Why a spinal injury was one of the most important things which happened to me last year
An injury often comes as a fairly disruptive and disappointing challenge. They usually come with the most terrible timing too. Getting a little uncomfortable, however, is often a powerful tool for bringing certain truths and conflicts to one’s awareness so that they can be dealt with and allow for growth.
I had the pleasure of nurturing an injury which involved a leg press, failed safety stops, and resulted in an L5S1 tear. Certainly, it was devastating at the time. Nearly two years down the track, these are five reasons as to why I’m thankful this injury came about at the time it did.
- It forced me to slow down
Rest. It’s only really once you stop that you realise how tired your body has become. From five racy years of study and growing up, my body needed recovery time.
Getting injured, I believe, was the universe’s way of telling me to get over my obsessive need to do more and be better. Rest time gave me the opportunity to soak up gratitude and joyfulness for the wonderful things.
Previously, I would start my mornings with self-criticisms in the mirror, sprints at the local fields, stair exercise at home, or jog and an abs circuit before hitting the gym for an hour’s thrashing later the same day.
Plan of action: I started saying thank you and smiling in the mirror, and regular morning Qi gong practice followed by meditation. I found time to walk outdoors and explore nature.
- I gained body fat
Weight loss is not easy. Gaining weight after an injury really highlighted to me places in my life where I would over eat and emotionally eat which previously could be covered up by exercise.
After a certain point, I had to take responsibility for the changes in my body shape and acknowledge that the way I was eating was not appropriate for my level of exercise. I recognised I could no longer continue feeling sorry for myself about the things that I couldn’t do. Getting past the dissonance was all about transferring negative energy into the positive things which I could do.
Plan of action: I ate less, cut out snacking, and incorporated more strategic fasting. With exercise, I focused intensity on muscle groups which did not load my injury such as pull ups, cable rows, and isolated leg machines. I also did more gentle exercise such as walking and stretching.
I also acknowledged some emotional drivers to my eating habits and worked on them. Some of the techniques I used involved EFT, Qi Gong, and varying forms of meditation.
- My periods became regular
Being lean is awesome but having healthy functioning hormones is even better. Light, scant, far between, or no periods at all can be signs of low or inefficient sex hormone production. As a woman, having low levels of oestrogen and progesterone [in particular] leads to increased anxiety, low mood, sleep problems, and can also affect digestion and fluid balance – leaving one feeling generally flat and awful. There’s also a recognised role of sex hormones in protection from certain cancers and bone health – We want to have healthy hormone levels.
It was so exciting to see as I tracked my periods over the last year they become regular and predictable. This meant I could confidently wear favourite pieces of clothing without getting the surprise afternoon pre-menstrual bloat. Before my injury, I was taking a prescribed bioidentical progesterone, but it wasn’t until after slowing down for a few months that I began to feel more leveled out and less reliant on supplementing this hormone.
Plan of action: This happened without me doing much different at all. Tracking my cycles is helpful method for keeping on top of an awareness to my natural biofeedback. I have a bit more awareness about how changes in my lifestyle can influence my energy levels, anxiety, sleep, PMT and periods.
- A different kind of physical strength
I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about my body’s structural tendencies and abnormal movement patterns. Working with an integrative holistic physiotherapist allowed me to become aware of my pelvis, legs, and how this impacts on my spinal shape. Correcting posture is key for preventing future injuries.
Plan of action: A sense of self-awareness and having being given key points to work on in my lifts has been empowering. I’m more open to trying different techniques from a health and functionality perspective rather than focusing primarily on physique.
- Happier person, open, and adaptable
Not being able to move and exercise the way I wanted to was a test of my character and core values. It taught me to go and be open to change. Surprisingly, real life is not like Instagram and we cannot maintain the same gym routine forever. There is always something coming up and it’s about being about to recognise and reflect on what’s not quite working for you anymore. Letting go of something always creates an open space for something new. It may not happen immediately or as obviously as planned, but something always comes back.
Plan of action: Let go. Carry on. Smile.