Every athlete, whether it be a professional, amateur, or weekend warrior has probably dealt with an injury at some time in their careers. Injuries can be tough to deal with, and a major setback for anyone in any sport. Unfortunately, injuries do happen, and at times can take longer than expected to heal. When the body is fit and healthy you feel invincible, like there is no hurdle too high, but when your body is injured, it often can be a deep dark place without any form of light to guide you out of the abyss which you feel surrounds you.
At one point, I had a 3 year period where I was constantly injured, I had 2 foot surgeries, shoulder surgery, major back and groin injuries, countless injections, numerous tears and strains to different muscles, tendons, and ligaments. I regularly found myself depressed, feeling lonely, and having no idea how I was ever going to recover, be pain free, and train again.
I would continually bounce back from each injury time and time again, becoming more focused, determined, and confident. My friends and family would asked how do I stay positive, and continue to pick myself up from these numerous and frequent injuries? Only after speaking to others, and giving advice on how to overcome the stress and strain both mentally and physically of being injured, and overcoming my own injuries and mental demons, had I realised I developed a way which got me through those tough times on every occasion.
It’s not a magic formula, or guaranteed to work perfectly, but it’s what worked for me, and I hope it will work for others.
1- Diagnosis. You must get an accurate analysis as to what the actual injury is, so you know exactly what you’re up against. Ask friends or family if they can recommend anyone to see, finding a quality consultant will help with a speedy diagnosis. Sometimes this step can drag on, but getting a correct diagnosis will help stop reoccurring injuries.
2- Emotionally deal with the injury. In my opinion this is the most important part of any injury. You must accept that you are injured and are going to have a prolonged rest, don’t just push it aside and think you will be fine. Too many people don’t properly deal with their injuries emotionally and rush back after convincing themselves they are ok, or become extremely down, depressed, and anti social. Use some time to grieve over not being able to train, and compete. Yell and scream at yourself, go on a holiday, take up knitting, do whatever it is that you need to handle the frustration, disappointment, and anger in your head from being injured. Once you have taken the time to do this, you will feel more confident and relaxed which will help immensely for your recover.
3- Make a plan of Action. This can be done with your physiotherapist, doctor, or other consultant about your rehabilitation, and recovery. You can also devise a plan on your own as to how long it’s going to take to get healthy, and give yourself small targets to reach along the way. Always give yourself a few extra days/weeks to recover, that way if you’re on schedule you will feel like you’ve come back quicker, but if you take longer to heal, you won’t feel too bad because you have allowed that extra period of time. Being flexible to changes in your program will also help in case you have a set back along the way.
4- Stay positive. This is vital to help your recovery. You must always believe in what you’re doing, and be convinced it’s always working. If you receive a setback in your recovery simply go back to step one and move through the steps, but always stay positive.
5- Take things 1 day at a time. I know its very cliché, but you must stay in the here and now, so if you do receive any setbacks it won’t hurt or feel worse then it needs to be. The body is an extremely complex organism, and it can freak out at times when positive progression is applied. Stay positive and take things one day at a time and you will be doing yourself a huge favor.
6- Learn from mistakes. Whether it is in your training, seeing the wrong consultant, or how you acted throughout your recovery, never make the same mistake twice (if it can be helped). Get second opinions, change your training, add daily or weekly exercises to stop a reoccurring injury, increase your rest time, or even decrease your amount of training. You must do something, your body has been injured, and it’s changed on some level, so must you!
7- Celebrate being injury free. Take some time once you have recovered to celebrate and reward yourself for all the hard work and dedication you put in to becoming injury free. Whether it is a favourite meal, a piece of new equipment, a glass of champagne, or even a favourite type of training session you love to do. Never forget the hard times you went through, but rejoice in the fact your injury free and ready to take on your next challenge.
With all exercise, we must follow the simple rule of listening to our bodies, they don’t always tell us what we want to hear, but we must take their concerns seriously.