The headline summarizes my advice to you, the reader. After wrestling in middle school and a year in high school — and after 18 months of training BJJ — I finally zigged when staph zagged.
It’s frustrating, because I’ve been training really hard for the Pans at the end of the month, and when the infection hit I felt like I was better than ever in terms of technique, timing and conditioning. Making matters doubly vexing, I’m the guy who takes every precaution: I always wash all my gear after every use, even my belt; we mop our mats after every class; I use Athletic Body Care body wash and lotion.
Ultimately, no matter how many precautions you take, mat-borne illness can get you. It’s just part of the price of admission to this great sport of ours. (I’m particularly at risk, I must acknowledge, because I have eczema, so I have more breaks in my skin than most people on average).
I was lucky. I was also paranoid. These two factors enabled me to catch it early. I tell this story so others will know the warning signs. Hopefully you’ll never need to know these signs, but if you have the misfortune to get the illness, the sooner you get after it, the better.
Training the previous night had gone great. It was my 24th straight day training, but I didn’t feel run down or sore. But when I went to bed, my shin was sore. “Huh,” I thought. “I must’ve clashed shins with someone and not realized it.” I didn’t see a bruise, but you don’t always turn black and blue when you get whacked.
About a half-hour later, I noticed a small patch of my skin had turned red. I raised an eyebrow at this.
About a half-hour after that, a portion of my shin about 3.5 inches by one inch was red and swollen. My skin felt stretched out, and the ara felt warm to the touch. Uh oh.
I called the doctor.
Fortunately, they were able to see me just two hours later (if they had put me off, I would have gone to the emergency room). I was amazed to hear that most people my doctor sees that have staph wait until it starts to weep before they make an appointment. By this point, you’re a raging mess of contagion and it takes much more work to get the infection under control.
Since I have no illusions that I am stronger than a bunch of microbes, I eagerly accepted the powerful antibiotics she prescribed and gobbled those suckers down.
As if you needed convincing, having staph (even a mild case) is awful. There’s the pain, of course: mine felt about twice as sore as the worst bruise I’ve ever had. The antibiotics themselves mess you up, too, and take my advice: do not gobble these on an empty stomach. If you’ve been given the right medicine, you will get sick.
Far and away the worst part for me, though, was just not being able to train. I feel the same way about injuries: being off the mat drives me crazy, and retards my progress. Injuries are the enemy.
Infections are worse, though, because if you’re honest about what you’ve got (and you MUST be, unless you’re a real prick), a lot of people will balk at training with you. This is totally understandable: nobody wants this stuff, and with good reason.
So I played it safe. I was told on Thursday that I wasn’t contagious, but I waited four days after that to get back on the mat. No reason to take unnecessary risks, and even though it was driving me crazy not to train, I wanted to be certain I wasn’t putting anyone else in danger.
Needless to say, it was a big setback. I took time off from training, missed a US Grappling tournament (I’d signed up to do all eight divisions again), and generally had to sit inside and sleep a lot. And it could have been a lot worse.
So now, several days after that, I only have one more day in my antibiotic regimen. Hopefully, this will end both the staph and the “feeling like crap from antibiotics” portion of this training camp.
Fortunately, I have implemented a new anti-staph strategy in my training.
The rainbow scares away the microbes, you see.