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Mandy Marchak: Body Management is Key

Marchak representing Canada against Scotland in the Six Nations

Marchak representing Canada against Scotland in the Six Nations

I am constantly impressed by the commitment and the determination of the rugby players and other athletes that I work with.

As an athlete, especially a professional athlete, the hard work that I and my teammates put into everything we do becomes our business. We are a part of a company – something bigger than ourselves.

Suddenly, when there are set backs like injuries that affect that business, as an athlete you feel like your world has come crashing down and it is difficult to accept slowing down.

I see it everyday with the people around me – the athletes I train with, my teammates, and other athletes training at the gym or on the track that put in the same commitment and effort that I do into their sport.

The Stubborn Athlete

Marchak working with teammates

Marchak working with teammates

When someone tells an athlete that they can’t do something, it makes them want it more than ever. It’s almost like their purpose or reason for being is taken away from them and they cannot help but resist.

Well, at least that’s how it feels as an elite athlete who has given up my life for my sport.

It doesn’t matter what kind of injury it is, because any injury has a similar effect on athletes, but serious injuries are the worst because they take months and months to heal and all you can do is rest.

You are supposed to have as little activity as possible and rehab. Lots and lots of rehab. Now even though you know that this is going to take months and months, you can’t do anything to speed it up. You are going to be the most difficult, most stubborn, most impatient person you could imagine until you’re back in the game.

As much as we like to think that the sport we play doesn’t define us, something like an injury really makes you question yourself.

Injuries make athletes feel lost, confused, emotional, and like their life is in shambles and it’s coming to an end.

There couldn’t possibly be anything worse! Even though going through all of this you have your friends and family who support you, you still feel a little bit on your own. That is where a life balance comes in, but that’s a whole other topic!

No matter how serious the set back, you go through the same emotions. All you want to do is be healthy, fit, back in the game. “Put me in coach. I am ready!”

Little do we know, that as an athlete time off and body management is just as important as the training we do on the pitch!

I was talking to my physio the other day and I was telling him how soft tissue work I had done, and how I “went to town” on my neck and back, thinking that I had done the right thing! He then says, “that’s great that you went to town, but you know that less is probably more in most situations when it comes to niggles or injuries.” He said that I probably just made my injury worse, when I should have actually just taken a couple of days off and let things settle down.

Being the stubborn athlete that I am and thinking I’m doing what’s best, I was actually not doing myself any favors! Go figure!

Then something funny happened to me today. You might have had to be there to fully understand the humor in it, but we were on the pitch starting to practice some contact drills. Well, I was told not to participate, and I was standing on the side line getting impatient. So, I started to try to mimic what the players were doing against the moveable goal posts. But what I thought was being discrete was actually on show for everyone to see, and I pretty much got told to just sit still!

But I find it very hard to just sit still when all I want is to be pushing myself and doing the same thing as everyone else! I think that is the true mentality of an athlete.

However, even though I am fully capable of doing the drills and the contact, that doesn’t mean its going to help me in the bigger picture and maybe just taking a bit of time to let things settle is best. Maybe then I wont be burdened with chronic pain!

Be Smart About Injuries and Rest

Body management is so important. Even at my age, I have gotten much better at accepting this, but I still find myself trying to fight the inevitable.

My coach says that “There isn’t an award for who is the most brave. Just nip it in the bud early and be smart about these things!”

This could be the difference between being not at your best for a short period of time but then progressing from your injury to being your outstanding self or being consistently average all year! I know which one I would rather be.

Set backs stink, and as an athlete you will either be lucky enough to never have to deal with any injuries, only have had to deal with a few, or your entire career may be full of injuries that even your physio can’t explain. You may just have hard luck.

Stay Determined

Marchak having fun with teammates

Marchak having fun with teammates

The most extraordinary thing about elite athletes, however, is that no matter how hard their luck may be, they don’t give up. They do everything in their power to get back to 100% and do it all over again. And a lot of them say that they wouldn’t have had it any other way. It has made them stronger.

The experience may have been frustrating and mentally challenging, but they overcome that and those hurdles and challenges during their roller coaster ride has made them who they are today.

I was recently talking to a friend who is a Strength and Conditioning coach and he said that they like to hire athletes because they don’t call in sick when they have anything less than the squirts. They take the same pride in their work as they do in playing. I would say that pretty much describes it!

There are some really impressive athletes out there. A few of those people are on my team and every day they inspire me and the people around them by striving for greatness. No matter what challenges they are faced with, they come with a smile on their face, and encourage those around them. That takes a lot of strength and determination and these athletes continually inspire me to be my best.

Remember to stay strong and determined, don’t let injuries hinder your dreams but be smart and remember that body management and rest (when necessary) is key to getting there.

About Mandy Marchak

Mandy Marchak is one of Canada's most successful rugby players. She has been involved in many tours with both the Canadian women’s 15s and 7s teams, including the 2009 7s World Cup in Dubai and the 2010 15s World Cup in England. To date, she has 35 caps for the Canadian 15s team and 17 caps for the 7s team. She is also a Saracens player and enjoys playing social 7s with the Moody Cows and Storm 7s in the summer months. View all posts by Mandy Marchak

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