What if I told you that dealing with a physical injury is really only like, I don’t know, 50% physical?
I could probably even argue for less. Sure, you have to do physical work, maybe rehab, to get back to where you were prior to the injury. But I am here to tell you I think it only makes up a small part of your recovery. What matters the most is your mindset.
Let’s back up. I kind of put the cart before the horse. But did I get your attention? Well, I tried.
Let’s define what an injury is.
It can have a lot of different meanings. To some it can mean a trip to the emergency room and to others it might be a cranky knee or shoulder. It can range from something that requires medical attention to something that forces you to sit out a day. But for the purposes of this blog, let’s say that an injury is something that is bothering your body enough to keep you from performing the movements your normally would.
For most people who are active in some sort of training or regular physical activity, chances are pretty high that something will happen to you every year. Maybe it’s as simple as tripping over a plate and rolling your ankle, maybe you rip a callus, or maybe you have an ache that flares up in a joint. What I’m saying is, is that if you are regularly active, chances are high that over the course of a calendar year, something will happen that causes you to modify your workouts or scale back for a very brief period of time. Now if this is happening every 6 months or 6 weeks, chances are that something larger is wrong that you need to seek a medical professional to help you with. (And remember, as coaches we can always work with injured athletes, but we are not physical therapists.)
Cool. So now we have covered what an “injury” consists of and how often you can expect them. Let’s talk a little more about what actually happens once you get injured. I’ll use my own story.
In November of 2017, I was lifting when it felt like somebody punched me in my lower back.
I couldn’t sneeze without crying or put my own pants on. I was sad. Then I got mad. I let my head run away with my emotions. I started feeling doomed and hopeless and dramatic AF.
After about 3 days of drama, I decided to get back to work. I worked with Dr. Jonathan Burke (coach at Roux and owner or Therapydia NOLA and Therapydia Mid-City). We figured out what was going on and we set a plan of attack. Not only did we put in a lot of work physically, but mentally as well.
I learned that if something hurts, resting it until it feels better isn’t your best option. If you are a runner and your knee pain flares up every 6 months and you decide to stop running until it doesn’t hurt, guess what? It’s going to hurt again in another 6 months. If you don’t address the mechanics of your movements or try to fix the movement pattern, you will be constantly facing the same injury. You’re essentially beating your head against a wall. Another thing this does? It deconditions you. Huh? Well when I hurt my back, there was a lot I couldn’t do. But I could walk. And two weeks later I could ride a bike. So when I was healthy enough to run again, I hadn’t lost my motor.
I also learned that feeling better and being able to put my pants on all by myself (like a big kid) didn’t mean I was ready to attack my workouts with the same intensity as before. Just because I could get through my day to day life with minimal pain didn’t mean I was ready to pick a loaded barbell off of the floor. Healthy for life and healthy for high intensity workouts aren’t the same thing (even though we wish they were). It can be really hard to pull back and hold yourself to only working at 60-70%, but your body will thank you in the long run.
And the most surprising thing I learned? If I used my injury as a time for assessment and growth, I could come out of this whole ordeal a much stronger and smarter athlete. If you can change your mindset from treating injury as a “setback” to treating injury as an “opportunity”, you can face your injury head on, kick its ass, and come out stronger than before.
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