Have you picked up a nasty injury and wondering if and when you’ll ever get back to race fitness? Read on for top advice from four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, who went from breaking her arm in 2010 to winning Challenge Roth five months later..
I was injured going into Kona 2011; in fact, I’ve started more races with niggles than without! The psychological impact of an injury can be just as debilitating as broken bones, and hence healing means addressing both physical and emotional aspects.
So, first, take full responsibility for your injury. Could you have prevented it? If yes, then learn from that. If no, then accept that sometimes things happen beyond our control. You can’t turn the clock back. So after a brief toys-out-of-the-pram tantrum, look forward and make the decision not to wallow in ‘why me?’ self-pity.
Then take control. By that, I mean learn about your injury, prepare yourself for the road ahead and alleviate the frustration, confusion and fear that comes from the unknown. This means getting a clear medical diagnosis and prognosis, discussing various treatment methods, possible complications, duration of recovery and rehabilitation.
Ask questions and inform yourself. What foods should you eat/drink to promote bone deposition? Are there techniques or therapies that accelerate healing? Internet searches can be useful, but can also result in ‘paralysis by analysis’ or confusion from contradictory information.
Often we want to appear invincible and self-reliant. But just as it’s much more enjoyable to share good times with people, so too do you need to lean on rocks for support when the going gets tough. Surround yourself with positive, cup-half-full people – and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Focus on what’s possible. You’re not helpless. You’re in control. It’s about adaptation and adjustment. Replace thoughts of ‘If I hadn’t broken my ankle I could have done this or that’ with ‘Because I’m injured it means I can do…’. You can still set – and progress towards – measurable, achievable goals. Yes, this could mean wallowing on the sofa for six weeks watching Wanted Down Under. Or you could opt for positive action: do some land-based swim stroke work or upper body strength exercises? Or train your mind through relaxation?
Or perhaps your goal could be to give back to the sport. Help out at your local club? Volunteer at a race? Coach a novice athlete? Or perhaps set a non-triathlon goal – learn a new language, perhaps? You’re more than simply a triathlete. Your sense of self and self-worth shouldn’t be tied to ticking the training logbook.
While injured, I watched videos, read books and spoke to those who’d overcome adversity. Their strength and courage inspired me, ensuring I kept perspective and retained belief in the power of the human body and mind to achieve the impossible.
Any injury is a short-term set-back, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If it helps, remember that I broke my arm in 2010 and five months later won Challenge Roth in a world-record time. And when I broke my ribs, I did all my ‘run’ sessions on the cross trainer for four weeks and came back to win Kansas 70.3 with my fastest half marathon. And yes, I won Kona 2011 despite having spent the weeks before in and out of hospital.
When your body heals, don’t rush back. Seek specialist guidance to rehabilitate slowly and effectively. Your may be injured at the moment, but you will heal, and body and soul will come back stronger, focused and much more resilient. Good luck!
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