Making the Most of Injuries

By Tia Norris, February 2017 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.

Personally, I’m convinced that I’ll to live forever, but there comes a time in every athletes career when they must face their mortality aka injury.

It’s an unfortunate and seldom discussed reality of training; the more frequently and more intensely you train, the more likely you are to wind up injured. It is simply unavoidable.

At first, an injury seems like it’s the end of the world, which is understandable because injuries affect your body and – even more dangerous – your mind. And trust me, when an injury gets into your head, then you’ve really lost. Trust me, I’ve spend the better part of this winter finding ways to manage an injury I sustained, while staying on track with my Ironman 2017 goals.

So, here are my top four strategies to keep your mind right while allowing your body to fully heal through an injury:

1. Rest. Seriously.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but even I have to constantly remind even myself to get proper rest. This is very difficult for most people, especially if you’re an exercise junkie! I have found that many clients don’t even know what the word rest means. Simply put, if you’ve had the bad luck of incurring a serious injury, you must let it heal completely. The alternative is chronic or worse injuries, and I promise the rest is worth it.

Of course, each injury is different – muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and so on – and, therefore, requires a different treatment protocol. Each type of injury should be treated differently, according to either your doctor or your trainer. Generally speaking, bone injuries require NO weight bearing; muscular injuries require complete rest at first and then lighter, high-volume activity in time; ligaments and tendons get much trickier (I would recommend getting imaging done and seeing an orthopedic specialist).

But, whatever you do, stay off of the affected body part until you’ve talked to a professional! Don’t try to “work through it,” dumbass. For the last time: let it heal.

2. Stop Crying and Find What You Can Do.
Now that you’ve agreed to rest the body parts affected by your injury, let’s take a survey of all the body parts you’ve got left. It’s easiest to think of your body in terms of halves: upper and lower.

If you have a serious upper body injury, you can still work all things lower body, ranging from cardio (running, biking, ellipticizing, kickboxing, etc.), to weightlifting (squats, deadlifts, leg press, lunges, etc.), to certain forms of yoga and dance and so on.

If you have a serious lower body injury, you can still work all things upper body, ranging from cardio (swimming, boxing, upper body cycling, rowing, etc.) to weightlifting (all lifts for shoulders, chest, back, and arms) and more. Get creative!

Remember, the world of fitness is truly infinite. If you tell me you “have nothing to do when injured,” you’re just being lazy. Pull it together, and let go of the injury! Stop thinking about it and stop bitching about it. Feeding into the sob story of how you got injured is not going to make the recovery time go any faster. So own it and find something else to work on!

3. Find Other Outlets Of Expression.
If you’re injured, particularly if you have a long recovery window, and you need to find other things in life that make you happy. For instance, even though I live for health and fitness, I have so many other things that help me pass time and feel good about myself – making floral arrangements, cooking, home décor, my cats (I’m a true Cancer through and through), traveling and reading to name a few examples. Surely, you have other interests aside from health and fitness, as well. Find something else, even if it’s just one thing, that really captivates you and focus on that for a few weeks or months. The time will fly, I promise!

4. Find the Silver Lining.
I always say, “injury is a great teacher.” Try to find the silver lining of the injury. Ask yourself such questions as:

• Why did I injure myself in the first place?

• Was I being reckless, or doing something in a way I shouldn’t have been doing it?

• Was I overtraining?

• Did I not pay attention to recovery, like massage, chiropractor, acupuncture?

• What does the injury allow me to focus on now that I didn’t have time or energy for when I was training hard?

There is a silver lining, which is the fact that there is something to learn. If you believe that everything happens for a reason, you must strive to figure out why this happened – or you’re doomed to repeat it in the future.

Remember folks, injury is inevitable as you ramp up your frequency and performance. Accept it! Rest what hurts, work the hell out of what doesn’t hurt, find other ways to pass time while you’re recovering, and make sure you’ve learned your lesson for next time!

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