A Mindset For The Injured Athlete: How to stop injuries from harming the rest of you

If you’re short of time, or in the car, you can download the article here and listen to it.

Injuries change lives. They affect how we move. They affect how we sleep. They affect how we think. They affect how we feel about ourselves. The truth is that injuries happen. No matter what sport you’re in. However, that does not mean that you can’t turn an injury into an opportunity to grow.

The first major injury that happened to me, was riding a bike down hill. I had no helmet. I had a narrow path to stay on. I was going too fast. At the bottom of the track was a small bridge. Either side of the bridge were concrete posts and a metal bar. As I approached the bridge, I knew I was going too fast and knew I didn’t have time to break. I hit the post with my handlebars, was flung onto the steel bar, and proceeded to crack both front teeth, and badly cut open my arm. I was 10. Not a great move. It took me a few weeks to recover and have the stitches removed (I did that at home myself because I thought it was cool) along with a trip to the dentist.

I didn’t learn the lesson though, and following that accident, I proceeded to have a second more serious crash. This time it took me out of rugby for a year, and pretty much stopped any chance of being a professional player later on due to the severity of the injury to my neck. Oh well. The good thing was, that I then became really good at judging when I was going too fast and showing off. Now, I’m much more cautious, and have managed to avoid anything of that severity since.

The view I now take is that there is always something to be gained in equal proportion to the accident. Every injury that you suffer (and they will come) is a gift.

In our training program we see a great deal of people who are injured (a most, you’ll be happy to know are injured outside of the gym). However, it often affect a person’s mindset towards training, and will if confidence has been lessened often prevent them from continuing with us. For us, this can be frustrating, because it’s my goal to help as many people as possible, live happier healthier lives, with or without injuries.

The major benefit I see, is that it is an intensely personal event. Therefore, forces us to forget all competition, and focus solely on our own progress. This in an of itself is a massive gift that can be unlocked, if then set realistic metrics for success, you can begin working towards them. If for instance you’ve injured your back, and it hurts at night on a scale of 1 to 10 pretty close to a 5 or a 6. The goal I would set is to find things that lessen the pain, so that I can lower it down to a 3 or 4. In this instance the method may be a combination of seeing a good physiotherapist, and performing twice daily mobilisations to the glutes and back muscles and surrounding tissues using a lacrosse ball, with a weekly sports massage. In this case, back pain can be lessened and voila, you’re on the path to recovery and feeling good because we can feel like we’re making progress.

A second example, for myself has been my right hip. I’ve damaged it in some way. Meaning that I can no longer perform single leg squats. It goes weak at a certain point of hip flexion (when my knee gets closer to my chest). So, my metric of success is currently, to increase gently the range in which it feels strong and stable. So far, I’ve scaled back my progressions, to one which I can feel the same recruitment of muscle fiber in both legs, and then over the last few months have been progressively increasing the depth of the squat, and soon will be able to increase the difficulty of the progression further once I’ve developed further strength and stability in the joint. In this instance, I never would have quite focused so greatly on the nuances of a single leg squat as much had I had not experienced this injury. I wouldn’t be emphasising the point as much of glute activation and strengthening. Of watching for valgus (inward) knee in my clients as much, had I not been experiencing this injury to my own right hip. In fact, getting injured in my right hip has been a god send. It’s allowed me to become a more caring and diligent coach as a result and allows me the opportunity to help my clients before they get to this point. It’s also forced me to focus more on gymnastic progressions, rather than lifting heavy weight (I’ll get back to those later).

I suspect that any injury within the body, can be seen as a metaphor in how to approach challenges in life. That is why I believe so passionately in the benefit of injury. The opportunities they present are unique and will lead each and every single person on a journey they never thought they would take, and with the right approach, setting proper and achievable metrics for success, we can come to appreciate them for the gift which they really are.

If you’re injured, or recovering from one, it’s also important to concentrate movements that you can do, in recovery, and not focus on the movements you can’t. Our classes are intense, but they can 100% be adjusted towards each individual person. For those who are curious, I’ve added this guide which you can download here, and use any time you come to a Crossfit class and are not sure what movements to substitute to. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Training Substitutions Guide

If you fancy a good listen you can download the audio guide here:

Key takeaway – “if its pain free, it works.”

Notes:

Back Pain – Some tools to help fix it – link here. 

Terminal Knee Extension – Link here. 

 

Archie Cunningham, Head Coach

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *