If you’re injured, you go to the doctor, follow a rehabilitation routine, and maybe even take pills. But there’s something more important your doctor can’t prescribe: A good attitude. Believe it or not, your path to healing and recovery can be made shorter (and more bearable!) with a good outlook.
In my last blog, I shared the details of my mountain bike crash. Though I was feeling a lot of emotions about my injuries, a position of acceptance has been helping me to heal quickly. As an athlete, I understand that injuries are an unfortunate but natural occurrence – they’re part of the package of being an active individual. I can try to prevent injuries as much as I can, but sometimes they’re out of my control. However, what is within my control is how I respond to the injury. I choose to look for opportunities to heal, recover, stay strong, minimize losses, and get back to my sports as soon as possible.
Tips for Faster Recovery: The Three Rs
Credit to Dr. Jim Taylor who coined the term 3 R’s in his book Psychological Approaches to Sports Injury Rehabilitation
Rest is crucial to healing an injury. Many injured athletes will experience fatigue and exhaustion - everyday activities may take more energy than they are accustomed to taking. Instead of becoming stressed and frustrated by this, it’s good to yield to the body’s needs - resources are being spent healing, and rest, relaxation are key to quicker recoveries. Make certain to include enough rest, sleep and relaxation such that the body is ready and able to rehabilitate the injured area when it comes time to include physical therapy exercises.
Emotional highs and lows are a normal part the recovery process. Instead of fretting about setbacks caused by the injury, refocus your energy on what you can do. When an athlete looks for ways to take control of his or her recovery, it boosts motivation and treatment adherence, reduces anxiety, and allow for better outcomes.
When an injury has occurred the athlete may lose confidence and motivation to get back into exercise program, or sometimes an athlete becomes obsessive about rehabilitation and applies too much effort and attention to healing the injury. Either of these responses leads to a reduction in motivation and adherence to rehabilitation. Instead, strike a balance between physical therapy (which takes effort) and allowing the body’s healing responses (requiring and rest).
Keep your body as healthy as possible during the recovery process. Eating a healthy diet will contribute to successful rehabilitation. The food we eat fuels our bodies. An athlete may not need the quantity of calories that he or she needed during hard training, but the quality of nutrition will contribute the body’s ability to repair the injured area. Avoiding caffeine, sugar and fried foods during this time of recovery will promote healing when the proper unprocessed foods containing high vitamin and mineral contents are ingested.
Train the brain as well. In my initial healing phase, where I could not work out at all, I utilized sport specific visualization. Before my crash, I had a swim lesson where I made changes to my swim stroke. Though my injury kept me from the pool, I could still visualize proper techniques and spend some time each day practicing dry land drills with my non-injured side.
Additionally, I went through the crash in my mind with an investigative eye, attempting to learn as much as possible about the crash. What contributed to the crash? Where was my weight on the bike, where was my attention, focus concentration, anxiety and tension levels? What could I do differently next time? I took full advantage of the opportunity to learn from my error and move forward.
Injury and rehabilitation can be a time of recovery, growth and sport performance enhancement, rather than a complete set back. Athletes who take the opportunity to learn and apply the mental skills will return to their sports stronger, better adapted and better able to handle adversity both in sport and in life.
Visit True Form Coaching to see dates for the Fall Sports 4 Life Group - mental skills necessary for healing, recovery, and return to sport.
Adapted from Dr. Jim Taylor, Injury Rehabilitation and Recovery.