Getting injured, told to stop exercising and rest is something none of us really want to hear, especially if it’s after months of training. If it happens just before an event, then it’s going to be even more of a setback psychologically and physically as you realise that all your preparation has been in vain.
Between 30 and 55% of runners each year get injured, and so it’s likely to happen to most people who exercise at some stage. When it does, it’s never easy to deal with, mentally or physically, because active people clearly don’t want to be forced to stop. However, depending on the situation, it’s important to remember that, with the right advice, attitude, support and commitment you can potentially recover and get back out there!
This week we see players fighting back at Wimbledon after injury and illness. Some have re-emerged even stronger and more devastating to opponents than before. I’ve certainly had my share of injuries. Told never to run again at 22 with torn cartilage, ligaments and knee surgery; medical discharge from the Royal Navy was inevitable. Yet, after months of slow recovery, physio and determination I defied the odds, repeated Officer Training and achieved my dream of eventually earning my Commission. Fortunately I was young enough to have a second chance, but even now, I still run regularly, train others and manage the injury situation in spite of what happened then.
Others I know have fought through the extremes of serious injury. Severe fractures, bullet wounds, tropical diseases and life-changing situations, but all have survived, recuperated and continued to exercise once healed. Indeed some I know have returned to full fitness after months of gruelling rehab, to achieve even greater things post-injury including Marathon Des Sables, cycling The Alps, and Ultra Iron Man events on a regular basis.
The reason these people have managed to return to fitness and get active again is a combination of the correct treatment plan for the injury, and incredible will power. I guess by nature, those serving in some of the toughest jobs in our society are expected to be strong physically, but their mental fortitude is just as important. This is especially true when somebody finds themselves suddenly transformed from the peak of fitness to literally being unable to walk unaided. The resultant feelings of frustration, anger, depression, embarrassment and humiliation are commonplace in these circumstances. Therefore it’s essential to work on the mind as well as the body when injury strikes, and circumstances change.
Remembering the person we are, living in the hope that we’ll return to fitness again, and accepting that we may need to adapt things in the future can all help with the recovery. Setting ourselves a target will also help. If it’s a relatively minor injury we’ve suffered, then accepting that the best form of treatment is probably rest, will play a vital role in our recovery. Yet, the denial phase of injury is tough, especially if the rest of our body and mind still wants to be active. The problem being however, if we go back too soon, then the likelihood of the injury returning or worsening is high. And this will then mean even more time out!
But what if we use our injury time as an opportunity to help find new levels of determination and strength? We may even form new relationships as a result of injury, see others differently, and more than likely discover something new about ourselves too. Often it’s the times of adversity in life which show us what we’re really made of. The challenges we overcome are what makes us real and stronger. Certainly as I hit new phases of my life, training a variety of people with a range of problems, it becomes apparent to me that the setbacks I’ve encountered and learnt to overcome in the past, enable me to assist others who currently find themselves in challenging situations.
So when injury and setback occurs (and it almost certainly will), through finding the right reasons to fight back, we can! Whether it’s the prospect of winning an Olympic medal, being Wimbledon Champion, or completing a Charity 5k fun run you’ve set your heart on, don’t let injury end your dream. Sometimes the most amazing side of human nature can be seen in the toughest and darkest of situations we find ourselves in. Take it from me, as someone whose training just took a new major hit, I too am going to have to dig deep again. But I’ll be back!