In any sport, injuries are a fact of life. Their causes are many and not always associated with stand-alone training or participation within your particular event. In 2005, elite runner Deena Kastor stepped on a large pinecone and rolled her ankle. For anyone who’s ever done this, I don’t need to tell you how painful it is, and how tentative you become as a result of it. Through the recovery process, you’re reminded of this fact with nearly every step you take toward getting better and fully healed.
I recall our daughter’s cross-country coach reading her the riot act for training for a marathon, in her last year of high school. It was a goal she had set to complete before graduation. Training started near the end of the spring track season, into summer, and the race took place halfway through the following fall cross-country season. I was her marathon coach, and no, her high school coach knew nothing of the training…until she crossed the finish line and word started to spread amongst her friends, who hadn’t known either. To make a long story short, the words that reverberated the most came from her coach, to the effect that she could’ve injured herself. I told our daughter, “That’s true. And you could’ve injured yourself stepping off a curb too.” The point is, injuries will come from anywhere, are unplanned and can happen at some of the most inopportune moments. What’s the alternative? Stay inside and injur your thumb on the remote control button, and trip over the cat when you go to get some ice? For some, maybe?
Dealing with injuries has a profound effect on an athlete’s mental state, sometimes more so than the physical pain from the injury itself. They don’t want to sacrifice any of their fitness level, lest they suffer detraining. However – and here’s the double edge sword – some injuries are a direct result of overtraining, caused when secondary and tertiary muscles are recruited as crutches, for primary muscles that have not fully recovered. You might consider this a “senseless” injury, because it’s so easily prevented through adequate rest and recovery. The athlete might then feel foolish, and at the same time is already dealing with the mental anguish of not being able to train at 100%.
So what do we do when we get injured? First and foremost we determine how serious the injury is. Is it something that requires attention from a medical professional? Maybe an opinion is needed from a professional to determine if the injury really is what we think it is, and not something associated with another condition or the improper use of a piece of gear. Does your foot hurt because you pulled something, or is it just the wrong shoe for you? Pain is the body’s best indicator that something just isn’t right. Our immediate task is to find out what’s wrong, and begin to correct the problem before causing further damage.
Second, what is the typical course of action for your particular injury? Does the diagnosis require R.I.C.E (Rest Ice Compression Elevation), stretching, alignment (chiropractic, physical therapy, etc.), heat/cold treatments? How long can you expect to be out of commission?
Third, what types of alternate training would you be allowed to do? With a lower body injury, can you swim to maintain aerobic fitness? How about riding the trainer to deal with upper body injuries? It may feel like it, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Ultimately, you’ll have to question whether continued training is helpful (even if only mentally) or harmful.
A pulled hamstring injury severely shortened my 2006 race season, when I couldn’t complete a run without pain. I thought I was doing myself a favor by only riding the bike, and completely staying out of the running shoes. Fact is, I wasn’t allowing it to heal at all. It wasn’t until I had an assessment done that I learned something in my back was tweaked just enough to affect that area.
We will all, at one point or another, experience injuries, obstacles and setbacks. It’s the price we pay for what we do out there. How we handle the recovery and healing process is up to us. We can prolong the agony and anguish by continuing to push too hard, or we can take a step back and look at the big picture, then figure out a way to come out stronger physically and mentally.
By the way, our daughter proudly wore her finisher’s medal attached to her Honors Graduate medal at her graduation. You think I was proud to see that? Just a little!!
Train With Grain!!