Since I’ve had my fair share of injuries in the past year, I thought I’d write a post about the impact mindset can have in your recovery. Specifically, I want to address the vicious cycle that being injured with a negative mindset can initiate. Read on if this sounds interesting or useful to you!
N.B. I speak from personal experience only and have no qualifications in this field.
The anxiety of adjustment
We’ve all been there. A change in routine – for whatever reason – is always a challenge. We’re creatures of habit and like to stay in our comfort zone. So, naturally, when you first get injured, you’re wrenched out of your typical weekly exercise routine. And therefore may feel lost, anxious, helpless and scared. When you’re so used to, say, running 6 days a week and suddenly you can’t do this anymore it can feel pretty overwhelming. But know that running (or whatever your sport may be) does not define you, and you are no less worthy as a person for being injured.
In the initial stages of an injury, the injury blues are probably at their worst. No one can deny that it sucks to be sidelined from your favourite sport! There’s a reason you chose it over XYZ other sports, and I know that I tend to get caught up in feelings of dejection, despair and helplessness whenever I get injured again. However, the past few months have taught me that this low mood doesn’t help in the slightest.
It’s normal to feel upset at first -because all setbacks are upsetting! But then you have to move on. Trust me, you need to try to let go of these feelings and just accept what has happened and take the necessary steps to move on from it. The more emotionally invested you become, the longer it takes to get over your injury, because rather than approach it logically, you will probably get sucked into an irrational mindset and not listen to the advice given to you by coaches/ physios etc.
The temptation of over-crosstraining
Once you move on from the initial dejection, it can be all-too-easy to over-train using alternative methods of exercise (such as swimming and cycling). I wrote a post all about this (here) so won’t go into too much detail, but something I’ve noticed (in myself and other injured athletes) is a tendency to suddenly ramp up the volume and intensity of training when they can no longer run. As if, because they’re not running, they have to do X times more to “compensate” for this. People who train once a day will suddenly be doing double or triple days (on top of rehab/ gym exercises). All to “maintain fitness”, “stay in shape” and “not get fat” whilst injured.
But let me tell you something; this is S I L L Y. Your body is usually trying to tell you something through injury. Maybe you’ve overdone it, increased too much too quickly, are under-fuelling – or any combination of these and more. So dramatically increasing your training will just make the whole process longer and more difficult. And more likely to reoccur.
Using cross-training wisely
With the right mindset and attitude towards cross-training, it can be a great tool to maintain your fitness whilst injured. Trust me, every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been hitting my previous rep times within two weeks of proper training. Nevertheless, over-training will just result in an energy deficit, fatigue and an inability to reap the rewards of your hard work. Plus, your body is damaged – and so damaging it further will be counter-productive to recovery. Always speak to your coach and physio, listen to their advice, follow their training plan and don’t add on unnecessary extras to what they give you. So many people I know will extend their coach’s sessions (extra reps etc) and end up doing far more than advised.
Another danger of injury is inadequate fuelling. So many people (myself included) will suddenly panic when they can’t run and get scared that they’ll “get fat” whilst injured. But you still need to eat regularly and effectively when injured, just as you would when running – if not more so – because not only are you training hard, but your body is also trying to heal. And, surprise surprise, the healing process requires ENERGY that you get from your FOOD to occur. So please try not to get sucked into this mindset surrounding food and injury, because it’s a vicious cycle that results in a prolonged period of injury, delayed recovery and fatigue.
Rising above it
Finally, I want to close this post by saying that you are more than your sport. Be it running, tri, tennis, rugby, hockey… you are not defined by it. It is a passion of yours, a big part of your life that you dedicate significant time and energy to – but it is not you. It is not your life. When injured, you don’t suddenly become boring or “fat” or a failure. Try to channel your frustration and negativity into overcoming your injury. Because, like with anything, injuries are learning curves. Use them as lessons to teach you your body’s limits, assess where you went wrong and prevent it from happening again. You will come back faster, stronger, fitter and wiser if you let the process guide you rather than fight against it. At the end of the day, you can’t only be happy when you’re practising your sport. That’s no way to live, as it’s entirely dependent on one factor that is never guaranteed.
I hope you found this post somewhat thought-provoking, and if so I’d love it if you could share it with anyone who you think it may help. From me to you: you’ve got this!