At some point in time almost everyone who exercises will sustain an injury that limits their ability to train in the martial arts. It may occur during training or randomly in daily life. Even those who are lucky enough to avoid breaks, sprains, strains, or hernias may catch a cold or flu, or have to miss training for a period of time due to a medical condition. Those who successfully avoid any of these hurdles may find that family or work commitments may also interfere with training. It is rare to find anyone who has trained for a sustained amount of time who hasn’t had something external happen that could have stopped them from training.
I’ve had my fair share of injuries over the time I’ve been training in the martial arts; I even started karate with a broken wrist in a fibreglass cast. I’ve also had two transplants since I began and a number of other operations, in addition to having permanent catheters that went into my abdominal cavity and also into my bloodstream for several months. I’ve also worked in jobs that consisted of shifts spread through both the evenings as well as the day and over thirteen days a fortnight. As a result I can empathise with people who have had to miss training for a few weeks.
It’s easy for a few weeks to become a longer period of time, or even never. The longer you stay away from training the harder that first step of going back can seem. It’s easy to find excuses not to go: that little muscle twinge, feeling tired, housekeeping that needs doing, that good program on the TV, or the simple appreciation of how comfortable the couch is. Training is always a little bit harder when you return after a period of absence, particularly if you have had to recover from a physical injury or operation. In some respects it is like being a beginner again, only your brain knows what you want to do and the body doesn’t comply, or the body complies but isn’t flexible or strong enough to do so without giving you considerable aches and pains the next day. Pain which your prior level of conditioning may have led you to forget.
Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, accept that it isn’t going to be easy, and make the effort. The longer you stay away the harder it will be. In the past I have trained with clubs as quickly as possible after major surgery because I knew that the longer I left it, the less likely it would be that I would return. I have also trained with tubes going into my body taped to the outside.
Good instructors are not monsters. They would rather see you training slowly at the side, and getting advice to assist your physical recuperation, than have you leave. If you aren’t ready or well enough to train, visiting and watching will help remind you of what made you stay before, and encourage you in your recovery.
Returning to training needn’t be torture, and the time you have spent away from training needn’t be detrimental. Stepping back a bit, watching others more, and working slowly can even be better for your skill development than the classes you missed.
To help you ease back into training, don’t expect everything to be perfect straight away. Your objectives should be SMART, that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time limited. Don’t be disheartened if you have to be flexible with them, the important thing is to keep working, it simply means that you over-estimated how achievable something was in the timeframe you set.
Getting back up after being knocked down isn’t easy. Going back to train isn’t easy. But if you are able to bite the bullet and try, you may find you can do more than you thought possible.