Coaching Through the Pain: Staying Motivated Through the Bumps and Bruises

“The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow. For every challenge encountered, there is an opportunity for growth.” – Unknown

Quotes like the above are golden. They’re just harder to acknowledge in the moment.

Whether you’re a youth just starting out, a highly competitive boxer or MMA fighter, or just someone looking for a great way to stay in shape, you know that this sport (like most sports) comes with its share of bumps, bruises, and pain. Finding a way to slip on your MMA gloves or boxing headgear after a challenging training session can be daunting.

Most of this process gets down to finding the right motivation. I hope that by consulting some of these tips, you can get past any setbacks and continue to experience all the good that comes with boxing, MMA, and other combat sports.

Show Up and Get Started

Showing up is half the battle. So much of persevering through any difficult patch is having enough discipline, commitment, or plain old dogged stubbornness to simply show up each and every day. You can’t build momentum if there’s no starting point, so, on the days where your mind is unwilling and the gym is the last place you want to be, just strap on your gloves and get started. Just tell yourself you’re only going to do a simple warm-up, something easy. Once you get moving, you just might feel better and start to remember why you picked up those gloves in the first place.

Don’t Take on Too Much

Enduring too much of a physical toll, putting yourself through a program that’s too complicated, or trying to become a master at everything too quickly are all recipes for burn out. Biting off more than you can chew could leave you overwhelmed about the mountain you’re trying to climb and force you to lose sight of the positives.

On the physical side, doing too much can you make you uncomfortable and contribute to injuries. On the mental side, trying to soak in too much information can keep you from acting. Guard against both.

Make It Emotional

Even the most well-disciplined fighter will sometimes prefer the idea of couch surfing to the idea of pulling on your headgear and sparring. Since we’re often programmed to do what we feel like doing, make it emotional and find your why to get back in the ring when the bumps and bruises feel like too much to overcome. Whether you love fighting because you love the sport,  because it makes you more confident, because it clears your head, or for any other reason, try to always remember the why. Put it in big letters somewhere you will see it. It can be just the push you need to get out the door and into the gym.

Lean on Others

Demanding sports like boxing and MMA sap a lot of physical and mental energy. To replenish, it’s pretty important to have coaches, trainers, fellow competitors, family, and friends to lean on. Whether you feel obligated to fight through the pain for that person or that person can deliver just the words to get you fired up, that interaction can be crucial for motivation. Good mentors are so valuable to helping athletes of all kinds excel in good times and bad.

Take Immediate Action on Injuries

Trust your body. If you feel something beyond the normal aches and pains, ask a coach or trainer and consider going to the doctor. Early detection and treatment of injuries can minimize pain, and minimize the chance of minor issues growing into more serious ones. Even when you don’t feel like doing so, swallow your pride and seek out the best advice to get back to 100 percent sooner rather than later.

Maintain All-Around Condition

The best way to recover from injuries, or even a hard punch during a fight, is to be in best physical shape as possible in the first place. Focusing on all aspects of strength and conditioning training, including aerobic and anaerobic exercises, will put you in the condition to recover more quickly from the bumps and bruises. Building and maintaining a strong lower half is particularly crucial, as your legs can be one of the first parts of the body to struggle when you get tired.

Have a Vision

A well-thought-out big-picture view is very helpful on the days where you dread the idea of getting in the ring or hitting the bag. Whatever you’re working toward, having a long-term ultimate goal is an important source of motivation to make the struggle seem worth it. If you have a plan and a greater purpose, it should make it easier to push through on those difficult days.

Mental Reinforcement

Great fighters often excel at positive thinking and visualizing success. Reading, listening to podcasts or music, and watching inspirational programs can help motivate you to be your best. It’s amazing what an improved frame of mind can do for you physically.

Take Advantage of the Good Days

You know those days when you feel like you could shadowbox for hours? The days when you feel invincible? Hopefully, you get a decent share of them, but don’t squander any of them. On the days where you’re locked in, push yourself further and get max results. Experiencing great days can be a big source of inspiration to ride the same high tomorrow.

And on those days where you just want to lie in bed? Remember step one: show up and get started.

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