They can end careers; they can cause you to fall out of love with a favourite sport; they have even been known to break-up relationships!
Injuries can be the bane of any athlete’s life, but whilst most of us will face some type of injury over the course of any sporting or fitness endeavour, not all of us cope with them as well as we could. This post may help give you hope or at least some ideas towards beating your injury.
OK let’s go back to the beginning; first ask yourself why do you do the sport or activity that your injury is holding you back from? Normally people can think of more reasons than just “because I enjoy it”, if this is your only answer then think deeper, why do you like it? Once you can answer this question then sit back and try to think how you can achieve the same results through alternative means, so for example:
I recently broke two toes whilst doing martial arts, so I asked myself what do I love about martial arts? Apart from “kicking people” as this didn’t help! I realised that the extreme fitness element of this activity was one of my primary motivators as well as the development of the ability to defend myself against potential aggressors. So to turn the negative feelings of the injury into a positive deflection I then had to fulfil these two elements alternatively. Fitness was the easy one as I just had to find exercises that I could do without loading my toe, so lots of upper body work was on the cards and by doing low weight/high repetition I could still achieve the cardiovascular strain I had become so accustomed to. The second element (self defence) was a little harder, but I found that by studying and then practising tactical thinking during everyday situations I could still empower myself with the confidence that if a situation arose whereby I needed to act, then I was already aware of my response i.e. if that strange person walking towards my car comes up to the driver’s door then I would press the lock button and drive forwards (not backwards as there was a large bollard behind me!). Inadvertently I was actually training my mind anyway in skills that I should have been practising when not injured! One could say that the injury helped improve my training.
2. Realise that everything happens for a reason.
Don’t become the blaming victim who blindly blames everything other than themselves for the injury, I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, either as a test or perhaps the universe is hinting that you are talking the wrong direction with something you are doing, listen to these subtle hints and if you accept the reason as a challenge it will make you feel empowered to overcome the injury, if you accept the reason as a hint then take a good look at what you are doing and change course to improve where you are heading.
3. Listen to your body.
Maybe this should have been number one, but these tips aren’t in order of importance, if they were then this would be number 1! “No pain no gain” is a great phase that is often misunderstood, pain is normally your body telling you to ease up or stop what you are doing, it is a survival response that has developed over millions of years to prevent us from killing ourselves. What the phase means is that when you are training hard you won’t gain anything if you don’t push yourself to the point where you want to give up and to a certain extent this is true; however pain relating to a injury is there to let you know that that part of the body is still injured, so ease up or stop. Distinguishing between “good” pain and “bad” pain is a skill that comes with experience and knowledge of your body so if in doubt ask a professional.
4. Eliminate psychological reinforcement.
This is one that most people, myself included, are rubbish at! Yes you tore your hamstring, yes you have broken your foot; but once you have realised this and told everyone you know! Do you need to keep referring back to it? Our minds rule our bodies, so if you keep reminding yourself of the injury by constantly blaming it, constantly boasting about it, constantly moaning about it; then your body will keep responding to those negative thoughts and you will not only probably slow the healing process, but you will create mental negativity which will hamper your performance.
5. Seek professional advice.
This may sound like a real obvious one, in the same way as don’t eat chocolate you’ll put on weight is obvious, but do we listen? Do we ever! Seriously though, having a professional opinion will normally be the difference between a slow recovery and making the fastest possible recovery from the injury; particularly in the case of sports injuries. Not only can health care professionals help to diagnose the injury accurately, they can also recommend the best course of action to help promote the fastest possible recovery. Most people’s barrier to seeking professional advice is either cost or time and in some cases bad experiences with misinformation in the past. These are all understandable concerns, but bear this in mind: Cost and time are deceptive, as a small initial investment to find the correct diagnosis will most certainly avoid you doing more extensive (and therefore inevitably more expensive and time consuming) damage. With regards to bad experiences, this is slightly more difficult as sometimes you almost need to see someone to be told which health care professional you should see; we are always willing to help guide you with this decision. If you decide to choose a health care professional, choose wisely, many people go straight in with a sports massage, or maybe a physiotherapist or chiropractor; but generally different injuries require different treatments, so always make sure that whoever you see they are open-minded when you mention the possibility of seeing an alternative practitioner. A well trained health care professional will always recognise when a cause is outside their remit and actually refer you to someone else. If you experience a stubborn practitioner who shuns the idea of you seeing anyone else, but is happy for you to repeatedly spend money with them, then it is probably time for a second opinion.
Hopefully these tips may inspire you and even give you hope that your injury isn’t a barrier, it’s just part and parcel of the activity you love, so be sensible and positive…you will be back in the game soon!