How to Keep Mental Stress at Bay While You’re Injured
Physical injury and mental stress
A physical injury can have a profound impact on our mental state. It throws off our training plans and can cut us off from the social support of workout classes, running groups or gym buddies. If we go to the extreme and avoid activity altogether, we deprive our bodies of exercise-induced endorphin rushes. It’s no wonder injuries can be pretty mentally defeating.
So what do we do? A common stress-management mindset is to control what you can and let go of the rest. This also holds true for injuries. Consider your own situation. What can you still do?
- Move – It’s rare that an injury will prevent you from all activities. How can you train around your injury? Here are some examples: If you have a knee injury you can train your upper body. There are also core and hip exercises that are not only safe to do but may reduce the likelihood that you’ll suffer future knee pain. If you have a shoulder injury, do more lower body and core. Maybe you can’t overhead press but pulling is fine. Change the type of exercise you do. Instead of running, bike or swim. (Ever wonder why so many distance runners become triathletes?) The key is finding something you can do and do it. Note! To determine the best way to train around your injury, work with a qualified health care practitioner who understands your sport. As a general rule, pain can be your guide. But this isn’t always the case.
- Stay Involved – Find ways to stay connected to your social network. Can’t do that Saturday morning run with the group? Bike with them instead. Can’t do your workout of the day because it has too much overhead work? Go to the gym anyway and work with your coach to modify and get in some activity. There’s no reason to give up completely.
- Dial in other aspects of your training - Been slacking on your diet recently? Use the extra time you aren’t spending training to seek out and try new meals or research diets. Dial in your recovery. Intense training cycles can interrupt your sleep patterns. Getting adequate sleep is essential to recover from exercise and injuries. Been neglecting stretching? Now’s a great time to develop a habit. Been in a heavy lifting cycle and haven’t had time for cardio? Now’s the a perfect time to improve your training.
In the grand scheme of things, an injury is simply feedback from your body. They’re often a blessing in disguise. If you listen to your body, you can come back stronger, faster and better than before.
Injuries occur for all kinds of different reasons from following the wrong program or not building in adequate recovery to neglecting that nagging stability or mobility problem. An injury is often a sign that it’s time to address the underlying cause. This is especially true if the injury is chronic or recurrent.
For all the frustrations and challenges injuries create, they can be just the feedback we need to finally take the time to address something or reconsider that program we’ve been blindly following for the last two decades. I’ve found that reframing an injury can be extremely helpful for our mindset. Suddenly, it puts us back in the driver’s seat. It’s a shift from “This pain never is going to go away!” To “This is a chance to reconsider what I’ve been doing and to come back stronger.”
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