Article written by BadKat Ljubicic
Every Wednesday night, the announcement would be made by CrossFit HQ, and there I’d be the next morning, doing the workout they required. If I didn’t like my score, I would repeat the workout. I lifted like an animal and I went hard, hard, harder than ever before. I didn’t get enough rest. And I wasn’t eating properly. Clearly, there was a desperation to my actions, my state of mind. Because, deep-down, I knew that I’d done some serious damage to myself at the Orlando event. The echoes of that popping sound would not leave me.
The end result of all this was that I was happy with my final standings, ecstatic that I had qualified for the Games. But to achieve this goal, I’d literally burnt myself out.
My body was fighting me. The shooting pains worsened day by day. Every morning, I would have to first lie in the fetal position, then carefully roll on to my back before literally crawling out of bed. Twenty minutes of stretching would come next, and then a long, hot, pounding shower to gradually relax the muscles in my back.
But in spite of all this, I continued to train. Now, however, it was apparent that my lifts were worsening instead of improving: I was getting weaker by the day. My frustration at myself grew, as did my lack of motivation.
It was as though the real BadKat was being gradually replaced by somebody I viewed as Pathetic Impostor BadKat from some sort of alternate loser universe: I was almost ready to give up. Several people, including Coach Mike Burgener, suggested strongly, not that I give up, but that I take a year off to heal – and absolutely no competing as the risks were far too high.
Guess what? I didn’t listen to any of this advice. Instead, I elbowed Pathetic Impostor BadKat aside and went ahead and competed. After all, I told myself, this could very well be my only opportunity to participate in the CrossFit Games!
Competing when you’re not healthy is so stupid. Competing when you’re only at 50% of your normal strength and stamina is beyond stupid. I knew this. Deep in my heart, I knew that I should not have been there. In some respects, the experience was fantastic, yes, but I understood even as the Games progressed, that I should have taken that year off. Beyond a shadow of a doubt I should have.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. You might even say that it’s painfully clear.
Coulda shoulda woulda! Did I regret being an inflexible, stubborn dumb-ass asshole? Yes! Did I regret what I’d done? Yes! But – what was done was done and I could not change the past. The only things I could change at this point were my attitude and my behaviour.
I desperately wanted to avoid surgery. But, after realizing and accepting the severity of my condition, I admitted to myself that the only option that would result in freedom from pain was a surgical one.
At last, I began to listen closely to what the medical profession had to say. I discovered that laser spinal fusion was my best bet surgery-wise: it’s non-invasive and leaves minimal scarring. The only negative is the fact that the recovery period required is much longer.
And that’s where I stand now, as I write this, far from home in the Land Down Under: I’ve had the laser spinal fusion surgery and I’m in my second month of the recovery period. Three times per week, I receive chiropractic care. I am walking heaps (heaps is an Australian term, just so you know, meaning “a lot”). And, twice a week, I attend Pilates classes.
Yes. You heard me right. Pilates classes.
I am not lifting any weights.
Wait – that’s not strictly the truth. I did recently pick up a set of 8 lb. dumbbells to do some bicep curls and tricep extensions. Truthfully, all I could think as I performed these exercises was: if you consider 8 lb. dumbbells to be weights, you’re nothing but a pussy. But then I gave myself a slap. If I’m supposed to be changing my attitude and behaviour then that type of thought is not welcome in my head.
Changing my attitude means overhauling my entire way of thinking, my point of view, my priorities, my perception of what’s important to me and what isn’t.
Take the concept of competing, for instance. Competing is fantastic! I love competitions! Competing satisfies a fundamental urge at the very heart of very competitive BadKat.
What I’ve come to realize as a result of my injuries, my surgery, my initial steps down the path to recovery, is that it’s time for me to grow up. For far too long I’ve focused only on myself. Entirely on myself. A major aspect of the competition lifestyle is traveling – and how can you focus on the needs of other people, make serious commitments to other people, when you’re zipping about hither and yon fulfilling your own competitive, self-absorbed desires?
The lesson I’ve learned through the physical health ordeal I’ve been through – and am still going through – is that a full life can’t be lived when your personal self is your only obsessive focus. Several heartbreaks I’ve endured have led me to the same conclusion: that the needs of others – family members, friends – must be important to me as well as my own.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to be reunited with a person who has helped me on my journey to change my attitude and behaviour. I will always be grateful to him, for the kind of changes we’re talking about are not easy ones to make – not for someone like me; and when you’re walking down a scary, unfamiliar road, the only thing that makes it easier is having an understanding companion by your side.
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So. Where is BadKat today?
I’m in a good place, that’s where. At long last, I’m listening to the advice of others, those who are much, much wiser than I am. I am listening to the people who need me the most. I am taking time, finally, to heal myself – not just physically, on the outside, but on the inside as well, emotionally, even spiritually.
Will I continue to go to the gym? Hell yes! Will I continue trying to achieve my personal best? You better believe it! (Although, for the new BadKat, “personal best” is no longer about how much weight I can lift. It’s about digging deep within myself and striving to be the best person I can possibly be.)
Will I compete again?
That, I must admit, is a question I can’t answer, not just yet.
But, maybe…one day….