In my twenties I took training for granted. I used to be able to train non-stop and I would never get injured. Sure, after a fight my shins would be busted or I would have to wait for stitches to heal, but those were easy to fix.
Unfortunately, those days of being injury free wouldn’t last forever.
As I reached my thirties, I started to experience more minor injuries that would set me back a few weeks at time. Warming up and cooling down before training became essential, otherwise I was at far more risk of getting hurt.
Recently, I hurt my knee during sparring, and right when my knee started feeling better, I suffered a rib injury during clinching. The moment I started feeling good again in training………another setback.
As I’ve dealt with various injuries, I’ve learned that they often give you the opportunity to take a step back and focus on other tools of your game that you might have been conveniently avoiding.
While injuries are never a good thing, you can use your injury time to help develop other aspects of your game.
Developing a New Perspective
When everything is going well it’s easy to take things for granted and assume that it will always be great. However, the moment you get injured you will quickly wake up from that fantasy and realize that tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Not being able to train like you did before will give you appreciation for how good you have it when you are healthy. All those things you used to take for granted, suddenly become something that you wish you could have back.
Being injured and aging often go hand in hand. As your body goes through more wear and tear, it starts to break down naturally. That is why it is important to always maintain your fitness regardless of whether or not you are fighting.
The better your fitness and health, the less chance you will suffer from an injury because your body will be at an optimal weight and less likely to injure. Just because two cars are getting old, doesn’t mean they both have to break down. A well maintained car can have a much longer life than a car that is used and abused without upkeep. The same is true for your body.
Limiting Your Training Focus
After my first Muay Thai fight I ended up with a busted-up shin that kept on swelling with blood. I would go to the doctors to have them drain the fluid from the area and the next week my shins would swell up again.
Since I couldn’t kick with my right shin without it swelling up, I switched to left kicks. For nearly three months I only used my left kick whenever I hit pads, the bag, and sparred because I was forced to.
During that time, my left kick made huge improvements. Because I had to limit my kicking to only one side, it narrowed my focus to only one side.. This made my left kick much better in the long run. Since that injury my left kick remains my favorite weapon.
Injuries can often force you to work on aspects of your game that you might have neglected otherwise. For example, if you hurt your knee and can’t throw any kicks, you can focus on improving your boxing and elbows.
Restricting your training to a limited number of techniques narrows your focus and make it easier to work on small details of the technique.
Focusing on Injury Prevention
When you get injured, the first thing you should ask yourself is how can you prevent that injury from happening again? Maybe you showed up late to training and couldn’t warm up before you started. Perhaps missing that warm up meant your muscles were tighter than usually, which resulted in your injured knee?
Asking yourself what went wrong and how you can fix it in the future is an important step in the injury recovery process.
Maybe you suffered a serious concussion in your last fight from an opponent who had good boxing. As you recover, you should make a point to focus on improving your boxing abilities, so in the future you don’t suffer the same result against a good puncher.
Injury prevention could also mean establishing a new warm up routine to ensure that you don’t train without your muscles being properly warmed up. Training without a proper warm up is the easiest way to pull a muscle and suffer another setback.
If you suffered an injury that wasn’t your fault, you can still find ways to try to prevent that injury from happening again. Perhaps you slipped on a wet mat and sprained your ankle, or your opponent grabbed your leg and sprained your knee. Whatever injury you suffer, try to figure out a plan to strengthen that area of your body so it won’t happen again.
Develop Mental Toughness
Injuries suck. I can sugar coat it and tell you the benefits of being injured, but at the end of the day it still sucks being hurt.
Not being able to perform at your best is mental exhausting. Nothing is worse than knowing what you are capable of doing when healthy and not being able to do it. Being stuck on the sidelines watching other people sparring, clinching and hitting pads with ease, can cause a lot of frustration.
There are two ways you can look at your situation. The first is to feel sorry for yourself and tell yourself how unlucky you are in life. You can look for pity from your training partners and try to make yourself look like a victim of bad luck. This method of dealing with your injury might temporarily feel good, but it does nothing to help you improve in the long run.
The second way of handling an injury is to acknowledge and accept the emotional and physical pain of being injured. Take a moment and feel the sadness and frustration of the injury and allow those thoughts to pass. Once you have mourned the temporary loss of mobility, you can then start the process of making yourself whole again by focusing on solutions.
When you suffer an injury, think of it as a test of your mental endurance. How are you going to handle the injury? Are you going to complain and cry about how unlucky you are or are you going to start the grueling process of making your body whole again?
Being injured gives you time to strengthen your mental game. Working on mental techniques like the ability to focus, your mindfulness, and visualization techniques are all important tools to add to your routine. Since a huge part of Muay Thai is the mental game, don’t forget to work on strengthen your mind as well as your body.
Throughout your Muay Thai journey you are going to experience many highs and lows along the way. There will be times when you feel on top of the world, and there will be times when you feel depressed and wonder if you are in the right sport.
There is a reason why the toughest fighters always come from the most difficult backgrounds. Adversity is the key to developing a strong mind and mental toughness. If it was easy then everyone would do it.
Anytime you suffer a setback in training, understand that you are not alone. Injuries happen to all of us and it is how you respond to that injury that determines your future development. How you deal with adversity outside of the ring, is often a reflection of how you are going to deal with it in the ring.
If you get knocked down, do you get back up?
You can either make excuses and find reasons why you can’t do something, or you can find a way to work around your injury and turn your short-term pain into long term growth. It’s your choice.