October 2011: I was dangerously thin (had been for most of the last 16 years). Wanting to “tone and lose weight”, I received my first introduction to a world of exercise that was not running.
April 2012: My (previous) trainer finally understands: I want to gain weight on the bar. I finally begin strength training.
July 2012: I joined forces with my coach.
February 2013: My coach said “Your bones have been destroyed. Your tendons, ligaments were trashed. Every expert in fitness, nutrition, medicine would say you should not be at this level. You should physically not be able to do the amount of work you do. You should have been injured ten times by now, your joints should be giving out, things should be tearing. But instead you just keep improving”. What I heard was “imagine how good you could be if you hadn’t f*&^ed yourself up so badly for so long”. But after a while I realized this was not at all what he meant and I took pride in, gave gratitude for, the fact that I am a medical wonder.
June 2013: I have my first put-me-out-of-commission injury. I immediately thought: would this have happened if I hadn’t destroyed my body so badly for so long. What my coach said was “welcome to normal. The way you work this should be happening a couple of times a year”.
I am losing my mind. I have been out of commission exactly 6-1/2 hours and this Warrior Girl is lost. I have never so much as taken a break.
My hip has been an issue for a while now. Today was Smolov day 3 for me. I have some irritation during my first set. On the first rep of set 2 something happens. I knew something happened but I got the bar up. Going down with rep 2 I collapse. There is nothing I can do to stop it. I can barely crawl away from the bar. I see the looks of concern on the faces of the others there but not my coach. He simply asks “how bad?” I lay there looking up at him, not wanting to say what we both know. I consider lying but if I do he will say “then get off the damn floor and squat”. He would say that just to get me to admit I am injured and that would make me angry. So I decide to skip that scene and simply say “I want to puke from the pain”.
I once hiked 5 miles through the woods on a sprained ankle and broken foot without blinking an eye. I have a high tolerance for pain.
I hate showing weakness, especially in front of my coach. My first concern is getting off schedule, falling behind. He says “I’m sure you wondered about doing Smolov when your hip was still a problem”. I had wondered but, in the new dynamic we have developed, I knew he had a plan, I trust his judgement. “We’ve been struggling with the hip for months. It wasn’t getting better, wasn’t getting worse. You need to go through Smolov anyway and I knew something would give. Either the hip will be forced to progress or give out. And now that it has gone, it can start to recover”. I reply: but tomorrow is day 4, the heaviest day… “Not for you. Tomorrow is ice, study, sleep”. I turn away because I can’t stand the thought he might see the tears welling up. He sees them anyway.
I always think of myself as a quitter. I watched Kristan Clever fight through her injury at regionals and I thought “I wish I had that. I wish that I had the heart and strength to fight through pain until the end”. I tell this to my coach and he laughs. And then I say “I guess I have been fighting through it for months. I knew after the first set this would be it, the hip was going to tear but I went for it anyway. I guess when I can’t stand, have to crawl away from the bar, it means I fought to the end. I guess I have the heart to fight through pain”. He hates, has always hated, that I don’t know this about myself, that everyone who sees me knows it but I don’t.
6-1/2 hours later I am lost. I want to work but cannot. I have too much energy to study for any length of time. This Warrior Girl met a dragon above her level and is injured. I am tempted to stay and fight until death, that is who I have always been. But my training is making me aware that injured Warrior’s are wise to step back and heal. Live to fight another day. I don’t think I believe it yet but this has been a year of firsts, a year of growth, so I will AGAIN trust my coach.
On my way out the door he says “Warrior Girl, you know how to work hard. It’s time you learn how to recover hard”. Whatever that means… I simply reply “yes, Joel”. My little code that translates to: I don’t understand this moment but I trust my coach.