Life has a way of throwing the unexpected at you. We are not always able to carry out our plans and continue on in our daily routines and habits unimpeded by the world. If you are reading this, the odds are you are fairly serious about personal growth across multiple domains and skillsets, and take seriously the idea of practicing to improve yourself across this wide spectrum. This may include physical fitness, martial arts, firearms use, fire-craft and shelter making, land navigation; the list goes on and on. There is so much to see, learn, and do in such a short period of time. Time is our most precious resource. Due to this, we work and strive to accomplish our training goals, in one form or the other, every one of our days; for there is much on the line.

Whether it be professional commitments or family obligations that take priority over our training, there will be dry-fire sessions or jiu-jitsu practices missed. Sometimes, we can get in our own way, injuring ourselves in the very act of improving and learning. Other times, disease finds its terrible way to us, ladening us with sickness ranging from a few days, to months and months. So, the question arises, how do we continue on “the path” if we are injured or sick for extended periods of time, unable to use our bodies the way we have for years and years? This is a question that I have had to grapple with recently to find a way to make positive use of my days.

At the time of this writing, it has been six weeks of bedrest, one spinal injection, and one spinal surgery since I have been able to function. And by function, I mean getting myself dressed, being able to sit upright, stand for more than 15 minutes, you know, the little things. The last six weeks have consisted of lying in bed, getting up to utilize the facilities, and, you guessed it, back into the bed. For a 29 year-old male who lifts 4-5 days a week, gets to BJJ class 2-3 times a week, and is rocking a plate carrier on the range jumping in and out of tactical vehicles every day, this has been quite an adjustment. I found myself shifting gears from a fast paced, physical existence to a slower paced, “academic” state. So, with all this time spent lying in bed, unable to do much of anything, what is there to do?

A little TV or video games is ok… but it is all too easy to find yourself wasting hours upon hours watching mindless shows and slipping further into the abyss.

First off, I found myself flirting precipitously close to the edge of the great abyss that is depression. It was far too easy to begin to feel sorry for myself and wrap my mind up in the “woe is me” blanket, spending my time thinking about all the things I COULD be doing, if not for this injury. This is no good. What helped bring me back from this ledge was putting my situation into perspective: there are many, many people in the world in FAR worse shape than me. This led to the next thought, which, ironically enough, was the same thought that started me down the dark path: just what COULD I be doing with this time and situation? So, what changed? Mindset. Attitude. The way I chose to see my position in the world.

Rule #1 for a Productive Recovery:

Develop, and maintain, a positive attitude.

Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial for not only your mental health and morale but for those around you as well. Keeping a positive outlook going is the foundation for recovery and productivity. Some days are harder than others, this is absolutely true. On these days, fake the funk. As the saying goes, false motivation is better than no motivation.

Now I am sure some of you are thinking how positivity is all well and good but sunshine and rainbows are not going to carry you through this trying time. To this, I would say you are correct. If you are going to keep a positive attitude, there needs to be something to be positive about. I cannot sit in my bed, smiling all day, thinking all is well with the world for weeks on end. There needs to exist some reason to be excited to wake up in the morning, something to look forward to. Injured, bed-ridden Steve has the same goals and training objectives that healthy, active Steve had. All that has changed is the medium through which improvement and development will take place. This is where SMART goals come in.

You may not be able to actively participate in physical training, but that does not stop the transfer of knowledge. Do what you can with    what you have.

Rule #2 for a Productive Recovery:

Develop SMART Goals.

SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based. Achievement and/or progression towards attaining these goals will serve as the desired end-state for the duration of your recovery time. Using these goals as a “super-structure”, we can create an outline or training plan that will provide reasons to wake-up and get after the day. Write these goals down, track your progress, note what worked, what didn’t, and adapt your approach if necessary.

Now that we have what we want thought through and written out, the next step is creating a plan to accomplish our goals. This can be as simple as making a checklist in your phone listing what you want to accomplish for the day in a way that is easily referenced, updated, and tracked. Direction for all the down-time is what is needed, after all, so having a list of things to do in pursuit of our objectives is paramount. This brings us to the next rule.

Rule #3 for a Productive Recovery:

Plan out tasks for the following day the night prior.

I will write in my “Daily Task List” things like “read classical literature, 20 pages” and “review/update Rifle I lesson plan” and “Brainstorm Instagram Content Ideas, 30 minutes.” In adhering to this list, you can be as strict or as loose with it as you like. I personally do not hold myself to accomplishing each task in the order I originally listed them or in specific time-blocks I may have written in for a task. The intent with this list is to, at a minimum, have SOMETHING to occupy your time with while working to achieve your training objectives. The important part is completing the tasks; it does not matter how you go about doing this.

Do not waste time. Use the recovery period to expand your knowledge and broaden yourself.

There are going to be days in recovery when that motivation and positive attitude just are not there. These days are rough. However, momentum is most definitely a thing, and it works in both negative and positive ways. So, when false motivation and a positive attitude fail you, what is there to fall back on? Discipline. The answer is discipline. There are items that require your attention, tasks that need to be completed. You know they exist, for you made the very list that is now staring you down, working to sow doubt into your mind, reminding you of the futility of the effort all this really is. Why not just lay in bed, binge-watching Archer or The Office? How come you can’t spend days playing Halo? You are injured after all, relegated to laying in bed for days upon days, week after week.

Discipline. These are the days where it is most important to get those tasks done. Get those tasks started, plan how you’re going to tackle that list, just keep moving forward. One step (figuratively, in this case) at a time. Enforce order upon your day, take control of the chaos. This is the next rule.

Rule #4 for a Productive Recovery:

Be disciplined. Stick to the outlined plan, even (especially) when you do not want to.

The rough day will end. You will close your eyes and have the next day beckoning before you soon enough. In these moments before falling into sleep, you can rest feeling positive about your accomplishments of the day. Progress made, regardless of the fact that it was a painful, difficult day. Steps taken forward, moving you along the path to your goals. You can look back at what you produced on this day with pride. Whether it be finishing a chapter in a book, playing a board game with your kids, replying to those pesky work emails, it does not matter.

College, business projects, or just writing down your thoughts are all great ways to be productive when stuck in bed healing.

Rule #5 for a Productive Recovery:

Produce SOMETHING. Have a product at the end of the day that can be pointed to and, genuinely, be thought of as a good use of the time.

These five rules have been my guiding principles throughout this whole experience. Fortunately, through my upbringing, education, and life experiences, I was able to cut down on the time it took for me to snap these rules into place. They have proven invaluable throughout this experience, and I have no doubt they will continue to do so. Besides, the dirty little secret behind these rules is that they apply just as readily in normal, every day life as they do when stuck in bed healing or sick. There is no difference. Honestly, this seemingly obvious observation took me a couple of weeks to figure out. And, if for nothing other than forcing myself to abide by these rules when injured and immobile, proving to myself that this system works, this whole experience will have proved invaluable going forward in all aspects of life. And that is what it’s all about, after all, isn’t it?





By Steven Wollermann

Steve Wollermann has spent the last twelve years serving as an Infantryman in the Army National Guard. After some time in a line company, he successfully completed his battalion’s Sniper Assessment and Selection program, going on to spend most of his career in the sniper section. Following the sniper section, he went on to a position as a member of his state’s marksmanship competition/training team. Currently, he is an instructor at a Regimental Training Institute (RTI). As a civilian, Steve has worked as a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor for six years in the role of Fieldcraft Instructor. With this position, he has primarily covered the employment of rifles, pistols, and tactics to deploying DoD personnel. Additionally, he is the owner of Combatant Training Group, a company with the purpose of educating responsible Americans in the use of firearms and self-sufficiency. When Steve is not buried in a book, he is most likely in his garage gym, throwing sandbags around, flipping a tire in the driveway, and using kettlebells in all sorts of ways.

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