Reacting to an Injury

Posted: December 29, 2011 in Injury, Lifestyle, Training, Winter

Although the title sounds a tiny bit negative… I’d like to think this might be a little motivating, thinking about and anticipating obstacles we might encounter in 2012.

I’m taking a minute to discuss the inevitable: injuries.  They happen.  In fact, according to the NCAA and the Collegiate Trainers’ Association, approximately 30% of college athletes suffer from an injury every year.  And those are just the ones that are reported… lest we all forget the likelihood of ACTUALLY reporting something to a trainer… is… minimal at best. That means, it’s likely you’ll be injured… at some point. If you’re training, you’re asking a lot of your body and while we are made for more than we typically ask of ourselves, we have our limits too.  But what we really excel at, when given the time, is recovery and resilience.  Granted, you need to TRAIN yourself for resilience, but you can do it.  Even mentally, we are prone to breaking down and getting depressed about an injury.  But what’s the use in worrying and dwelling?  How does it help?  I’d like to argue that our ONLY real option for injuries is to react like athletes react to any challenge– wo/man up. Figure out that while it sucks to be injured your only real choice is to make yourself better.  Don’t retreat into it and don’t dwell.

One important caveat– I’ve had several friends deal with very debilitating injuries and surgeries that left them out of training for weeks and months. Sometimes “get over it and do your exercises” isn’t what is appropriate.  But- my brother is a fantastic example of how even awful injuries are what you make out of them. Ben demolished his elbow– shattered it– in a whitewater paddling crash last spring.  After an excruciating 3 hour ride to the hospital, drugs galore, and immediate surgery, he was basically told he wouldn’t really recover from the injury– range of motion would be 50% at best.  For a paddler? That’s rather life-altering news.  But he didn’t let it stick- he was told that with exercises and strengthening, that maybe, maybe when the metal bolts holding the pieces of bone together were removed… he might get a little more back.  Well, if you know Ben, you know he’s generally up for a challenge.  We went to Italy that summer for a paddling race that.. of course… he could no longer do.  But he was there, positive-minded, steered the boat like a champ

Ben steering our Dragonboat in Italy. Ben "Hamburglar" Ledewitz.

(while drinking wine, no less)… and walked around EVERY day with a giant rock in his hand.  It was unnerving at first… but he explained that he was just strengthening all of the little internal ligaments.  He hung from a bar in our villa almost every day, he stretched and lifted weights with it- even when it felt like it was doing very little to aid the process. But by autumn, he got the bolts removed and he’s up to almost 80% of range of motion, if not more by now.  He’s back to paddling and in fact, if you want to see the 50′ drop he took– take a look here: http://www.whitewaterfreestyle.com/2011/california-whitewater-2011/.  (Yes my brother has the best mullet you’ve seen. No it’s not ironic… ).  It’s just a small testament to the idea that we are made to recover, you need only to ask your body to do it.

But, I have thus far (knock on SO MUCH WOOD (twss)), been pretty lucky injury-wise.  I am, however, dealing with one right now.  I have a theory about things like this though… “respect and recover.”  I know, this sounds like an odd injury mantra, but it’s worked pretty well so far.

My little injury report–

4 weeks ago I got a nagging, acute pain in my right hip while running on the treadmill.  I had had the pain before and I know it’s not great.  It’s not a huge problem, but enough to slow me down especially running.  Part of me thought, “well, this won’t last, not a big deal, let’s get on with life.”  Naturally, what athlete would say otherwise?  After I finished the run, I got on my trainer for a nice hard ride of long-ish intervals.  No crazy 30s pieces- just 3-4 minutes with hills here and there.  It felt GREAT! And by great I just mean, NOTHING in my hip at all.  beautiful!  The next day, I had my computraining endurance ride– 1h30m on the bike on the Coeur D’Alene Ironman course.  Something was a little… off.  I had a pull on my right side but this time, down closer to my knee.  Hip was ok, a little funny feeling, but ok.  I certainly wasn’t going to stop my ride- the pain was not bad.  if it had been… I would have stopped immediately– 2 injuries on the same side is the same injury (in my opinion) and if it had been bad, I wouldn’t have wanted to risk it.  But, I got off the bike stretched and FOAM ROLLED!! and felt much better.  By Sunday, I was feeling pretty good and met up with a teammate for an 8 miler.  Nothing fast, lots of hills.  It hurt. It hurt the whole time.  It was just nagging.  As soon as we finished, I knew something was wrong.  After the run, I chatted briefly with my coach and then left a message for my Dr.’s office and decided right then I would address it.  I didn’t have another run scheduled until the following Tuesday, so I waited it out a little bit.  Made the appointment for Thursday afternoon.  I ran the short workout on Tuesday with very little pain and all of my cycling was feeling ok.  Wednesday’s run was a little wonky, but not bad.  Thursday’s appointment was a little strange because I hadn’t felt the pain in a few days.  Luckily, I had really taken note of the problem: the where (hip and right lower quad), the how (acute + pointed in the hip, pulling in the quad), and when (running for the hip, cycling on the quad).  These helped my dr. immediately address the issue and help me come up with some strategies to address it.  The stretching, foam rolling and icing regimen were probably the most important but some key strength training moves have been super helpful as well.  Lastly, I talked to my coach again and let him know what was up.  He told me: “One week, no running.”  Um, what?! I don’t really know how to do that… how does one do that?  He encouraged me to give it a try, “just 1 week now is better than 2 months in March,”  he said.  Damn, that was a good point. (he’s awesome, if I haven’t mentioned. if you’re looking for a coach… you should ask me about him).

So that’s what I did.  One week.  I’m a lucky girl- I have some other options when it comes to staying in shape and challenging my body, so you better believe that’s exactly what my coach asked me to do.  In that one week I– cycled 5 times, I lifted twice, hiked once, went dancing, and (for the first time since July…) I swam twice.  There are so many more options though– I was just finishing finals so I didn’t have time to hit the slopes, or do yoga, get to a kickboxing class or rock climb– all of which are fantastic workouts.  But the point of all of that is that… I’m feeling a ton better! I’m not perfect and I recognize that I probably spurred this injury by running daily for 17 days… my hips are just not made for that action right now.  I need rest days between runs and that’s ok! Because there’s so much more to do… than run.  I also nursed the crap out of my IT band.  I foam rolled (and need to do MUCH more), and stretched it out!  Here are my favorite IT band stretches (yes, these are super awkward pictures because 1) didn’t want to use a random person from the interweb unbeknownst to them and 2)I don’t have any pictures of me doing these… for which you can thank me later):

Tree Pose. Letting the external knee relax out to the side (owwweeee in that good way)

Shoe pose? Not sure that's the official name- but it feels great. Ankle over opposing knee, and sit into 90 degree angle on 1 leg. Balance on wall/chair

Weird, awkward side posey thing. Feels awesome (wrap one leg tightly behind the other, stretches hip of the back leg)

Jules’ Injury Mantra laid out:

Respect

Respecting an injury means a few things:

1. Admit it- if something really feels ‘off,’ recognize it.  You know your body;  you are the only one who is going to help when you feel that eerie, uncomfortable feeling that is different than just being sore.  So, recognize. Then, DON’T be a rockstar (pretty and dumb) and go harder to “push through it.” Don’t ‘Web-MD’ yourself to death.  Do try to understand what is hurting, where and when you do what.  Is it a tightness? All over? or very Acute?  Does it happen running up hill or down? Are you feeling a temperature change in that spot– hot or cold? (no joke, I was just asked this– it’s indicative of bursitis, who knew?).  Take note!

2.Accept it- take a few days off immediate from the exercise bothering it most.  It’s OK, A-typers rolling their eyes at this, just DO IT!  Don’t prolong an injury for a month that might be fixed with a little rest!  If it hurts when running, then: cycle, swim and yoga to the rescue!  Ski! Snowboard! Do some fun stuff for a bit.

3. Address it- Still nagging? GO TO THE DOCTOR.  Don’t put it off, just go.  There is NO harm and it could actually help you immensely.

4. Adhere to the orders– When the Doctor says “do this exercise”– just do it!  You reserve no right to complain about the injury if you don’t try to take the steps to alleviate the pain. If it’s Physical Therapy- do it. If it’s an MRI- schedule it. But don’t sit around feeling sad about it because you’re only going to dwell on the pain, which will make you feel less and less like you can overcome it.  And let me tell ya, take a quick glance through any news today and you’ll see- we humans are MADE to recover.  You will. Whether you’re an athlete, or not, you’re physically capable- and the more you do to help yourself, the faster you will recover from the injury.

Recover

1. Actively recover- Again, sitting around thinking about an injury has probably never done anyone much good.  Even if you can’t run, walk a bit, do lunges, do anything that doesn’t actively hurt your injury.  The best thing you can do is to pump up the muscles around the injury that are helping you to recover.  So, find the parts of your body that you can work, and work em! If it’s challenging, or something you’ve never done before– all the better!  Fitness is all about how well your body can react to change and challenge.  When you demand that it tries, you improve your fitness.  Injuries are a great excuse to try something new.  And don’t be afraid.. if it hurts? Stop. Try something else.  Be patient with yourself and you could gain a whole new repertoire of exercise regimes.

2. Rest.  Eat well, sleep and drink.  No no, drink WATER, I mean.  But sure, drink fun stuff too, if you are out with friends- enjoy the time out.  Get happy! Don’t sulk inside… you’re not down for the count, you’re not BLOWING your season, you’re actually MAKING your season.  So, get after it!

Don’t half-ass it.  You wouldn’t half-ass a workout, or a work assignment, or school work (well…) I mean, no! Of course you wouldn’t. So don’t half ass your recovery, do it right. If you do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it 3 times.  You may have to do it again, but it’s HIGHLY likely, that if you respect the injury and recover effectively, the next time a similar pain creeps up, you’ll recover in less time.

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Comments
  1. Alisa says:

    So true! When you don’t accept it you risk further and more harmful injury.

  2. […] my weakness and it would be awesome to stop being scared of being so slow; 2. I have had to cut back my running severely and 3. turns out, it’s wicked […]

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