What comes before “First Aid”?

Not such a simple question?  Getting injured; getting hurt; an accident?  Or are we missing something?

When I was in grad school, I worked at Oklahoma State University.  And I worked.  None of us AT GA’s ever really paid attention to how many hours we worked.  They said to be there we were there.  My morning routine was wake up, load up with a full days worth of Mountain Dew (around 72 total ounces) and pop-tarts (at a minimum, half a box) and unlock the Athletic Training room by 5am.  (In 2-years I overslept once, and missed this.  Having to explain to Terry Noonan why his AT Room wasn’t open on time was a great learning experience -in hindsight- and the start of a neurotic habit of owning and setting multiple alarm clocks). I wondered why in my first 3 months of the position my pants stopped fitting……Fast forward two years and I’m a fellowship AT at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  Guess what, the same schedule.  Show up, do all the work, repeat until they said go home.  My family and friends would always ask “How’s the skiing?”  It wasn’t in the AT Room, so I had no idea.   As a young, single guy with nothing holding me down this schedule worked for me.  Fifteen years later, with a wife, a child, a dog and a fish that schedule would be brutal.

March is Athletic Training month – a month dedicated to and promoting those that take care of and serve the athletic and active population.  If you watch any sporting event, you see them. When someone gets hurt, the AT’s are the ones that run onto the field.  When there is a timeout, the AT’s are the ones hydrating the athletes (we all know that most games are decided in the 4th quarter – how different would those games be if the starters couldn’t play because they were out cramping or dehydrated).

Every Athletic Trainer’s FIRST athletic training class is “ATC 101: Intro to Athletic Training” (or some variant of that name).  One of the very first things every athletic trainer learns is Basic First Aid (many employers require not just this but Professional Rescuer credentials).  Someone is bleeding – stop it.  Someone is unconscious – look for a pulse and respiration.  A better name for this information should be common sense first aid – it is a set of skills EVERYONE should know.  In addition to this every AT learns the acronym RICE or PRICE – (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) or (Protect, Ice, Compression, Elevation.)  All are wonderful skills that serve as the bedrock for all the other advanced skills every AT learns as they progress through the curriculum and clinical experiences needed to be ready to care for athletes.

But, we forgot something.  Something that is so important that it can sidetrack and de-rail EVERYTHING we have learned.  Something that threatens our athletes and us.  What comes before “First Aid”?

Anyone that chooses a profession of service (or are a parent) all fall into this – if you neglect to care for yourself, you CANNOT take care of others.  Anyone that has ever flown knows the speech with the flight attendants stand up and hold the mask – put yours on first. If you are unconscious, you are a burden to someone else.  We learn how to care for others, but we neglect ourselves.

I get it.  You are busy.  WAKE UP CALL – Everyone is busy.  If you are going to ask your athletes (or your kids) to take part in their treatment, you have to take part in your treatment.  If you are an ATC and your knee hurts, that is YOUR FAULT.  Quit complaining and do something about it – be an athletic trainer and fix your knee, or ask a colleague to look at it.  It’s your knee – YOU are the only one that can fix it.  We get to choose the mindset that we approach life with – you’re the hammer or your the nail.  If you want to be the hammer, you can’t act like a nail.  Take control of what you can control.

Every day each of us should take 30-60 minutes to take care of ourselves.  Here is why that is not selfish – if you are broken or not functioning at 100% you are depriving and limiting the care you are providing with those you are entrusted with caring for.  Being at 50% limits your effectiveness.  What is your outlet, what is it that you do to take care of you?  Personally, every day I read some work of fiction.  I use the word ‘read’ loosely – I use Audible to listen to fiction every day.  45-60 minutes every day I sneak in a workout – sometimes structured, sometimes not.  I coach my kids’ basketball team 2 nights a week – they think it is for them (and so did I initially), but the truth is I get more out of that 4 hours of detachment from the real world than they do.  When I get the opportunity, I go to the shooting range and shoot (if I don’t get to do this 2-3 times per month, I get in a nasty mood).

Seems like a lot, but a lot of people look to me for direction and support – if I’m not 100% every day they feel it, not me.  Here is the other thing I figured out – I can get a lot of stuff done from 4:45am-6:30am.  When the rest of my house wakes up, I’m ready to be a dad, husband, and alpha dog (to my boxer). As soon as I get in my truck at 7:40am, I’m prepared to be a clinic manager, a clinician, faculty member, small business owner, and gopher.  I MAKE time every day so that I can be everything I need to be.  I control what I can, and make sure I’m ready to adapt to what I cannot control – if I’ve got things holding me back I can’t be at 100%. Taking care of you is what allows you to serve others better.

If your first thought is “I don’t have time” the solution is simple – Make time.  This is the adult equal to the childhood excuse of “the dog ate my homework.”  We MAKE time for our priorities – it is time to make YOU your priority. Get up earlier or stay up later.  You can either find the time, or it will find you (often times it is not convenient when this happens).  If that alarm goes off at 4:45 am, and you sleep through it (or you don’t set it because you want to sleep in) you have a discipline problem.  It’s okay – my alarm is set at 4:45am every day, and 2-3 times per week I sleep through it.  But, I’m still at 100% for everyone by 6:30am.  Some weeks are better than others.  It’s okay to not be perfect – it’s not okay to take care of yourself.  Only you can take care of you – take ownership of you.

Your Action Plan:

Here is your task for the rest of your month – AT’s this is directed squarely at you:

  1. Write out 5 hobbies or things that you enjoy doing THAT DON’T INVOLVE BEING AN AT.  This is harder than it appears.  Identify what you like to do – if you can’t, well, there is no can’t.  Focus harder and make a list.
  2. As soon as you get home, put on your “at home clothes.” This is HUGE – it gets you out of work mode.  When you work, work.  When you are home, turn work off. Yes, you can do this.  I swear this is my wife’s superpower (one of them).  We walk in the door, and before she gets into the kitchen (20 feet maybe, with 2 corners), she is in her comfy pants and a sweatshirt.  (The scary part – I’ve walked in with her many times and never seen her change clothes, they just…..change.)  The simple act of getting out of your AT costume is easy to do, and seriously, you don’t have to wear khakis and a polo 24/7.  Here is a specific rule for AT’s – you can’t put on ANYTHING with your school/employers logo on it.  Home time is your time.  You own it, so own it with clothes you bought (we are all cheap and LOVE the free clothes, but we can all afford 1 shirt and 1 pair of shorts).
  3. Look at your calendar – carve out 30 minutes 3 times per week to do something on the list you created in #1.  Writing your goals (these are now your goals) is step one, now we are creating an action to accomplish this.  GUARD THIS TIME SLOT.  For these three 30 minute time slots, you are the first priority.  The plane has depressurized, the masks have dropped – grab yours and put it on first!
  4. Find 3-4 Podcasts that you like and download some episodes.  My current favorite – The Jocko Podcast.  When you are commuting, listen to these.  When you are doing dishes, listen to these.  Running – listen.  Commuting – listen.  On the bus with the team – listen.  In a staff meeting………your call.  There is a TON of great info sitting out there, literally at your fingertips (on your smartphone 3 clicks away).  Take advantage of this.
  5. This will be the hard one – Get rid of your chair at work.  Yep, toss it.  Why? Many of you are thinking that you either don’t have time to workout or don’t want to.  As AT’s we know sitting is bad for posture, health, and caloric expenditure.  So, why are you still sitting at work?  Do you need to relax?  Great, just don’t veg out in your office.  Standing up at work makes you more productive AND increases the calories you burn every day.  Get a stand-up desk.  If you can’t afford one, make one out of boxes.  There is NO excuse
  6. That ache or pain that has been following you around?  Quit being nice to it and kick it in the teeth.  My left QL – that is mine.  That is my go-to junky spot.  Sit too long, stand too long, just a crazy day where I’m all over the place, and that little, whiney, b#$%* gets the courage to try and ruin the rest of my day.  Guess what, I know its plan.  SO I HAVE A PLAN TO CRUSH IT.  I carry a lacrosse ball with me all the time to shut it up as needed.  BUT most importantly – the final 20 minutes of my days are spent on the living room floor with some tool of pain – lacrosse ball, medicine ball, foam roll, kettlebell, football, softball, etc.  These are what I use to do my daily soft tissue maintenance.  But why wait until the day is over?  Two reasons – I’m playing the long game; I’m getting ready to own my tomorrow.  Second, I’m using some of that AT stuff I’ve learned – Deep tissue work stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System which kicks me into a rest/recovery cycle.  This is kind of good since I want to go to sleep anyway.

In conclusion – this is your month.  Don’t just say it; don’t just hang the banner up in your AT room; don’t just put the fancy AT Frame on your social media profile pic. Do something.  Grab the month by the neck, take control or what you can control, and take care of you so you can better serve others. Come April 1, you should have kicked AT month squarely in the teeth. Now, go get it done!

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One Comment

  1. Taught essentially those principles for a quarter century. Got a Yin yang tattoo on my pyloric stenosis scar. Balance=key to life

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