How to Handle Injuries and Training Set Backs

Well, as I stated in an earlier posts, January didn’t exactly go to plan. My back strain certainly brought all activity to a screeching halt, but it also made room for catching up on some blog projects, reading for fun and the much sought after and usually neglected, sleep. 

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The Monday following my back strain was spent working from the horizontal position on my couch and icing my back in ten minute intervals. Luckily, I improved to the point where I could drive my car the 30 minutes it takes to get to work and the rest of the week I went to work. Aside from some pain after sitting for long periods, I felt OK. I have an icepack and a full bottle of naproxen in my office, so I made sure to use them liberally. 

My chiropractor gave me a test to administer to myself to establish whether I was healthy enough to restart physical activity:

  • bring your head to your chest. If you can feel pain in your back, you still need to rest. 
  • If that doesn’t hurt, sit in a chair and lift your “good leg”, if you can feel pain in your back, you still need to rest. 
  • Then, I have to do the same with the “bad leg”, and yep, you still need to rest.

I’m not going to lie, being injured is pretty much the worst. I hate not being able to move and do things that I love. Unfortunately, I am quite injury prone and am pretty familiar with coping mechanisms, so I took some time to think about my own coping mechanisms and decided to share them:

Swimmy’s List of How to Cope With An Injury

  1. Buy a big ice pack & ibuprofen 
  2. Use it as an excuse to catch up on non-training related things – tackle a few recipes that have been hanging out on your Pinterest board for way too long, make a date with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, or catch up on your DVR. You will have a lot of free time on your hands, so try to fill it with positive things to keep you mind off of the pain and make the most of it.
  3. Reduce stress levels, immediately – Many of my injuries are usually brought on by high training volume, but the thing that puts me over the edge is my stress level. After several painful episodes I’m in the process of adjusting my thinking to be more positive, remember to laugh and do whatever I can do move, even if it means just walking at a slow pace on a treadmill. 
  4. Lean on your fellow athletic friends – If you are an athlete, chances are you have an army of friends who have also been through the same trials and tribulations with injuries that you are experiencing. Lean on them. My husband’s high school head master has a saying “grief shared is divided and happiness shared is multiplied”, remember that good friends are there for you no matter what.
  5. Keep the dream alive – Don’t throw in the towel the second you have an injury. Take time to rest, recover and how you can take steps to avoid the injury in the future. You might not be able to start exactly where you left off with the injury, but you can always tweak your plan and make things work within reason.
  6. Take it as an opportunity to adjust your training moving forward – if your body is hurting, it is probably trying to tell you something. Listen to it! Take this as an opportunity to change things up a bit and try out (within reason) a different approach. Maybe it requires strengthening your hips and glutes, a huge weakness for women! For me, it’s making sure to stay on top of my core strength to support my lower back.
  7. Investigate methods to help you stay injury free after you heal – I am a big fan of trips to my chiropractor for ART, regular stretching, foam rolling and rehab exercises. Clinical massage therapy, regular hot yoga or pilates classes are other great options. Researching these options will keep you optomistic and excited for what lies ahead.
  8. Embrace the Journey – Everything happens for a reason, even crappy injuries. Take time to step back and process what you have learned about your body’s limits and how you can make sure not to exceed them as you did when you sustained the injury. My most recent back strain has been a real wake up call that I need to handle stress management significantly better or I’m going to be in trouble.

Dealing with an injury is hard when you love moving, sweating and racing as much as I do, but don’t give up hope!

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What are your techniques for dealing with an injury?