What do you do as a sports marketeer, coach or an influencer, when you are forced away from your fitness addiction?

Back in 2013, I started CrossFit. I initially came to the sport wanting to pick up some greater workout capacity for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (and a set of ‘guns’) and was instantly hooked.

Fast forward to the end of 2013, I found myself starting up a simple WordPress blog, that would soon become Israel’s prime functional fitness magazine. CrossFit soon became an integral part of my life, both in passion and profession.

A post shared by Orian Tal (@oriantal) on

By the end of 2015, my relationship with aches and pains blossomed to a new level – with a minor back injury that would gradually become worse. And now, in 2018, almost three years later, I find myself in the worst situation a fitness fanatic could ever end up in – benched.

Practice what you preach

Ironically, I failed to treat my injury as I should have. My presence in my home CrossFit box diminished; I lost contact with many teammates and workout buddies and worst of all: I started losing my motivation.

I was hurt, in pain and guilt-ridden, blaming myself and my workout environment for my injury. My mental game took a deep dive along with my strength numbers. I found myself at times stuck to my bed, afraid to sneeze as it would trigger pain, slowly losing form and muscle, while finding extra space in my clothes (bad!).

Inner conflict grows

However, I needed to maintain a business… a business based on a passion that had become my Achilles’ heel. I felt conflicted.

Promoting my lifestyle and sport was my prime motivator, but my choir was made up of people who did things that I no longer could.

With each failed recovery attempt, I felt jealous of ‘these people’, and I started to resent them.
Little by little, I realized that the quality of my work suffered, I was obviously less creative, less energetic and generally not working with the same vigor. And as a business owner and a marketing professional, I could not afford that.

It was to either quit and let go of the sport, or to fight my way back to it.

Many people who live and breathe fitness find themselves in these precarious situations, which breed all sorts of internal conflicts.

Here are some concepts myself and others have applied in order to climb from the dark pit that is injury.

Compete to recover

Black and white picture of fitness coach Dai Manuel presenting in front of a white board. injury, adidas, GamePlan A, setback, coach, coaching, motivation, career
Dai Manuel used his athlete’s mindset to create an achievable recovery plan. ©https://linqreative.com/

After competing in the CrossFit regionals as a team athlete, Dai Manuel, entrepreneur, coach and lifestyle mentor, suffered a debilitating L4-L5 injury which had him sidelined for eight months.

“The first few weeks I really struggled identifying with myself. I was so used to routine and meticulous with how I was living my life, and then bam! Everything got rocked and I struggled to come to grips with the changes needed,” explains Dai.

“Fitness is a big part of my lifestyle and it was all or nothing for me which was making me more depressed. I started to ask myself what can I do today to move my health forward? What do I want to do, more importantly?”

The resolution came from the competitive space from which it had originated: “I treated recovery as my sport when I was injured. It deserved the same attention as training for a competition… recovery was my competition!” says Dai.

Applying a competitive athletic mindset towards recovery can help the mind keep busy, while investing its resources in the essentials: physical rehabilitation.

Competitive professionalism

One of the reasons I chose to invest my time in fitness, was to be good at something. Whether it was getting that elusive muscle up, or getting up from that crazy heavy clean – I wanted to do it with grace. I wanted to be a professional.

Coming to terms with the fact that I couldn’t compete at that level, I thought, why not use that same motivation in my business endeavor? While sublimation usually works the other way around (fulfilling an urge using an unrelated activity) – I took my desire to get better every day, and applied it directly to my business.

Instead of looking for wins in places where I could not perform, I looked for quick, professional wins to keep me going – getting that post written in time, arranging the editorial calendar, improving my skills as a manager, or coming up with awesome story ideas – these became my focus, and the areas in which I wanted to excel in.

Coincidentally, my work brought me to face my injury head-on. Initially, being around the fitness scene used to bring me down, but in time, it led to more active coping. I slowly started to get back into shape and regain confidence in my recovering body.

Coaching back to health

Perhaps a hybrid of both stories, Zohar Lipkin, friend and Snatcher business partner, who also leads a longstanding coaching career with Incendium Athletes, rose from not one, but two consecutive back injuries during his athletic career: “For a time, I thought that was it, that after competing in the Asia Regionals it was my time to bow out”.

Black and white picture of a fitness coach helping an athlete with the execution of a fitness exercise. injury, adidas, GamePlan A, setback, coach, coaching, motivation, career
Zohar Lipkin let his coaching skills takeover and guide his recovery. ©Vadim Zalmanov

But again, his sense of professionalism came to the rescue: “The fact that I was a coach, way before I was an athlete, was the thing that both kept me in the loop and had me recovering at my own pace. I also found that despite what I felt – people did not judge me by what I could or could not do, but instead by what I had learned as an athlete and what I had to say as a coach”.

Remotely coaching from his bed, Zohar found what was really important to him, and it wasn’t competing, or just doing fitness for the sake of it. It was something else, which in time, propelled him towards recovery: “The moment I stepped up my recovery was when I noticed that I wanted to demonstrate movements as a coach, and within two intense months of recovery, I managed to regain function”.

While it sure may seem as though the fitness industry can be unforgiving towards members who are injured or sidelined, you are never out of the fight.

Consider these stories a fist bump for all you out there who are injured or struggling in their fitness life.

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