Fighting My Way Back Home

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Why is it so difficult to return to something you once loved? Did you forget how much you enjoyed the activity? Have your feelings changed about how it makes you feel? Or does your body and mind just get lazy and simply adapt to the new routine?

Being active, physically active is in my veins. I have always been active in one form or another although there was a period of my life where I stopped moving and I went through a long bout of poor health, depression and days where I just wanted the pain to end. Physical activity was one of the tools I used to fight my way out of the darkness.

For a large portion of my life, I have focused on running. I have run five marathons, over 20 half marathons and countless distances between one kilometer and 43 kilometers. I even participated in a 50 kilometer New Year’s Day event although a group of us walked a large portion of it.

With physical activity, comes the need to listen to the body when it is giving you signals to slow down, stretch, rest or even take a break from the activity.

I was recently forced, by my body, to take a break from kickboxing. The combination of being a massage therapist (using my arms and hands all day), rock climbing, kickboxing and the recent addition of learning the violin (very arm and hand demanding), the amount of use had taken it’s toll.

What started out as muscle fatigue from climbing one afternoon, turned into weeks of arm pain and weakness that I tried desperately to ignore. I could manage through my work day in the clinic. I could brute force my way up a climbing wall. I would rest and repeatedly reset my posture while I practiced my violin for hours. The most painful activity was kickboxing, which unfortunately happens to be my FAVORITE activity.

After a month of dull aching pain in my right bicep and forearm, I sought out relief from a physiotherapist. Upon examination of my neck, shoulder and forearm, Yasha determined that I had a combination of issues. Most of the issues stemmed from neck stiffness. Tightness that I knew was there but ignored it. I took care of other people, I had little time for self care.

The body is an amazing machine. It has an intricate webbing called fascia that covers every muscle and connects everything together. Muscle to muscle, bone, connective tissues, etc. I read an interesting study once about how hamstring (back of thigh) activation triggers activation of the same side trapezius muscle (top of shoulder, the area people like massaged the most). The two muscles are a long distance from each other but when one is turned on, the other turns on too. Fascia helps facilitate this activation and communication. Amazing!

Anywho… Yasha, began working on my neck and shoulder. Upon further evaluation, he determined that I had a shoulder impingement which was creating a muscle imbalance in my forearm. The combination of all my activities, aggravated this imbalance, creating symptoms that couldn’t be ignored. No wonder there was pain after training (regardless of the sport).

In order for the body to heal, it needs rest from the activity. Sometimes it is active rest, where you can continue to be active but need to reduce the amount of impact. Sometimes it is full rest where you stop the activity completely so the body can rest fully, without having to stabilize and recover from the sport.

In my case, I was able to continue to climb, work and play violin but kickboxing was going to have to take a backseat in my training plans so I could let the shoulder heal. This was not great news but I accepted that a few weeks off “wouldn’t hurt” and it would be better in the long run.

After a few days, my arm started to feel a lot better. My forearm, which hadn’t received much treatment was less tense and the pain was nearly gone. After rock climbing I would stretch and roll on a tennis ball in order to relieve the tight muscles. I would stretch after violin practice and I learned the limits of how long I could practice before needing a break.

Three weeks later, everything was feeling better. Not perfect but a significant decrease in pain and tightness. I decided it was time to return to kickboxing and continue my quest for my Black Belt.

I find it interesting how I can love a sport so much but given any amount of time away from it, my brain tries to talk me into continuing that break. “Maybe today isn’t the right day to go back? What if you hurt yourself again? Physio didn’t actually tell you you could go back! What are you thinking!!!!”

WOW! The ego can be really loud when it wants to be. I pushed on and prepared to return to the mats. As I packed my bag in preparation to head out into the stormy day, my brain started it’s last ditch attempt to sway my decision.

“It’s pouring rain out there. You don’t want to go out there. It’s better to just stay inside. You have a ton of things to do around here.” Yes, I did have a lot to do but I missed my Champions family and the amazing feeling I get when I work out there. I sucked it up and headed to class.

I stepped inside the front door of the school and I was hit by a flood of memories of why I love the school so much. I’m always greeted by friendly staff that remember that I’ve been away. They ask me about my family. They check in to see how my training is going, how work is going. The atmosphere is supportive, encouraging and encourages empowerment of self.

My mind instantly knew everything was going to be okay.

Champions Martial Arts Academy is a safe space where my Senseis push me to my limits and guide my confidence to a new level. When I step on the mats, it doesn’t matter how good or bad my day has been, none of it matters. It all disappears from my mind. I become centered and focused on doing my best. Kickboxing makes me stronger on the inside, healthier on the outside.

I felt great during and after class. The fears of returning to class and not being able to keep up, fading the moment we bowed to Sensei Joel as he started the class. I did the best I could, and thankfully my arm and shoulder held up.

I’m excited to be back and can now look forward to continued training. I know there will be days that my body hurts more than usual but I know that as long as I keep focused and take care of myself, I will move closer every day to my next belt level.

We have to have faith(whatever that is for you) that things will be okay in the end. It always is, one way or another. Get up and get busy. If you have been away from your favorite activity for a while, get back into it. If you are injured, find a way to modify the activity so you can still go to the class.

The message here is to NOT forget. To remember the feeling you get before, during and after your activity. Waiting to move forward will only make things more difficult so get going!