Treating injuries as opportunities

Published On: Jun 21 2012 01:54:41 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 05 2012 01:07:22 PM EDT

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Hit the mat with a pal -- Have a partner hold on to your feet for five minutes of crunches (42 calories). Then do side-by-side mountain climbers for four minutes (34 calories). Cap it off with three minutes of jumping jacks (26 calories).

By Meredith, Pure Matters

I broke my toe last week. I knew it was broken the instant it happened, and I immediately burst into tears. I was devastated. Why?

I've complained about this a number of times, but in March 2009, I blew out my knee playing hockey (I played goal for about seven years leading up to the injury). After several months on crutches and several more in physical therapy, I took up sitting on the couch and watching TV as my activity of choice. It was a long, two-year sedentary sabbatical, and it wasn't me.

It took my doctor pointing out that I kept gaining weight to motivate me to get moving -- I didn't want another visit to be met with a raised eyebrow and another pound (or three). So in July, I joined a gym, and I quickly remembered how much I enjoy exercise. It sounds weird, but I love to sweat -- I love the feeling of satisfaction after pushing myself to the limits. Once I got back into the habit of working out, I turned back into the little gym rat I'd always been.

And then I broke the toe. I had just stepped out of the shower, and caught it, the little pinky toe -- hard -- against the corner of a sturdy Pottery Barn trunk. My doctor, that same doctor!, took an X-ray later that day and confirmed my fears.

Like I said, I was devastated. I had spent the past two months at the gym, working on cardio, working on strength, getting the knee into a much better place, and BAM. Just like that. I had a little pity party for myself for a solid 24 hours, and then I realized: While I couldn't change the reality of my nondisplaced fracture along the dorsal aspect base of my fifth distal phalanx, I could change my mindset.

Instead of viewing my injury as a setback, I decided to view it as an opportunity. I decided to view the broken toe as a chance to try new things, and to push myself physically in different ways. Inspired by the likes of Roger Brown and other elite athletes -- the ones who continue to train and forge ahead despite injury -- I hit the gym.

(Big, important disclaimer: If you're injured, see your doctor, and get his or her advice. I pushed myself more than my doctor advised and in so doing, knowingly risked re-injury or a worse injury. It wasn't smart, but … that's me.)

Instead of running, I swam laps.

Instead of the elliptical, I focused on band resistance training for my arms.

Instead of the stair master, I challenged my core.

Instead of tabata class, I treated myself to a massage.

Three weeks passed, and I healed -- quickly. I'm back to my regular routine (yay, spin tonight!), and I'm not walking with a limp anymore. I'm stronger in different ways than I would have been without the break, and I'm grateful that I had the chance to focus on those new areas.

So keep this in mind the next time you face an obstacle: Is it really an obstacle … or is it an opportunity to try something new?



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