Staying Motivated Whilst Injured

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A special shout out to those of you that are injured. You may feel like you’re ending 2015 on a bit of a downer but let’s focus on resting, recovering and kicking into 2016 with renewed physical energy and a strong mental game!

Injuries are rubbish. Your sport is who you are, it defines you – you love what you do to stay fit, the banter and fun with your training buddies, the sweat and giggles, the goals on the horizon and the regular awesomeness of it all … then suddenly, you have to stop. And it hurts, usually physically but even more mentally. But as the quote goes “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do”. Remember that 6 weeks out of regular specific training only results in a minimal drop-off at the pointy-end of peak performance whilst your base fitness takes much longer to diminish. Restoring your ouchy parts and overcoming those grumpy thoughts is usually a temporary measure and can actually make you a stronger athlete. How’s that then?

When a sports or medical professional tells you that you must STOP doing whatever it is that has been a part of you – running, dancing or swinging through the trees – it can be a shock and will feel downright unfair! You might even be in denial about what really IS acceptable without delaying or further damaging whatever has been temporarily broken, especially when you are used to pushing through pain and discomfort. Being unable to join your regular training groups or just an unplanned break to your training plan or regular fitness routine can cause frustration, upset and even grief. Be gentle with yourself and understand that this is normal, so allow those feelings out in a healthy way – squashing them down or being your usual rufty-tufty self might exacerbate muscle tension and negative thoughts, prolonging or worsening your recovery. With your aim to get back to your fave movements ASAP, the smoothest path is the one where you are kind but firm with yourself whilst upping the fun-factor. So, where to start?

Mustn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t:
First things first – understand what you can or can’t do: If you’ve been told to stop running, weight-bearing, lifting weights or even wearing heels, then spend some time understanding the reality. Whilst training mates may have their own views on what is best, take all advice with a pinch of your own research mixed well with a big helping of professional advice – it’s better to ask for guidance from those who have succeeded in something rather than just those who you share your water bottle with. So if that means staying away from the weights or the running track, channel your energy into being strong with yourself, while understanding that this is a temporary break that might just be the ‘holiday’ you need to develop some other skill or strength.

Goal Setting.
So, you want to get back to doing what you do best, as quickly as you can. That ultimate target might just be a step too far today, so set mini goals rather than looking at nothing, to set you on your way through the injury and back on top form. Aiming high and falling short can further demotivate you – if you were training for a marathon and have to stop running, your first goal might be to be able to run 1 mile pain-free, so focus on that and how you get there. If you are under professional treatment, work with your specialist to set your mini-goals, otherwise be creative. Break down your return to baby steps and look at different, fun ways to get there…

Be a big kid
There is a whole life outside of your sport or regular exercise – think like a child – remember back to all those things you used to want to do and find different ways to move: learning to do a handstand, standup paddle-boarding (SUP), even jumping in puddles and leaves. Even writing down things that children can do better than adults, such as roly-polies, cartwheels – or dancing like nobody’s watching, might just spark off a commitment to join a yoga or Pilates group, jump in the pool or on a stationary bike or even an Argentian Tango class. Staying active while avoiding off-limit movements will inject new life into you, open your mind to new ideas and potential new friends or even give you something to giggle about.

4) Use your time.
Work on your weaknesses and muscle imbalances. Often, this is what has brought on an injury over time, so rather than feeling sorry for yourself on what might feel like a naughty-step timeout, use this enforced break to plank away and strengthen your core and improve on weaker bits to develop an iron toughness to secretly surprise on your return to your sport. Building up a skill or developing ability this way can provide even more motivation, keep your focus and make you a better athlete. Creative imagery – imagining your healthy body going through the motions – has also been shown to be of immense benefit.

5) Be grateful
The old gratitude chestnut shouldn’t be taken for granted at times like this! Appreciate the things you can still do – there are, after all, others worse off. Appreciation grows positivity and will help to lighten the load as you heal and inject further enthusiasm when you are actually able to return to your real sport. Helping a training buddy with their sessions or volunteering within your sport will also pay you forward and back.

And finally: while your injury often gives you something to talk about (injuries are one of the most common subjects voiced in gyms and sports clubs) – you might even have the latest hiphop happening injury too – remember that take your time and respect your body as you return to pre-injury levels. Better to be safe, bide your time and look sensible than to put yourself right back at the sore place you started with your training buddies giving you that sympathetic but “I told you so” look before they skip, dance and run off into the next session.

Who is currently sidelined with injury? What little things (aside from resting) are you doing to ensure a fast recovery? We’d love to hear your tips!

Colette ONeill

Colette has raced and medalled as an age group triathlete for Great Britain, has set race records and competed successfully in running, cycling, swimming and rowing. She is currently completing her Yoga and Pilates Teacher Training, has a physiotherapy degree and strives to help others achieve their personal best through massage, coaching, mindfulness and self-empowerment.

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