I don’t know exactly how long it’s been since I made the ‘official’ decision to step back from MMA but I can tell you that things have been going pretty well.
The whole purpose of stepping away from MMA was to heal; I’d been struggling with this excruciating injury for 1 year & while at times it seemed to get a little better, there was always that inevitable set-back that resulted in me hobbling around in unrelenting pain. Usually, that set-back was found in wrestling/jits or kicking people (sparring).
The worst thing would have been to take this step back, give up the sport I love & dive head first into my pity-party (catered by the bulk candy section of Safeway) only to not get better. That would’ve been the worse case scenario because not only would I be sitting there in pain, feeling sorry for myself in hideous sweat pants, but I would also be no closer to understanding or fixing whatever was causing all the pain.
I am happy to be slowly getting better. I still have setbacks but nowhere near the degree I had when I was training for my sport everyday.
I’ve been able to add full leg workouts to my regimen, which was a bonus because it had been about 10 months since I’d been physically capable of training my legs, which was depressing because I’d actually built myself some impressive looking legs (hello quad sweep). I know that sounds like a weird thing to care about but I’m weird like that. So my legs lost most of their power & definition because my hip couldn’t handle external loading.
My leg workouts now are not what they used to be. I did plyometrics at home about 2 weeks ago, which resulted in muscles so sore I debated wearing Depends diapers so I didn’t have to try & squat down onto the toilet.
It’s been tough to reintegrate leg workouts because I have to do sissy leg workouts: I am used to single leg pressing 270lbs & doing step ups with 180lbs…or something like that. My point is that my legs were strong & now if I do the leg press (which I’ve only ventured to 1x because I’m not sure that my hip would be happy) I do single leg @ 90lbs. Mind you I do about 20-25 reps each set, but that doesn’t help me feel like any less of a wuss.
There is no place for ego in my workouts.
I’ve continued to box as a form of cardio & simply because I love pad work/bag work. I have to make sure that it’s set up in my week appropriately or else that still bugs my hip & SI joint.
I would say this has been the biggest challenge for me; having to structure my ‘intensity’ so that my hip isn’t over-loaded through cardio/leg work/boxing on an ongoing basis. It’s really annoying.
But honestly, I should have been doing this all along as it was this lack of appropriate structure to my training which led me here (most likely). I went too hard, too often. The problem is that I like to train hard: if I’m not sweating & pushing myself to the outer edge of some limit, then I don’t enjoy it as much. It doesn’t satisfy me.
I know this is wrong. When I do plans for other people, I focus exclusively on periodization & making sure there is ample rest & recovery to body parts/systems. But I didn’t prioritize this for myself. I was chasing the athletic edge and even though I know that athletes need rest in order to attain & maintain their edge, I still refused to apply it to myself. I was too caught up in pursuing ‘better’. I obviously think I’m pretty fucking special.
Now I have no choice but to do this or I can’t walk properly & I’ll initiate a chain reaction that can take up to 2 weeks to stop & that means 2 weeks of horrible pain & extreme physical limitation.
But I am learning; now when I feel something funky going on in my hip or SI joint, I back off. I rest or pick something that doesn’t stress the joint. I still push a bit hard but I’ve learned where that threshold is.
Do I miss my sport?
Do I wish I was still doing it?
In some ways, definitely. But in other ways, I do not. I put up with a lot of things while I was fighting because I had a goal. Each fight presented a new opportunity, so I followed it. It was a natural progression that kept me focused & looking ahead. But my gym was going through some significant changes & it was impacting me significantly both personally, & as a fighter.
Going to the gym was as much passion as it was a job; I had to show up when I didn’t want to, both for myself & my training partners. It’s an expected piece for any legitimate fighter. But the changes taking place at my gym were making it increasingly difficult to show up & I felt like I was compromising parts of myself that I wouldn’t normally compromise because I had no where else to train (I wasn’t going to move).
Stepping back from fighting has brought a lot of freedom to my life. I have more time available to enjoy a variety of activities. I have more time for family & friends. I train differently at the gym & this change has brought new energy & focus into working out. I also don’t workout for hours on end. I enjoy boxing (or kickboxing if I could kick) for the love of the sport, not because I feel pressured to nail down a new skill/ability. I do what I do because I want to, not because I have to & that’s very liberating.
Most significantly, I am in the least amount of pain that I’ve been in since December 2012 & that is priceless to me. Constant pain starts to wear a person down; it dulls life.
And, as it always does, the process I’ve had to embrace through healing myself physically, has been mirrored in other areas of my life. Once I decided that I could no longer tolerate the ongoing experience of pain & that I had to stop & listen to my body & listen to myself, I have found that I have less tolerance for situations or people in my life that bring negativity.
Letting go of MMA was about saying, “Just getting by isn’t good enough anymore.”
Letting go in life is much the same because whether you are living a life you love or loathe, you are the only person responsible for this & the only one with the power to change it.