Invictus Masters Athlete, Sam Dancer, Talks Post-Surgery Comeback and His 2023 Push For the Podium
As a CrossFit athlete, the sport can demand a lot from our bodies. Not only are we putting our physical fitness and readiness to the test, but we’re also tapping into our emotional and mental fortitude as well. Nothing can push your boundaries more than a setback caused by an injury. Unfortunately, Sam Dancer experienced just such an injury last year prior to the 2022 Games and, subsequently, had to undergo a bicep surgery not long afterwards.
We sit down with Dancer as he walks us through his experience with injury, post-surgery training, and his plan to comeback stronger than ever during the 2023 Games season.
Ammerman: Walk us through what happened during the first event of the 2022 Games, Three Ways Down. What went through your mind when you made the decision to withdraw from the Masters Division?
Dancer: It needs to be clarified that I injured my bicep warming up a few days out from competition. I knew I tore it but I didn’t know for sure how bad. So I sucked sadness from coming to the realization that my goal of being a Masters Champion was on hold. [I] decided I was going to continue with the approach of I was going to compete until I couldn’t and hoping for an event that wouldn’t require use of my arm. When that workout was released, all the pain and sadness I pushed down erupted because I knew I was going to be forced into withdrawing for the first time in my career. It was devastating. We made so many sacrifices that year and I was the fittest I have ever been. To have it all disappear in a second really hurt. I was excited to showcase the work I put In. Especially to my wife and daughter.
Ammerman: You’ve experienced injuries in the past from a pec tear during the Regionals to a fractured fibula during the first event of the Games in 2016. How has this most recent injury impacted your mindset towards setback and recovery as an athlete?
Dancer: This is nothing like any injury I have had. Every injury I’ve sustained in the past I have been able to push through. This is also the first time for me getting surgery.
It has been mentally challenging, to say the least. Competing in WZA definitely gave me a huge boost in confidence that I needed.
Ammerman: As an extremely active person, recovery could be very difficult as you work to get back to what you could previously do in the gym. What did your post-surgery programming look like?
Dancer: Cycling, running, core, grip [training] and squatting. I spent a lot of time utilizing lasers, red lights, sauna, ice and floating to help speed up the process.
Ammerman: During the Holds & Climbs event at this year’s Wodapalooza, you got the opportunity to test your limits as someone who is less than a year out from a ruptured distal bicep tendon surgery. Walk us through what was going on in your mind as you started your rope climb.
Dancer: At the point of this event I was only 4.5 months out from surgery which is insane for the injury I had. I made an agreement with my team/training partners that I wasn’t going to do anything that I didn’t feel comfortable doing even if it meant we withdraw. They were very supportive of this. This event pushed the uncomfortable button. Climbing rope was very challenging for me. I was scared but I knew my bicep could withstand it if I was patient, focused on using my legs and staying in my lane. Not try to chase anyone. With much relief I was able to successfully manage it.
Ammerman: You’ve had quite a lot of physical, mental and emotional obstacles in your life. Some people might withdraw or give up. You, however, have overcome and pushed forward. What would you say drives you to continue growing and learning from your experiences?
Dancer: I’m disciplined in my obedience to the Lord. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Ammerman: As the new 2023 CrossFit competition season begins, where do you hope to see yourself this year? Are there any goals (big or small) that you’d like to see yourself meet?
Dancer: Standing on top of the podium and being crowned the fittest Masters athlete on the planet.
Ammerman: And finally, as someone who has a successful CrossFit career, what advice would you give to up and coming athletes who are looking to carve out a spot for themselves on the competition floor?
Dancer: I came from a football background and I have been weight training for over 20 years. That foundation is what has allowed me to be able to have both early and long term success in the sport. If you want to be great, you will need a solid foundation. Don’t avoid the basics. I know the high skill stuff is sexy but BASICS! Good, old-fashioned strength and conditioning. You don’t need fancy high intensity CrossFit workouts all the time to build that base. Cycle, swim and run (especially up hills). Have a big squat, deadlift and bench. Be mobile and eat enough high quality food. Stay hydrated and regimented with your sleep. Warm up till you are sweaty, cool down and don’t forget to have fun. It’s just exercising. Consistency is key, so keep showing up! Find out what happens when you don’t give up.
Keep up with Sam on IG @samdancing, Invictus @crossfitinvictus and Tiffany @the_goodish_traveler_media.