Even though December just started, I’m beginning to feel it is going to be gone in the blink of an eye and before I know it, it will be time to embark on a new year setting new objectives in motion. For me, my 2012 goal is to make the U.S. adaptive rowing team and qualify for the Paralympic Games in London. It’s a huge undertaking and one that is by no means guaranteed. What makes it even more difficult this year is that I am currently suffering a hip injury. And as anyone who has ever chased a sports goal or dream knows, an injury is one of the most difficult and maddening things to go through. There is nothing more frustrating than having the mindset to achieve, the motivation to do the work and the desire to get to the ultimate finish line, but knowing that your body just isn’t cooperating. It’s a difficult position to be in that feels very much like that uncomfortable spot between a rock and a hard place.
I have been here before though, eleven years ago when I was hit by a car and couldn’t do anything for months and had to heal not only my body, but my mind and my spirit. In October 2010 after competing in the Hawaii Ironman my shoulder was severely strained and not only could I not workout, but I was having trouble getting through my daily life, doing transfers and getting around in my wheelchair. I am no stranger to injury and the healing process.
Still, this is an uncomfortable position to be in because generally the only cure for an injury is time and rest. Who has time and wants to sit back and watch the world pass them by?
But this time, I’ve decided this time I am going to take a new approach to my healing journey and instead of thinking of all the things I can’t do, I am going to embrace what I can. That way when I am ready to get back up and running, I will truly be stronger in mind, body and spirit. So, what are those things you can do when an injury is getting you down?
- Take good care of yourself. Just because you’re not working out, don’t sit in the corner eating chocolate and feeling sorry for yourself. Make sure you’re eating right, but also continue doing the other things that help you feel good—get regular massage, go for a walk, visit the acupuncturist, stretch. Anything you can do to keep your spirits up and help your body to heal will assist you getting through this tough time.
- Continue to set goals for yourself. Set goals for your recovery efforts, but also for when you are fully recovered. Don’t stop looking forward to that marathon you have been planning. Keep thinking about it and staying positive that it is still possible to make it happen. You might have to push it out a little bit or find a different race, but consider it to still be in your future. Having something to look forward to helps keep a positive outlook and a “can do” attitude.
- Visualize yourself recovered. See yourself participating in your activity. Close your eyes and dream about where you want to be. I truly do think that if you can see it and believe it, you can achieve it. Besides that, visualizing is an important part of training. Even when I am healthy and everything is going well, visualization is an important part of my workouts. Why? It’s extra practice in your activity that doesn’t beat up your body, but helps you imagine what your body needs to be doing and what your mind needs to be thinking to succeed at reaching your goals.
- Modify your training. Maybe you have hurt your foot or ankle and you can’t run. What about trying the upper body ergometer at the gym? Or if you’ve hurt your hand, arm or wrist, try some kicking sets in the pool. Oftentimes when we can’t do the activity of our choice it doesn’t mean that we can’t workout at all, we just have to pick a new activity. And by finding something new and different you might discover a good cross-training activity, a new passion or perhaps a set of muscles you didn’t even know you had. Even if you’re just looking for a little variety you might find some great physical results along the way.
- Keep a good attitude. Of course this one is easier said than done! If you’re having a hard time feeling positive, take time each day to think about what is good or positive in your life. Yes, it can be disappointing to be injured. It is also no fun to miss out on something you have worked hard for because of a physical setback. But perhaps you could look at it a different way: maybe your injury is helping to change your course and set you on an even more interesting, exciting or productive path. Perhaps it’s giving you time to that you need to do something you’ve been neglecting. Or maybe your body could just use the rest. No matter the reason, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind what you feel grateful for, the good things that are still happening in your life despite the injury and remember, that like with everything else, ‘this too, shall pass.’