The way forward isn’t always a straight path. Sometimes it’s curved. Sometimes it’s a zigzag pattern. Other times you have to take a few steps back or even start over to get yourself going in the right direction.

My injuries these past few months (first the hamstring, now the back) have been trying, but they’ve also been interesting lessons in patience, balance, and as I experienced in tonight’s class, modification. Another way to look at modification would be to call it adaptability.

I thought I was following a nice forward path to recovery, but for some reason tonight my body decided to take the proverbial two steps backwards. Before I headed out to taekwondo class, my lower back began stiffening up from the bottom left lumbar region up to the shoulder blade, and on the other side a nasty knot of irritation began boiling near the right sacroiliac joint. I felt like I needed my back to pop¬†so badly, but I just couldn’t get that satisfaction.

I knew from the beginning of class that I’d have to modify. A jump in the air–NOPE. A spin kick–NOPE. Not happening. My instructor gave me some cues at the beginning to help me adjust my movements, and I did the rest of the jumping kicks from the ground.

I could have quit with the first botched spin kick. I could have sat on the sidelines while my classmates sweated and jumped. That would have been a 100% guarantee I would be protecting my back by doing nothing, but I would have been doing nothing to improve my taekwondo skills or sharpen my ability to adapt to a difficult situation. Besides, while my body needs a little more gentle care right now, completely stopping all exercise would make me feel more stiff, lethargic, and depressed.
No way. I was sticking this out.

I spent the rest of the evening seeing how I could adapt my kicking and striking approach to balance the demands of the class with the demands of my body.¬†Instead of focusing on what my body couldn’t do, I focused on what it COULD do. I couldn’t jump or twist or move as quickly as usual, but slowing down helped me concentrate on being more focused and precise. I gave myself more time to work on little details I often gloss over when I’m going full force in taekwondo class. And for the record, I still worked up a sweat.

Adaptability means we can quickly make sound decisions and adjust our approach when faced with change. Being adaptable helps us flex our creativity muscles and try things we might not have normally tried in more supposedly ideal circumstances. When we make the choice to adapt to a situation, especially an adverse one, we have the chance to prove to ourselves that we are stronger than we gave ourselves credit for being.

We are all on our paths forward. Sometimes we hit some bumps or even run into brick walls. We still, however, have the power to change our attitudes and control our responses to the situation. Sometimes the adaptation is even more amazing than the original.



3 thoughts on “Closed Door, Open Window: How Adversity Can Hone Adaptability

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