Home > Posts > ABI Heros > Post-ABI & TBI – Filling The Gaps & Feeling Human – Sports and Exercise

Filling in the gaps and feeling human (3)

There is something about sport, particularly competitive sport, that always got my blood pumping. I think analysing the reasons why we enjoy something so much, why it was such a big part of our lives, is a key aspect of further understanding yourself before moving on to finding ways that you can replace the sport or activity you can no longer do.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have enjoyed playing sports like rugby competitively and football recreationally and competitively throughout different stages of my life. With these being contact sports, it would certainly be inadvisable for me to play these sports post-TBI. So there is a gap left by a passion that can no longer be pursued. Also we must remember that when we are passionate about doing something we are more likely to do it. This brings me to the next point; doing exercise is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. Lack of exercise will lead to weight gain and, if we remain inactive, it will quickly have negative effects on our mental health and potentially lead to further long-term physical health issues in later life. So we need to find out what motivates us and makes us passionate and enthusiastic to play sports and be active. So here is what I miss most about playing Rugby and Football and what they provided for me.

What Did Sport Provide For Me?

  • A way to keep fit and healthy.
  • A way to release energy, aggression and passion in a way that was constructive and that I was good at.
  • It gave me a way to channel my physicality that provided me with that adrenaline rush you so often get from something you really enjoy.
  • Competition against another person or team and the binary concept of winning or losing (and sometimes drawing I suppose – yuck!).
  • The rush of victory or even the disappointment of losing. So I suppose the way that you are emotionally attached to the outcome of what is happening on the pitch.
  • Finally, being part of something. There is something to be said for being a part of a team; competing alongside people you like, people you want to do well for and you know feel the same way.

How Have I, or Do I Intend to, Fill Those Gaps?

Now, I’m fully aware of the fact that not all of these things can be replicated in the same way merely by doing something else. However it is also worth remembering that they can’t be replicated and replaced by doing nothing. So here are some different ways that I have tried to replicate similar feelings through different options.

Things I Have Done Already

  • Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses and inabilities and set appropriate boundaries; what is possible and what isn’t. Working within these boundaries is the only safe and healthy way to approach becoming active again.
  • Start walking places rather than using public transport. It may sound simple but this is a good way to get out in the sunshine, the fresh air and get the blood moving and oxygenating the blood, improving cognitive and mental thought processes. This is a good first step to getting back on the road to becoming active again.
  • Swimming once a week, this is not ideal, as I can’t do it with as much freedom as I want because my dad has to come with me as a carer due to my Epilepsy. But swimming is a fantastic way to ease your way back into sport and regain a basic level of fitness.
  • Attending the gym on a regular basis (I am currently attending four times a week). This allows me to set my own targets regarding weight loss, improvements in stamina and weight lifting. In a way, competing against myself, always seeking improvement (Also this gives me a way to replace that feeling of channeling my energy and physicality into my exercises, push myself that little bit further each time).
  • I changed the way I think about words such as “winning” and “losing”. Ask the question “what is the opponent?” rather than “who is the opponent?” Changing our mindset in this way can be incredibly positive. When I asked “what” instead of “who”, I found that there was so many things out there I could try and beat: my extra weight, my current levels of stamina and strength, my own personal records and most importantly my brain injury. I treat the injury as the opponent, the thing that I will not lose to and that, in the long run, I will beat. It will not stop me enjoying exercise; it will not stop me enjoying life. It has taken so much already why should it take that as well?

Things I’m Planning on Doing

  • To make up for the absence in competitive, contact team sport, that thrill of winning, I have decided to expand my horizons. At the local leisure centre where I live there is a Water Polo class each week that I have recently signed up for. Although it is not necessarily a contact sport, it’s by no means an easy ride. It also involves similar aspects of rugby and football; moving into space, hand-eye coordination, throwing, catching, and scoring goals! As I said, it’s not the same, but it’s a safe alternative that involves many of the same aspects.
  • As I said, I am currently in the process of broadening my horizons. Since I was a child I have spent a lot of time outdoors. One thing I loved, in particular, was climbing; trees, rocks, hills etc. I have recently found that a local outdoor education centre in my area provides a safe, supervised environment with top equipment and resources as part of rehabilitation for people with long-term health issues (ABI/TBI victims, people with heart problems, epilepsy) where climbing walls and other outdoor activities are available. I intend on contacting them as soon as possible to find out more. As is the same as the Water Polo, it is not the same as before but I know I enjoy that kind of thing and just because it isn’t the same doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worse.

Final Whistle & Post Match Assessment

While these are only the things I will be trying in the coming months, they may not turn out to be right for me. If that is the case, then fine. The key is to work within the boundaries we have set for ourselves, and the restrictions that have been placed on us. But most importantly it is to approach things with an open mind, a positive approach and a willingness to try new things in order to stay fit and healthy while enjoying it at the same time.


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