Coming off an Injury

July 27th, 2017

Injuries are the worst, and believe me they are the devil! Especially in this sport when so much effort is put into achieving a certain goal, yet our desire to achieve is usually our worst enemy as the yearning for more kms and more time in the saddle can be the contributing factor to the injury itself. But what do you do once you have determined the injury and its resulting factors? And how do you pick up where you left off?

These are the questions that need to be addressed carefully as hopping straight into your full program can sometimes cause a significant relapse, especially as when you come off a break you are usually mentally and physically fresh which is a bad thing when it comes to pulling the reigns in and taking it slow. I recently had an athlete come off a major injury and that was the biggest issue I faced as a coach, especially when the athlete is extremely motivated and there is a lot of racing and prize money available during that time. In the same sense we managed to work through the injury in a smart, slow and progressive manner that allowed the injury to fully heal and ensure that it doesn’t reoccur, this is where a good team of professionals all working together for a common goal are worth their collective weight in gold, physios, chiros and massage therapists all working with the coach and athlete will ensure a rapid return to racing at 100% fitness.

Testing the Waters

Once the injury diagnosis has occurred and the problem has been well and truly dealt with, either through an operation or a rehab process, the timing to return to training is critical. A lot of medical professionals in general treat all patients the same in terms of their ability to return to normal activities, yet as an athlete and in some cases a professional athlete, the return to racing is crucial , this is where a good reputable sports doctor is so important as they just don’t treat the physical injury but they can also tap into the mental side of dealing with an injury. They also have a better understanding of working with sports people and their ability to heal a lot faster than the everyday sedentary person, thus speeding up the recovery process.

As athletes we are all anxious to get the ball rolling and to be back on the track again , hence we can be over eager in testing the waters to see if the injury has healed or not. This is the “event horizon” it’s the event that can either make or break a career! Injuries are tender little beasts that need care and love to heal, and the aggressive nature of this sport with all its impact and inconsistent surfaces and beatings can send the muscle tear or fracture back to its original form.

The “Feel”

I am not talking about the unintentional “crotch grab” at the swim start or even a left butt cheek grope at an awards after party! This is the bit that is entirely up to the athlete. We are built to push through pain in Ironman triathlons and all the training that we take on board. Yet this can be downfall in getting back to 100% after an injury.

Any moment of pain during the rehab process and you should stop immediately, even if it means calling a cab or thumbing your way home with a John Jarrett wolf creek look a like! This is why running on  a treadmill or cycling in a stationary bike is so good during this period as soon as you feel something not right you can get off and rest, thus not having to limp home causing further damage. We know our bodies so well in this sport that when something is not right its important that we listen, act and then react in a smart way, communicate with your coach and your support network as they will help you through this.

Resources we are so lucky in this day and age of long course triathlon that there are so many switched on coaches and sports professionals to tap into when getting through a problem, in fact its really limitless and that’s even discounting Dr Google who has an answer for everything. Along with all the fantastic minds there are some great rehab tools around too like a cloud runner, which a lot of Football Clubs began using a few years ago to rehab its players, its designed to take the impact out of running and you can reduce the load on your feet by gradually increasing or decreasing the percentage which is fantastic for stress fractures or any other injury which is caused by high impact activity or load bearing. The only drawback is that its expensive but a lot of physio practices have these machines now which can be claimed back on your health insurance.

Tips

  • Listen to your coach, physio or any one else in the know, don’t take advice from other training partners or people you meet on the street as they all have a different opinion
  • You wont lose a lot of fitness during your rehab time, you will just lose a lot of condition which can be trained back easily if you have a decent base behind you
  • Be positive and use your injury time to develop a weakness, even if its increasing core work or back strength etc, this is a great time to work out the 1%ers that are neglected when you are in full training
  • Work out WHY the injury happened in the first  place and use this time to work out if you need to change any bio-mechanic issues to ensure that it does not relapse
  • Use the down time to catch up on your struggling golf game and your last season of Entourage!