Monday, July 27, 2015

The injured athlete - take it from me..........

Year after year, season after season, I have been defined, destroyed and strengthened by 2 x cranky Iliotibial Bands (itb).  

I remember the very first time it reared its ugly head. It was 2010. I had signed up for Ironman Port Macquarie and the body couldn't handle the load. My Coach had perhaps not truly understood my poor level of fitness and no base. Or more accurately, perhaps it was me that absolutely had no idea what I had signed up for and didn't understand enough about base and the onion layers required to get the Ironman job done properly. I ran my marathon. But prior to race day, I hit wall after wall of ITB issues.

I was devastated. I felt embarrassed, anxious, stressed and uncomfortable and simply put, my life just sucked. I would turn up to run group and walk round the oval following the runners. Some weeks I could manage a short run. We ended up doing all bike work and elliptical and then I just turned up and ran on race day. Not your best planned lead up to an Ironman.

Every morning I would wake up wondering if I could run pain free. I went to bed hoping that tomorrow I would be in less pain. I wished for the day that I could run without pain. Yep that was many years ago.
I was no fun to be around and my husband was still riding and running and I was envious of his freedom to use is body however he wanted. I was jealous that my 'larger' friends could run. I still hate watching the lady running every morning pushing a double sized running pram with two kids jammed into it. How does she do it day after day? I didn't want to be around anyone who was an athlete and I cried a lot.

I did everything I could to fix the problem. I stopped almost all training to "rest" my knees, saw massage therapists, constantly stretched and rolled, got a few cortisone injections, googled, searched Slowtwitch for answers. I was desperate and I didn't know any better but to try to quickly fix myself as soon as possible. 
After so many years of dealing with itb issues, often times not running for up to 3 months year after year, I've learned a lot about myself. When you are a chronically injured athlete (despite doing everything that you are told to do to keep yourself healthy and to overcome the injury), you hit some very low moments. Looking back, I have had many scenarios where I have had to make tough decisions. As an athlete, some of my hardest decisions to make were not which races to register for in a season but instead, how to approach the season when an injury arises. I have not made it to t he start line for so many races, not completed, or not entered races.

Every athlete handles an injury differently and sadly, injuries are bound to happen. The human body is not as resilient as we think/want it to be. I get it! Regardless of the physical pain, it's really the mental and emotional pain that is the most difficult part of being injured. Not only do you experience a loss of your sport but there is a dramatic change in your lifestyle. Workouts are removed, there is more time spent at doctor appointments and physical therapy treatments and there can be many days when it feels like the day is just a waste without a workout, just like old times. 

When you are the athlete who is injured, it is hard to think long term. It's hard to make good decisions that will benefit the future rather than what feels "right" at the moment.  Every effort is focused on quick healing and patience is an extremely hard trait if a race is on the horizon. For coaches, loved ones and friend's of an injured athlete, it is really difficult to say the right thing. As an athlete, you see that time is running out before a key race but the injury is just taking longer than anticipated to heal and that can be extremely frustrating.

Not racing or not completing the entire race is certainly one of the toughest decisions I have had to make. And I have had to make the decision time and again. It Sux! Dealing with it comes with a roller coaster of emotions. Acceptance, denial, frustration. Certainly a hard working athlete should be hard working in the rehab process? Right? But it's not easy to be all smiles and rainbows when you can no longer do what you love to do. 

So what's the advice I give myself having a 70.3 race in November? 

Don't let this injury define me. No one is taking away my athlete status. I do not have to prove that I am tough as nails by pushing through pain. Do what I need to do to get myself healthy again. That is all that matters. Every day that I let my ego get the best of me, is a day that I could have made progress with healing. Be patient. I may not feel it now, but I will heal. And if I am proactive during my recovery/rehab, I will not only heal but I will be stronger than before.

Don't let this injury destroy me. There's no need to throw in the towel. I can think about many of my friends, age group, elite and professional athletes who have had incredible comeback stories after overcoming an injury. There are athletes who have been injured and then beaten the odds and other athletes who struggled for a long time and provided an extreme dose of motivation with their initial comeback to the sport. I have to be doubly motivated to put in the work to heal myself. Come back too soon and I will experience more time lost. Keep myself as fit as possible by focusing on what I can do, pain free, so that I do not cause any more setbacks. When I am ready to make my return back to full training again, I will be so happy that I did not give up when the going got tough. I will not be injured forever - don't forget this.

Do let the injury strengthen you. I will be mentally stronger. I will be my own comeback story. How will my story end? What do I see as my happy ending? What's motivating me to get better? What's keeping me focused and determined to not give up? I need to make smart decisions so I don't back track. And what will this injury teach me about myself? Its pointless being weak, lazy, unmotivated, angry or bitter! Rather, stay determined, focused, hard working and diligent that there WILL be a positive outcome when I DO return to the sport that I love.
Just do the right thing, make the right decisions and be smart.
It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

So I sent Coach some thoughts in an email last night, with the above in mind. (I need to acknoledge TriMarni for the blog above, which I have edited to suit me. But her blog resonated with me so much)
Hi AP,

ok, so its 18 weeks til Western Sydney. What I have put down here is based on:
  • keeping the load off the legs - I figure if I can keep away from running and the pounding then it will give the knees a chance to calm down and hopefully the inflammation will settle. So lots of elliptical and walking.
  • Still keeping fit  - more bike and strength work in the hills, keep the load off, stay fit enough to run when its time to start again. Bike has no pounding on the legs.
  • Staying strong in the legs and core - lots more strength work so that the muscles in my hips, legs, core get ready for running. I know 5 days core might seem a lot, but it would be different each day, like TRX, clams and planks etc 
  • Moving forward - looking at every opportunity to keep working towards my goals and staying happy.

Obviously all is up for discussion when you get back. But my thoughts are this....

AMStrength & Core &                           Elliptical (1hr avail)Outdoor ride (2-3hrs avail)Swim (oak flats)Indoor spin &                        walk/run offSwim (oak flats)Long rideRecovery ride                               &/or 2+hr walk/hike
PMAP10 Swim Squad &                                  Core workStrength & Core &                           Elliptical (1+hrs avail)Indoor spin &                   core workStrength & Core &                           Elliptical (1+hrs avail)Walk (1-2hrs avail) &                           stretch & releaseOpen water swim or                                           long swim (oak flats)stretch & release              family time


No comments:

Post a Comment