5 Mistakes You Are Making When Injured
Injuries happen – and they happen to all of us. It’s important to understand how to approach an injury from a psychological standpoint in addition to the physical rehabilitation. The mental aspect of the recovery can be immensely powerful.
Many of you have been, or are currently, injured. If you’ve never been injured – well, you’re a member of the fortunate few, but this read will be EXTREMELY helpful for you as well as you ‘knock on wood’. It took me 26 weeks to fully recover from an injury that should have taken 8 weeks. The moral of the story? It’s essential to stay positive when recovering from an injury. Below, I’ll run over the five things that you need to avoid when injured. Implement them when the time is right and you WILL recover faster.
So, let’s get into it. About three years ago I had a partially torn brachioradialis. It’s a mouthful – it’s the muscle that runs through the top of your forearm to the outside of your biceps. The injury developed into a much worse condition from continuous overuse and improper healing time. At the injury’s peak, I could hardly use my right arm for anything at all. My time spent recovering from the injury was a roller-coaster and far from speedy. It was this experience that helped me realize the importance of being positive in order to muffle the destructive emotions most athletes experience when injured.
These are the mistakes I made. I hope you all can learn from them and avoid them God-forbid you ever find yourself injured.
- Denial - Not the river in Egypt [the Nile] – There was incessant self-convincing that I wasn’t injured. I would literally speak the words, “You’re fine, suck it up,” into the mirror to pump myself up before a workout. Skipping the gym seemed impossible, so what choice did I have? If I didn’t keep lifting through the pain, then I was going to lose all my gains. There’s also that line, “No pain, no gain!” Right? Yeah, that seems right. “Push through it, you’ll be better off for it.” I proceeded to seek out stories from others who had been hurt but had pushed through it and ended up fine. These fairytales were few and far between – but there was nothing like a little data mining to learn the exact information you want to hear. Unfortunately for me, there were not nearly enough of these stories to make me feel encouraged. Regardless, I still wasn’t slowing down the workouts and you could guess that the pain in my arm kept getting worse.
- Takeaway: Don’t try to be a hero when your body is telling you that something is wrong.
- Angry Injureds. Yes, lots of steam from the ears…and more denial. I was furious – and there was no shot I was letting this stop me from working out. It had been three weeks now that I “knew” I was hurt (five weeks total), but I was going to keep pushing through the pain with anger as my fuel. So there I was…in the gym…like an idiot. Arm drowned in icy-hot. A painful wince on my face. Struggling with exercises while using only half of my normal weight. What happens when your sanity comes from working out, yet your current condition prevents it? The anger starts to compound. I was just bitter, probably (definitely, if you asked my girlfriend) awful to be around.
- Takeaway: Don’t push away the people you care about because you can’t accept the fact that you are hurt.
- Self-Pity. So, now we are ten weeks into the injury. You’ve spent ten weeks making your injury worse and reality around the injury as well as what is required for a true ‘fix’ begins to set in. This is when the true sadness began to consume me. As an athlete, you have surely experienced (or at least have seen) the self-pity and wallowing when an injury sidelines you from your craft. The anger turns into a depression, and now we tumble down the rabbit hole of injury-induced sorrow where you hide in front of the television and repeatedly question your self-worth. I had a bad case of this and when I let myself fall into this pit, it was an enormous struggle to climb my way out.
- Takeaway: This takes your situation to a new low. You need to surround yourself with positivity and find things to distract yourself from your injury. Intellectual challenges, spending time outdoors, etc. Don’t hide in front of the television like I did. You ALSO need to seek out the best information as it relates to your issue. Don’t just read the internet and say ‘I hate doctors’. Go see a professional and get evaluated if your injury lingers.
- Captain Hindsight. “Man, if I had just stopped being a f*cking idiot when I knew I was hurt, I’d be healed already!” So there you are, extra upset that you have nobody to blame now but yourself. You wanted to blame the guy from that bodybuilding website who authored the workout you were doing when you got hurt. You wanted to blame your parents for weak genetics (sorry, Mom!). You wanted to blame that gorgeous gym-goer who walked by and distracted you on that particular set. Nope. It’s just you. And that’s a huge, difficult pill to choke down. It is this upsetting realization that only makes the wallowing more intense.
- Takeaway: At least you’ve realized that you handled it poorly. However, at this point you can’t go back in time, so there is absolutely no use in spending your days wishing you could. Learn from your mistake and now focus on what you CAN do, going forward, to get AND feel better.
- Reward If Found: Lost Diet and Exercise Habits. All of a sudden the emotions are too much. You don’t want to eat, or you don’t feel the need to eat the way you used to because “to hell with it, anyway”. This is the culmination of the four things you’ve seen above. Many injured athletes may simply be depressed or feel like they don’t need to eat or supplement as much because they can’t work out the way they used to. THIS IS COMPLETELY INSANE. One of the most important physical rehabilitation techniques for an injured athlete (while also preventing atrophy) is to KEEP EATING A HEALTHY DIET AND SUPPLEMENT INTELLIGENTLY. Additionally, there is NO REASON you cannot still work out.
- Takeaway: Don’t give up on your lifestyle because of your injury!! The quickest way to heal is through healthy diet, quality rest and keeping the rest of your body as strong as possible.
When my arm was hurt and I had given up, I was guilty of all five of these - particularly #5. Diet habits? See ya. Working out? Yeah right. I had lost 15 pounds (probably 20 pounds of muscle and gained five pounds of unwanted weight), and I was finding it harder and harder to love myself. Finally, after many months and a great talk with one of my most valued mentors, I realized how I could start to turn this all around. Even though I couldn’t do many of the lifts I was accustomed to, I could still work out. I got my a$$ up off the couch, got back in the gym and started doing the things I could still do without limitation: Legs, plyometrics, cardio – you name it. I also remembered the diet habits that had gotten me to where I was prior to the injury. When all of this resumed, I could see my body transforming back into what it was, despite not being able to do the same upper-body lifts I was used to.
So here’s *clinks glass of TrustFuel™ water* to each of you finding happiness and health in all that you do. If anything gets in your way (including injuries) do everything you can to block out the negativity and you’ll find a way to be back to your normal self in no time.