The Real Reason Being Injured Sucks So Bad

I’m injured. Not super bad, but enough. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is – various chiripractors have said “strength imbalance” “SI joint” “arthritis in the lumbar # something.”


All I know is I’ve been dealing with low back pain & stiffness and a randomish stabbing pain under my left butt cheek for about 4 months. But that’s not the point.

I can still run, ride, and swim. A little. But it’s slow, sporadic, and far short of productive. I’m injured enough to where I can’t train. Only exercise. Which really sucks.

Let me explain. People often think we get all pissy when we’re injured because we can’t “work out” as much as we want. That we’re bored, afraid of getting fat or getting slow or ugly or something. And while that’s probably part of it, it’s not the worst of it.

Triathletes, and other competitive or even just committed athletes, don’t train just to “work out.” It isn’t for some flat-abs, Madonna arms, or endorphin rush fix. We train because we want to get better at our sport. We enjoy being able to put in the effort, because we know it’s getting us towards a goal.

And when you’re injured, even not badly, you can’t do that. You can’t put in hard efforts because you might hurt yourself worse. You can’t feel yourself getting stronger, faster, or more agile because you’re not. You can’t even look forward to a race, because you haven’t signed up for any, and if you have, you wish hadn’t because there’s a 50/50 chance you won’t go.

Hell, I’d even argue that being a little injured is mentally worse than a definite, you’re out of the game, broken ankle or something. At least then you have a clearly defined yellow brick road of goals: healing, walking, getting back to training.

So that’s part of it. But perhaps what sucks the worst for me, and probably for many of you, is that triathlon (insert your sport here)  is about the only thing I’m really good at.

Not just in an I’m-faster-than-you way, but in that I know how to really get into it, I know how to train, how to get psyched for a race, how to experience the sport.

I’m not terrible at my job, but I’m not going to be on the cover of Forbes. I’m not great at art, I’m a petrifyingly horrible dancer, and I royally suck at anything that involves people or yarn. Triathlon gave me confidence in myself. When injury takes away that clarify & confidence, it just kinda leaves you hanging. Like I’m lame in every sense of the word.

Some of ya’ll will read this and think how pathetic I must be, that it’s wrong to dump my identity into a sport when of course I’ll be injured off and on throughout my life. But chill people. I’m not looking for a bridge. I know I’ll get through it. But it sucks.

I guess the larger point here is, an injured athlete isn’t just being a baby. Okay, sometimes we are (surely I’m not the only one who’s whined for a certain loved one to bring home a surprise  ….thanks for the squeezy cheese, Jesse). But there’s a real loss of momentum in what makes us us.

That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised when your well-intended “Why don’t you just enjoy the rest! You deserve it,” is met with a fake smile, eye roll, and / or display of a single extended finger.

And don’t bother saying, “just do what you can” or “find another activity that won’t hurt” because we’re already doing both. And don’t, when we voice our worries about our upcoming race season (or lack thereof), say “you’re injured! You shouldn’t expect to be as good right now.” No offense, but no shit, Sherlock.

What we need is space to get out frustrations. So boxing gloves. That and some useful encouragement. Remind us that being injured today doesn’t discount our accomplishments. Tell us once a badass, always a badass. Even if it isn’t technically true. And we’re not above roses, lotto tickets, or surprise trips to the zoo.

And by all means, get us a freaking ice pack! 

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