Welcome Walk and Think audience, A here, with a topic familiar to all athletes/sportsmen.
Today we’re going to talk about taking time off due to:
Injury and Illness.
Both are hard on the mind of an athlete.
We’ll cover how to develop the right mindset to overcome injury and illness, while minimizing loss of strength, and maintaining a positive mood.
Fact #1. Injury/Illness is inevitable.
If you regularly push your physical limits and attempt to break personal records, you will eventually face injury. It may be subtle and annoying, or dramatic and life-changing.
Living around other humans and being human implies vulnerability to illness. Everyone will get sick eventually.
Fact #2. You can overcome injury and illness, to be at your peak once again.
It may be difficult to see at the moment, however most people fully recover from physical injuries and illness. You may look back on it one day as just an unpleasant experience and nothing more.
It only seems crushing now.
I remember vividly how I almost lost my mind after spraining my ankle. It was a change from self sufficient warrior mode to hopping around on crutches and not being able to walk or leave the house.
First, let’s cover physical injury, both acute and overuse.
Both acute and overuse injury can put an athlete out of commission for days, weeks, or months.
Imagine you’re running, you feel great, training has been going well, when all of a sudden: “Pop!”
You just tore a ligament.
It hurts so bad you can’t even walk and have to phone for help.
So much for training.
So much for goals and ambitions.
So much for all that recent progress.
You hobble into your buddies car and get in.
Here’s what’s funny: It’s actually harder to take time off, than to keep training through the pain, for driven people.
They can almost feel strength and progress leaving them as they sit around day after day.
It’s very difficult on the athlete’s mind to be rendered inactive by injury.
It affects their mood, and it’s very noticeable.
If athletics is all you have, it can be very difficult to maintain your feeling of self worth. It can no longer be directly related to effort exerted during training or goals reached while competing.
You have to find something else to do and talk about.
Overuse injury creeps up on you a little slower, however the effect is the same. You can no longer perform even the easy training movements pain-free.
You realize you have to take time off.
There’s no way around it.
You go to sleep feeling perfectly find the previous night.
When the morning comes, you know something is wrong right away.
Maybe you have a severe lack of energy, maybe a sore throat, maybe some other symptoms. Maybe you can’t keep food down.
Whatever it may be, one thing is for certain: You’re sick.
Great. What about my training? I have miles to cover, and barbell repetitions to grind out…
I can’t afford to be sick!
But one go at training and you realize, you’re not up for it. Even your easy warm up routines seem impossible.
Time to take some dreaded time off.
Long Term vs. Short Term
To ease the gloomy mood that sets in when you’re injured, do this:
Always think about the long term.
You have your entire life to develop yourself.
Years and years of productive training remain ahead of you.
A small hurdle like this is not significant in the long term.
That’s what you have to focus on: The long term.
Always think about the long term.
I plan to train for the next two decades.
A few weeks off is not a big deal.
Repeat to yourself: I have time.
No reason to grind the cartilage in my knees to dust, or break my back.
No reason to push through pain and neglect injuries.
Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard the “Listen to your body” stuff a hundred times.
Be very mindful of wear and tear, and adjust activities accordingly.
But just listening to it is not enough, you have to take action, and attempt to fix whatever issues are occurring. Sometimes rest alone isn’t enough, and very specific rehab needs to be done.
Fitness is only one component of life, you can still make progress in other areas.
This is the time to pursue non-physical development.
Branch out and expand.
Find some new music.
Finish a few books.
3 Tips on Recovery:
#1. Don’t let it happen again
Identify ways to prevent the injury from occurring again. All recovery is pointless if you don’t address the issue that caused the injury in the first place. Find the issue, find the imbalance, rehab it, strengthen the weaker parts, rebuild with a better base.
#2. Do what you can do
With a sprained ankle, I did tons of pull-ups. With an injured elbow I ran tons of distance. Did tons of babels squats with a shoulder injury. There are countless stories of someone injuring a knee, and developing high upper body strength or vice versa. Isolate the injured components and don’t stress them. Everything else is fair game.
Do a light workout, just to get the blood flowing, then work on mobility and flexibility. No reason to go heavy, or grind trough an endurance workout. Most people actually get stronger after taking some time off and allowing other tissues to heal.
#3. Help accelerate the process
If it’s the flu or something similar: clean and disinfect your environment. I use Lysol wipes and bleach on commonly touched surfaces, as well as put everything through the laundry.
Focus on eating plenty. Being ill usually comes with loss of appetite, however your body still needs the calories. Clean food makes a difference. Make the effort. Drink plenty of fluids and sleep a few extra hours. Your body knows what to do, just get out of the way. Allow the recovery to happen, and don’t add any extra stress.
It’s not so bad, and it’s not forever.
All the Best.
P.S. Watch this excellent video about the right mindset when it comes to injury.
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