By Gemma Seager |
Injury of varying degrees happens to most people involved in sport at some point. Often it’s just a minor niggle, gone in a few days, but what if it’s more than that?
Whether it’s running or weight lifting, your sport becomes a cornerstone of your life and when an injury means that you’re out of the game for anything from a few weeks to a few months, it’s easy to get frustrated.
There are 2 aspects to dealing with a serious injury. First up is the physical side. Without an outlet for all that energy, many athletes find that they are restless, irritable and can’t sleep. This also includes worrying about loss of physical fitness, a significant weight gain, and whether they will be able to return to training at the same level as before. There is physical rehabilitation to consider also.
Secondly is the mental side of dealing with injury. An individual might feel lonely or isolated without the support of training partners. For many, exercise is a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety and without it these can rear their head, you might also feel a fear of being injured again.
Whether it’s a broken bone or serious soft tissue injury, here are some tips to help you keep both your physical and mental health intact, and come out the other side even stronger.
#1 Treat Rehab As A Training Programme
You can’t rush through recovering an injury, so the key thing to making sure you recover properly is to take the time to rehab properly.
If you were training for your first marathon you wouldn’t leap straight into 20 mile training runs, and so it is with rehabilitation. Follow your program as it is written, step-by-step.
✓ Take it slow and be aware of what your body is telling you. Keep a “training diary” where you can record improvements each week and set small achievable goals.
#2 Find Another Outlet
Just because you are injured, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. If you are off high-impact activities for several weeks but not completely off your feet, then see it as an opportunity to work on other areas of your fitness!
✓ Find Yoga programs that won’t affect your injury to work on your balance and core strength.
✓ Try swimming or cycling as lower impact activities to maintain your fitness levels.
If you’re completely off your feet it might be that now is your chance to channel your energies into another activity entirely. Always wanted to learn to knit? Now’s your chance!
#3 Stay Involved
Don’t isolate yourself because you are injured. If your sport is your support network make sure you stay involved.
✓ Turn up to training and help coach, if you’re missing a big race, go along and cheer others on.
✓ Stay in touch with social events from your team or club and make sure you go along, or get in touch with and ask if people would like to meet for a coffee.
✓ Remember how all consuming your sport was before you got injured and remember that although people might not have been in touch with you, that doesn’t mean they don’t care of don’t want to help. Take the initiative and stay in touch.
#4 Keep Positive
It’s easy to lose enthusiasm for your recovery. Remember this is likely just a temporary blip, a few weeks off out of all the years that you still have ahead of you.
Visualisation techniques that can be so helpful in sports can also be helpful in aiding recovery from injury.
✓ Visualise yourself returning stronger and better, imagine those bones knitting back together and your ligaments healing. This may sound nonsense to you – but you might just be pleasantly surprised of the mental – and eventual physical effects!
#5 Watch Your Diet
If weight gain is a concern with reduced activity levels, then be aware that you might need to keep a closer eye on your diet than before.
✓ Keep a food diary and focus on eating foods that might aid your recovery.
✓ Make sure you are getting enough protein for tissue repair and try not to turn to junk food to cheer yourself up! Alternatively, match them both and create some protein treats.
#6 Be Realistic
When it’s time to start returning after your injury it’s important to hang onto that patience you used throughout your rehab plan. Even if you’ve kept fit and rehabbed properly, if you’ve been off for a while you likely won’t be able to return immediately at the same level as before.
Remember, you got there once, you can get there again – but with any training program, too much too soon could see you back on the Physio couch before you know it!
✓ Approach your return slowly; plan your workouts carefully and slowly build back up to your previous level.
With all the work you’ve been doing on your core strength and balance while you were off it won’t take long before you’re even better than before!
Take Home Message
Remember that although an injury can feel devastating, and a few months off can feel like forever, the reality is that most sports injuries are short term and the lessons learned from them can see you returning a better athlete than ever before!