One of our Professional Triathletes Shares Advice
I *hope* you never need to put this advice to use, but should you find yourself injured, here are my tips for survival.
1) Let yourself be sad.
I realize that, in the grand scheme of things, a sports injury isn't that big of a deal. It's not cancer. Nobody died. The sun still rises every morning. BUT for many of us, sport is a big part of our lives and when that part is missing, it's depressing. Training and racing make me happy. Without training and racing, I am sad. No point in trying to pretend otherwise. The trick though is, you can't wallow in your own sorrow forever. Eventually you have to move on.
How fun is this guy. He's orange! But he does look sad and that's OK.
2) "What-ifs" are toxic. Don't let them win.
By "what-ifs" I mean the "what if I can't race X race because of this injury", "what if it doesn't heal and I lose all my fitness", "what if I disappoint my coach, my family, my sponsors", "what if I have to get surgery", "what if the surgery doesn't work" "what if I can't race this season at all", "what if I can NEVER race again", etc... What-ifs can totally consume you and leave you in a pit of despair. And really they are just a total waste of energy, emotion and time. Why worry about something that has yet to happen? When dealing with injuries, work only with the information you KNOW to be true. And take it one day at a time.
3) Don't be too proud to reach out for help.
And by help, I mean your friends/family/coach/teammates, but also, professional help. These people all really want to get you better. Let them.
4) Focus on what you CAN do.
In the spring of 2014 I tore my labrum in one of my hips. I was signed up to race Ironman Texas that May and when the race rolled around and I wasn't there, I was definitely guilty of focusing only on what I could NOT do. I so desperately wanted to be in The Woodlands racing, that I really struggled to focus on anything else. Bad news bears. And just this winter, I had a stress fracture in my sacrum. Which means I didn’t get to go to a training camp, couldn't run, and was instead stuck at home to get through the New England snow and cold. I couldn’t even look at social media during that time! When you're injured there are plenty of things you can't do, sure, but there are also a lot of things you can do. In my case with the torn labrum, I couldn't bike or run but I sure could do a ton of all pull, one-legged, open turn swimming! And so I did that with all my heart. What else? Get tons of sleep to help with healing (you will have the time, after all!), rehab with a passion (time to strengthen all those weaknesses!), focus on your nutrition, read, go to the movies, plot your comeback. There are plenty of variables you can control, so control those and let the other stuff go.
5) Don't take your anger and frustration out on your spouse/significant other/coach/friends/etc...
Easy to do, but obviously not a good option. It's not their fault you are hurt! Store up all that frustration and anger for your next tough workout or mass swim start. All your pent up aggression will come in handy then!
6) Realize that everyone goes through their ups and downs.
When pushing to their limits, very few people make it through without an injury or some sort of "down". I personally just had to accept that it was my turn in the spring of 2014 and again this winter. I ask a ton of my body and I have pushed it very, very hard for a very, very long time. It finally said "no more" and I had to respect that. My body wanted a break and it got one! As the saying goes though, the lows only make the highs that much better.
7) Know that once you can train/race again, you will be so thankful, hungry and motivated that you are bound to see a jump in performance. Plus your body will be refreshed!
Injuries force us to take the extended breaks that we probably need to take all the time. I never really lack for motivation but, after my down times, my mind and body were rearing to go, more than EVER before!
8) And finally, once you are back to training/racing, DO NOT allow yourself to make comparisons.
Comparisons to others, comparisons to your former self, etc... These are bad juju and only steal your joy! I was so, so happy to start back into some training after that hip injury. But it wasn't long before I started fretting about how much fitness I had lost. It's one thing to be out of shape in December but being out of shape in May/June was less than ideal! BUT, but, you have to put on the blinders and focus on the process of getting back in shape on YOUR body's timeline.
This racehorse has blinders on so he only worries about himself.
I hope these tidbits will help someone at some point!