I joined the Royal Marines in 2005 and I have completed four tours of Afghanistan. Personally I have been fortunate to only get injured doing sport, rather than on the battlefield. But I’ve seen the terrible effect that all levels of injury can have on people, which is why my job of helping them get fighting fit again is so rewarding.
As a Physical Training Instructor I have always got Marines to focus on the importance of getting battle fit. When we are involved in that intense training we have one goal in mind, and perhaps it is easy to forget the added benefits of staying in shape. You only notice when it’s taken away. If you are used to training every day and then you get injured, you quickly understand the positive effects that it has on how you feel.
Imagine how much worse this is if the injury can also mean an end to your career. A few years ago I did additional qualifications and became an Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor. When Royal Marines get injured they are sent to me to be built back up. It depends on the severity of the injury but they could be with me for a few weeks, or up to a year or more.
Any injury can disrupt your life – you hurt your shoulder, for example, and maybe you can’t wash, shower, or drive. With military rehab there is always the feeling of a clock ticking. The guys are understandably very keen to get back on active duty, because being Commandos is their life. But you can’t rush injuries, and it is my job to help them be patient.
It’s one thing to teach it, but another when it comes to my own life. I injured my shoulder quite badly a couple of years back and I knew the correct rehab pathway. But because I missed being able to train and felt I wasn’t healing quickly enough, I ended up rushing it, making it worse and needing more time out.
We all make mistakes, the important thing is we learn from them. I started doing jiu-jitsu back in 2009 out in Afghanistan with REORG founder Sam Sheriff and it has become a huge part of my life. When Sam left I was proud to pick up the reins and I now help run Royal Marines BJJ. Training jiu-jitsu is a great way for anyone to blow off steam, and great for keeping you in shape.
The key for anyone is finding something you can do while you are injured, rather than stopping altogether. That is my speciality now, we take Marines with any level of injury and find exercises that fit their needs. Injuries can happen in any walk of life. They don’t mean your life is over, it just means you may need to adapt and find a way to work your way back to fitness.
Andy was talking to Richard Holt