There can be no doubt that the positives of an active lifestyle far outweigh any negatives, but unfortunately with any training and exercise comes a risk of injury. We’ve written articles in the past on combating low energy and motivation levels but there is surely no obstacle more frustrating than injury.
There is never a good time to pick up an injury, but more often than not it strikes you down just as you’ve begun to start enjoying yourself. You’ve found the motivation to get active; you’ve tweaked your schedule to accommodate regular workouts, you are three weeks into your fitness programme and just beginning to see results when crash, you’re icing your knee, making doctors appointments and seeking out the best physiotherapists. There are endless causes of injury but we’re not writing this to talk about preventions or cures. The focus here is on the psychological stress that comes with injury. The often ignored, but ever-present ugly side effect.
Having recently been in a bike accident that ended with me needing surgery on a broken collarbone I feel in the perfect place to talk about this. It comes as no surprise that I spend the majority of my life being active, whether it’s with clients or by myself keeping fit, so it’s fair to say that this has come as a major blow. I regularly find my concentration slip from the task at hand to feeling frustrated that my latest health and fitness goals are slipping further away with each week, or the fact that day to day annoyances and lethargy cant be worked off in the gym or at the park. The only thing that gets regularly exercised at the moment is my will power to avoid overdoing my rehab or pushing my recovery too hard or too fast.
So what can be done to ease the stress? To answer this we’ve put together four suggestions based on personal and client anecdotal evidence alongside research and science:
- Goal setting
It seems obvious but is so often neglected. The road to recovery can be a very long one so it is essential to set lots of short terms goals that help keep the end goal constantly front-of-mind. Keeping sight of what you’re working towards can be a big motivator. Especially through endless monotonous rehab routines and physio appointments. Work with your physio, trainer or a friend to set the goals.
Though the physical side of recovery is fully covered by doctors, physios and other professionals rarely are we ever prepared for this mental stress. Simply understanding that recovery is never straightforward will help. The line from injury to fitness rarely goes straight up. Instead it cycles through stages of progress, regression, plateaus and more progress. It’s important to prepare yourself for the times when you’re not making progress. This is where the goal setting becomes so crucial.
- Take control
A common emotion that accompanies injury is that of a lack of control. It’s easy to think that we can have little outcome on the speed at which we recover and that we just have to let nature take its course. One great way to seize back control of the situation is to take get proactive, for example taking supplements that aid recovery. Vitamin C, zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium will all play a key role in the healing process. Vitamin C and Zinc aid tissue repair and immune function while Omega-3 has a potent anti-inflammatory response. The health benefits of Magnesium are hard to overstate too. Pivotal to metabolic functioning and a key player in over 300 different chemical reactions in the body, it also supports the parasympathetic nervous system helping our bodies relax.
- Break the boredom
Extremely common and adept at sapping motivation, boredom rears its head in nearly all rehabilitation programmes. Rehab by its very nature is repetitive so it’s a good idea to find ways of breaking the monotony. Making a rehab playlist that lasts exactly as long as it takes to do the exercises will help. Varying the places you do the routine is also a good move. For example swap between home, the gym and the pool (aqua therapy is a brilliant place to rehabilitate).Lastly, if you can find a partner to team up with during sessions that we highly recommend that too. The big take-home message here is that it’s easy to be prepared for the physical challenge of recovering from injury. Surgeons, Doctors and physiotherapists are there to guide us through the somatic stages of rehabilitation. Less understood however is the mental toll that accompanies this. To make matters worse, rarely is recovery straightforward or linear. Instead the process involves continuous loops of progress, followed by plateaus, regression and then more progress. Throughout this cycle anger, boredom, impatience, lethargy and frustration all play their role. The key though is to appreciate that injuries will always be accompanied by psychological and emotional stress. It’s all part of the challenge!