MRI of my humorous break
Everyone gets injured. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. The more physical activities you do, the more likely it is that you’ll experience unwanted down time as a result of hurting yourself.
For me and most other spinners, this is something that is more or less unavoidable. The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome was a broken elbow. It required surgery to put it back together, and another to help the mobility return. It’s far from perfect, and never will be again. That being said, I don’t even notice it when I’m spinning anymore.
This is pretty extreme, and there are smaller and more common injuries that can get in your way. I’ve had wrist issues, shoulder pains, muscle knots, etc. They can happen as a direct result of spinning, or some other way.
What’s important is getting your body back into decent shape so you can continue doing what you love with as little risk as possible. I’ve outlined a few different ways that have helped me so that hopefully they will help you too.
Avoid unnecessary risks
People have a wide range of risks they take. Some people avoid anything that causes the fear of personal harm to arise, whereas others do very risky things without thinking about them too much.
Obviously avoiding any dangerous activities is a great way to mitigate risk, but lots of people have inherently dangerous hobbies and past times that they love, and for them this isn’t an option. Extreme sports always pose a potential for injury, but you can dramatically reduce the chances of hurting yourself while still enjoying the sport.
Everyone has a comfort zone in their activity. A lot of injuries happen when you’ve stepped too far outside of it. Fear and doubt can creep in and ruin your focus, and your body might not be coordinated enough for whatever you’re attempting.
The best way to progress in a dangerous sport is to take small steps forward and very gradually push your comfort zone further. Deciding to hit a 30 foot jump if you’ve only ever hit 5 footers is reckless, and while it may work out OK you haven’t built enough coordination and comfort to be able to consistently pull it off without risk of failure.
Don’t get too comfortable
On the flip side, injuries also happen frequently when you are within your comfort zone and let your guard down. It’s easy to think no harm can come to you when you’ve repeated the same thing hundreds of times, and this is precisely when accidents happen.
A great example of this I learned from my previous job as a machinist: Most accidents happen to newbies in the first couple years and veterans of 10 years plus. Why? Inexperienced people hurt themselves because they don’t know how to work safely, and highly experienced workers lose their focus because they’ve become desensitized to the dangers.
It takes mental effort to remain focused on a task, especially if it has become repetitive or tedious. Even if it has a high potential for danger, our minds will still wander. It’s extremely important to remind yourself to stay alert and cognizant of the risks involved.
Be aware of your body
Avoiding injury is always preferable, but when it happens you need to be able to make smart decisions about what your body is capable of. The best and most reliable way of doing this is getting the opinions of doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, etc.
If your injury was bad enough, you’ve already been to see a doctor. When my arm went backward I was pretty sure that heat and ice wasn’t going to fully do the trick.
Up until that, however, there are lots of times when you get hurt and really don’t know how bad it is. Beyond going to a professional (and doing what they say), being aware of how your body feels is really beneficial.
I’m not sure how many people are good at this, but in my own experience I had to be exposed to the concept before I ever thought about it (shout out to Eckhart Tolle). It didn’t come naturally to me, and if I hadn’t heard of it I doubt I would feel as much.
Meditating is a good way to get a hold of it, because you’ll learn how to put your awareness into your body and shift it from body part to body part. If you have an understanding of how your ankle feels when it’s doing well, it creates a baseline.
That means that when you roll your ankle, you’ll be able to put your attention on it and more accurately assess what state it’s in.
Another great way to use body awareness as a form of preventative maintenance is the ability to feel any tension or strange postures you might have when you’re spinning.
I find myself tensing my shoulders and wrists in excess when I’m trying to figure out a new move. This is usually because I’m trying to force the trick to happen as opposed to mindfully practicing. I’m getting better at spotting it early and relaxing my muscles. Not only does this prevent muscle aches and knots, but it also looks more effortless to audiences once you get the move down.
Let me be clear with this one: I’ve never spent any energy on actually researching the stuff I know now. There’s a few ways that you can be educated.
For one, I’ve injured myself a fair bit and had the privilege of going to physiotherapists and chiropractors who taught me lots about the body and ways to fix it. If you haven’t injured yourself in excess, that’s not going to work.
The other source of info I have is my girlfriend. She’s always been inherently fascinated in how things work, especially bodies. She reads and researches tons of material and, add to that, she has been injured far more and far worse than I ever have. This combined makes her a very good authority, and has helped me physically and mentally through the worst of my injuries.
So hopefully one or more of those will work for you, but if not you’re free to do the research yourself.
Do tricks you’re able to do
Some injuries will prevent you from spinning. For others you can do whatever tricks or flow you can with the limbs that still work. Breaking my arm was the first big push forward I made with spinning two poi in one hand.
When I had two working arms, the attraction of spinning in the way that I was already proficient (one poi in each hand) usually broke my focus for one-handed practice. Without the option, I was able to drill the harder one-hand moves without distraction.
It’s also worth noting that it seems to me that learning a skill with one hand speeds up the learning of the second. Your brain can sort of transfer the knowledge of the mechanics over to the other. This is another good reason to have good body awareness because you can figure out what body movements make the poi spin how it should.
Work on other areas
This more applies to performers, but if there are other ways you can work on your business/hobby then you can focus on those until you heal.
For me this means working on video editing, writing articles, or working on my website. You could also look up different moves to learn when you’re better, and simply watching flow videos from other talented spinners is never a waste of time. It’s beautiful to watch and shows you what is possible.