Like many of people I have set fitness and health related goals to achieve for 2016. Whether it is to get fit for a race, lose weight or just get in better general health – good luck to you all!
However, some of you may be injured and that could be preventing you from setting let alone achieving any fitness goals this year.
During my work as a personal trainer I have had quite a few people speak to me in the gym regarding their own injuries, particularly what I did to keep myself fit and how to keep motivated during extended spells of being injured. The physical side of an injury is often easier to deal with than the mental side. Once you have established a training or gym routine and your injury prevents you from exercising as regularly as you wish, it is very easy for your mental health to dip as well as your fitness.
Unfortunately, I have had my share of injuries and if you have ever experienced a sports injury, you are probably familiar with that sinking feeling after hearing a pop or feeling a sharp pain. Your mind races as you consider recovery time and the impact it will have on your sport. But if the stress and frustration turns into long-term feelings of hopelessness, being upset about your injury could escalate to depression, which is something I was verging upon during my first bout of compartment syndrome and surgery back in 2009.
Regardless of what sport you do and whether you may be a professional or not, an injury certainly has the potential to impact your psychological well-being. It is important to recognize why you are feeling down and pay attention to your emotional health.
It may sound like an exaggeration but an injury that has sidelined you could be likened to a grief reaction and certainly I have found myself going through the recognized “5 stages” at various points of my career:
The more stubborn ones amongst you will recognise this all too well. You tell yourself that you are fine and you just train or exercise through the injury. As we discussed in my last piece, the first thing to do when injured is go to a professional who can diagnose the issue.
Anger soon follows as you realise that your timetable for progress will have to be amended and put back.
Especially if the injury is a recurrent issue, you can find yourself pleading with higher powers to spare you more pain.
This is the one that can be the most insidious and crippling. It can also contribute in real terms to make any physical injury a lot worse.
This is when the real physical and (if present) mental healing can take place. Once you have accepted the injury and what you need to do, then your mind focuses on accomplishing your goals. I know this is much easier to say and do and from personal experience I appreciate that this last stage can take a while to get to.
I hope by recognising these stages, it will help you reach the “acceptance” stage faster. With respect to sports injuries I would add a sixth and final stage and that is healing. This is when you get physically and mentally stronger with the aim of coming out the other side better than you ever were by trying to turn the negative of an injury into a positive.
It is important to talk to others about how you are progressing when you are injured as this helps reflect back your true mental state. I firmly believe recovering from injuries – especially serious ones – is just as much mental as physical. However, during the injured period, it is important to pay extra attention to diet also. I increased my protein intake during injury periods and I used over the counter Omega 3 supplements (under the advice of a nutritionist) to help my sleep and recovery times. I have also tried different sports and still being able to have a physical outlet for that pent up energy can be a great way to de-stress.
It is important to remember there is always a finish line when injured. It may not seem that you are making much progress but you are always getting closer and closer to that line if you take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Good luck and please email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org