Soldiers – infantrymen especially – are going to collect injuries throughout their careers. Human bodies are fragile, and the nature of the job means that those fragile bodies are going to come crashing against a world of hurt. As I get older, I’m discovering that part of a good physical fitness regimen is having an injury management plan. At any given time, I’ve usually got one to three injuries that I’m dealing with. These aren’t show stoppers -nothing that I’d need to go to sick call for and take a profile. Rather, these are nagging injuries that could develop into something worse if not addressed.
I’ve always had a nasty habit of ignoring my small injuries and training through them or around them. While I was out of the Army and just going to college, this didn’t matter much, because I completely controlled my personal training. Now that I’m back in, I don’t always have control over my physical fitness regimen – I’ve got to do what the Army asks me to do. If I hurt my ankle or shoulder, I can’t just stop training until it gets better. Instead, I have to find ways to continue to train while doing the best to 1) prevent further injury, and 2) heal and rehabilitate the injury.
The biggest problem I’ve faced in trying to manage my injuries is remembering which injuries I need to manage. I need a constant reminder of what I’m working on. My solution was to buy a wooden doll from the local hobby shop. These are used as models for artists. I keep it on my desk and I attach little slips of paper onto the doll with a note on the injury. I see this thing every day, and it serves as a reminder to go easy on those areas.
Reminding myself that I am carrying injuries isn’t enough though. As part of a weekly review (if you’re not GTDing, you’re missing out) I ask myself “what are my injuries and what have I done to mitigate them?” I should be able to answer that question with concrete responses. The goal, is that over time, I will be able to remove the slips of paper from the injury doll.
Injuries are a part of training. Managing injuries is just as important as following a good workout routine and eating a healthy diet. Unfortunately, too often we only address the injury when it reaches a point where it hinders performance.
All that said, if you’re hurt, go to a doctor and get fixed. But if you have a manageable injury, do everything you can to manage it. Research it. Talk to buddies. Actively do the things that will make it better. Otherwise, that injury will nag and grow and eventually win. Don’t let it win.