The Psychology of Injury

First things first, this blog is meant to be a muse on how we as athletes deal with periods of inactivity, and not a learned study of human psychology. When all is said and done, I am a coach with a dicky hip, not a therapist.

I am currently frustrated with a niggling injury. I ran the Hardmoors 15 on New Year’s Day, and pulled my TFL (actually stands for tensor fasciae latae, but in my head will always be Transport For London). It’s not particularly serious, but persistent, and as we move into February, I will admit to being a bit sick of it now.

It’s at this point when all the good recovery behaviour is threatened by the temptations of overeating and returning to training too soon. I’m really writing this more as a reminder to myself to behave myself, but also sharing to get you thinking.

1.       Do what you can safely and comfortably do.

I’m rather fortunate in that this particular muscle pull is only preventing me from running. I am still able to cycle and swim, so I can throw my energy into them. Depending on the injury, that may not be possible, but there is probably something you can do. When I had a broken wrist a couple of years ago, I became one with my turbo. My friend Katie is currently recovering from a broken foot, but a pull buoy allows her to swim in reasonable comfort.

In all these cases, please take the advice of your medical professionals, but the ability to adapt your training plan is important. Make a virtue of it. For example, I am using the fact that I am in the pool three times a week to really work on my pull. I probably wouldn’t have had this focus had I been running, and I am starting to see tangible results. An actual benefit of being injured – psychologically important.

2.       Don’t make things worse for longer.

Now I am almost recovered, there’s a real danger that I will come rushing back too soon, and throw myself back two weeks. Yesterday I went for a slow mile run around the estate. It was, in theory, a sensible way to return to running, but I was sore for the rest of the day. Whilst I am tempted to do the same loop again today, I need to listen to my body and wait. Wait how long? I don’t know, but a bit longer.

Again, this is very frustrating, but it’s important that I remain in control of my recovery, and don’t allow temptation to derail me. Psychologically, I am in charge of this process. I will decide with good sense when the right time is to start running again.

3.       Stretch and roll.

Again, take advice on the particulars here, but if there is some kind of recuperation work you can do, take control of it. I am stretching and using my foam roller three times a day. There’s a physical impact, of course, but also a clear mental benefit too. Three times a day I am doing something about my injury. I’m not remaining passive and doing nothing. I am actively recovering. I am working on it.

If you can afford it, try a sports massage. My friend Steve at S D Muscle Therapy came and worked me over last week. Again, there’s a clear physical benefit, but the psychological effect of actively fighting the problem helps me to feel in control.

Of course, we are all wired differently, so this may not apply to everyone, but for me, there’s a clear need to avoid that passivity in the face of injury. I want to get up and have a go at it!