Sometimes it’s calm waters and smooth sailing; at other times we are battling through the trenches just simply trying to keep our head above the surface. This sport we love never provides a straight line from point A to point B. But isn’t that why we love it? Sure, it’s not easy having to deal with setbacks and pitfalls, but those are the character building seasons that make us more resilient. When we are struggling with an injury, we must first accept and embrace it for what it is, and then adjust the sails so that we can come out even stronger on the other side.
Bouncing back from injury requires substantial mental, emotional, and physical fortitude and can sometimes be more exhausting than training at peak fitness. Having a game plan in place will certainly help propel you forward. Here are 5 tips to aid you through your comeback:
- Don’t just fix the symptoms, find the root cause. Getting the proper diagnosis will help you maintain your progress and carry the momentum forward. If your hamstring hurts, it may be due to imbalances in an entirely different area in your body. Work with a treatment team that can help you get to the real reason for the injury. You may need to consider a running gait analysis, a new bike fit, different running shoes, a new strength program – so that your body can stay healthy as you work back towards peak fitness.
- Don’t slack on treatment even when you start to feel better. Just because you are not experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of your injury anymore does not mean that your body is full healed. Continue to work with your chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist, strength coach, etc. until you have fully recuperated and have ironed out any of the functional issues that could have led to the injury.
- Adjust your expectations. You won’t be able to jump back in right where you left off, and it is important to give your body the time it needs to rebuild. I had to recognize that my FTP was no longer what it was prior to the injury, and my “race effort” during the rebuilding phase was not the same pace as it was before the injury, either. Training by heart rate is a great approach to use during the comeback. I have had success using the TICKR to monitor my efforts as I regained fitness after an injury. Using the TICKR allows athletes to train at reasonable and sustainable effort levels as they work their way back to peak fitness. Therefore, re-injury can be avoided.
- Strengthen the Mind. You may not be taking on the volume and intensity levels that you were once used to as you rebuild. Use the extra time to invest in your mental strength, which is just as important as physical fitness. Practice visualization, read a book, and if you are far enough along in the comeback phase, study a race course and venue where you will compete. A few of my favorite reads include: Elite Minds, The Boys on the Boat, How Bad Do You Want It, and Comeback Champion.
- Enjoy the Process. Undoubtedly, it is challenging when a pace that once came easily to you now requires an “everything you’ve got” effort, but the good news is that you get to soak up the improvements all over again. Enjoy making those incremental gains. Celebrate as your speed returns, even when it’s not where it used to be. Smile when you nail a session, even though pre-injury you may have hit those intervals 30 watts higher on tired legs. It’s OK! Just control what you can control, pace yourself on the comeback, and really take pride in the incremental progress, no matter what the watch says. Celebrate each and every achievement as you work your way back to peak fitness.
Written by Professional Triathlete Lauren Barnett
Multiple 70.3 Champion and Proud #Wahooligan