to your injury (i.e. I will rehab each day, I will work on my stance, I will practice sports psych and meditation 2x/week) but also what your goals will be when you get back on the mat. If you'd like a tutorial on how to I use goal setting, check out that HERE.
I strongly believe this is not the time to sit back and chill while your teammates practice. It is still important to maintain a workout routine, ESPECIALLY if you are rehabbing the injury (and you guys know how I feel about the importance of rehab!). But if you are limited to only using half of your body, then its time to get creative.
Talk with your trainers or rehab specialist FIRST. Research ways to workout the half of your body that is healthy via blogs, google, and youtube. If you'd like to see how I have been creating a workout for myself since I had shoulder surgery in December, check out my YouTube video HERE! My other advice is get creative (as long as it fits with your doctors prescription)! There are plenty of ways to make up wrestling-applicable workouts, some of it involves getting out of your comfort zone and trying something unusual. I once had someone give me the advice, "look at what all the other wrestlers are doing, and then do the opposite!"
This is only temporary
As long as you're following your doctor or physical therapists directions, and doing the right things in the rehab department, this too shall pass. You will heal, you will get back to wrestling and/or the other sports you do, you will continue to improve. This is a challenge that some face, and others may not. But an injury will never predict your future or your future success. You are never falling behind while you are an active participant mentally and physically.
I love you guys and this little growing community, I hope you all can gain so much from my experience with injuries! Post your injury stories below and we can all hear and support each other in a tough journey that can and will make you a stronger wrestler!