As athletes we can be extremely hard on our body. Whether you are a body builder, a runner, a soccer player, or a triathlete you are constantly pushing your musculoskeletal system to it's limits.
Competing in your sport brings you an incredible amount of joy and fulfillment, and the thought of having to give that up is scary to most. So when you find yourself with a sore shoulder, knee, ankle, hamstring, hip flexor, you name it, you have to STOP what you are doing and ask what it is that is causing you pain. Typically, it is some sort of OVERUSE injury from repetitive stress to the area. Sometimes though (in my case) the reason is partially genetic and has a lot to do with how you are actually formed.
Whatever the reason, you can CHOOSE how you react if you are told you have to shut down for a while. I know, it SUCKS. No athlete that I know is psyched to hear that they have Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or a tibial stress fracture. But what you CAN DO is look at the glass as half full and DECIDE to STAY POSITIVE. . So here are my top 8 tips for staying positive during your downtime due to injury.
1. Know that this is temporary.
I've been an athlete since 7th grade track and I don't think I have ever had anything that just flat out won't heal. That is of course barring surgery, and I've had that too. Even surgery stitches eventually dissolve and become invisible. Some injuries will always need TLC from you and you may have to learn to live with a weak ankle or tight hamstrings. That’s why we have a wealth self care available to us like chiropractors, massage therapists, or athletic trainers for non-serious injuries. Healing happens during REST and usually when you are injured it's because that part of you needs a nice break. It's ok to give it! It’s better to give an injury temporary rest than to keep on breaking it down so that it eventually becomes serious. I speak from experience here!
2. Make a list of the things you CAN do!
If you have a lower body injury chances are you will be lifting a lot of weights and swimming. If you have an upper body injury, then you will most likely find yourself on the stationary bike or walking uphill on the treadmill. There is a lot you can do to exercise your body even when something isn't working properly. Most of the time you can always work on your CORE strength and I can think of tons of workouts right now that could keep you busy for hours. I actually created several videos of workouts that one can do while in a cast or a boot and uploaded them to my YouTube channel. A few injured runner friends of mine really appreciated these videos as they were rehabbing from various running injuries.
3. Help someone else.
This is game changing. When I had my own ankle surgery twice last year, I found tremendous relief in writing triathlon programs for local athletes here in the BCS Triathlon Club. I coached about 5 of our athletes to build my experience and resume. When Ironman Texas was over they actually gave me the Ironman University Certification as a gift for helping them. I can’t tell you how much I grew as a professional when I wasn’t training physically, but spending time learning the art of triathlon coaching. It kept my focus off the sadness of not being able to train and instead on a bunch of hungry and motivated young athletes.
4. Give back to the sport in some way.
Being President of the BCS Triathlon Club was amazing during my time of injury because it kept me in the sport and I felt like I was making a difference in the Triathlon Community. Once we got organized, we put on some great swim and bike clinics and the local athletes really appreciated this. For most of these events I was in a cast and on crutches, but just being around my tribe and giving back to the sport of triathlon was uplifting. You don’t have to be a President of a club to do this. You can always volunteer at a local race or work behind the scenes in some way.
5. Let the professionals do their job.
One mistake I made leading up to my ankle surgery was TOO MUCH GOOGLE. I would sit at my Mac Book at night and google all kinds of worst case scenarios about ankle surgery and go to bed upset. This made for a terrible night’s sleep! I highly encourage you to find a medical professional who you like and trust and have faith in them. In my experience, it is always BEST to go somewhere where the provider comes in contact with ATHLETES or is an athlete himself or herself. These people have made it a CAREER helping injured athletes like you, so if you have access to them then take advantage of it. Stop guessing and googling what's wrong and go talk to an expert. You will feel better when you do! Promise. They will suggest a course of treatment and this will make you feel more in control of your situation.
For me this was one of my biggest sources of comfort. You can always find solace and peace in other forms such as meditation, yoga, or talking to whatever your higher power is. Some injuries take a while to heal while others last only a week. It's not really up to you. You only have so much control over how fast something heals. But you can do physical therapy, stretches, foam roll, massage, yoga, etc. to help move it along in the right direction. That and prayers for healing. In the morning, before my feet hit the floor (I did a lot of crawling too) I would read a page or two from a daily devotional book and ask God to help me get through the struggles of the day. Totally empowering and very comforting.
7. Never take your eyes off your long term goals such as races, competitions, or events.
This is what makes you tick and will keep you going. Be realistic but never give up. If that Ironman doesn't happen in 2018 then it's probably going to happen in 2019. Mindset is everything. Always choose to see the glass as half full, even on the darkest days. Stay focused and most of all stay POSITIVE. THIS TOO SHALL PASS!
8. Fill your head with good stuff.
There are many uplifting motivating podcasts, audio books, TV shows, and videos. We live in a world where quality media is at our fingertips. Choose wisely. Read and listen to words that are uplifting and fulfilling. You can also listen to media about your sport so that when you do come back you will have some extra knowledge and therefore better workouts. I think I downloaded a list of positive affirmations that I would listen to at night and fall asleep with. This is a great way to load your subconscious mind with positive thoughts and words that really will help you the following day.