Injured? Don’t crawl in the “this is the end of exercising hole” and give up.
I have written for years about what klutz I am. That may or may not be true. I contend that most of these incidents stem from an old ankle injury and hardware in my leg. Long story short, I tend to bust up all surrounding ligaments, tendons, and bones because of a fixated joint. I will say that my injuries are almost always from something dumb instead of something cool.
For example, I was at the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisc. last week, and I injured myself doing a handstand push-up attempt at the expo. I was not competing in the Games. I was watching them. I was walking around with my nine-year-old daughter and took one second to do something. Boom! Foot boo boo on the landing. Stupid.
So I went to the doctor when I get back because the darn thing is bothering me for days. They take an x-ray and there’s a fracture. But wait! The fracture is an “old fracture,” the doctor says. He pulls x-rays from a year ago (another boo boo). And yep, there it is.
Summary: I had managed to break my ankle at a time in the past—and not even realize it. #Winning
The break is not a big deal—I’ve had that for years, apparently. But I learn that I have a minor sprain that requires some time, recovery, and rehab. Blah blah. In the past when I would get injured, I would simply stop moving. I wouldn’t go to the gym to swim or to do upper body lifting; I would just crawl into my “this is the end of my exercising” hole and give up. I had an all or nothing mentality. Then I would eat, because—well, food. And alas, the cycle began: I would emerge six to eight weeks later—with my fitness gone and 20 stress-food pounds on my body. And of course, I was furious at myself.
Focusing on what I can still do during times of a single-part injury has been paramount staying sane and healthy and keeping some fitness. Because I remain active, I feel better from a general health standpoint. I’m not moping around, I am doing something. Working out somehow triggers me to take better care of my body, so I tend to do less binging on food from the stress cycle. Because of the latter, I am more focused on the long-term goals for myself. And when I don’t fly off into crazy land, the baby steps are greater toward my long-term goals in general.
Something that was really helpful last year during a torn meniscus was physically writing a list of all the things I could do with a torn meniscus. The list started off slow, but really took up some speed once I got going. Swimming with a pull-float. Easy cycling on a trainer. Shoulder presses. Handcycle. Bench press. Bicep curls. Lat pulldowns. Pull-ups. Hanging leg raises. V-ups. Tricep press-downs. I think I ended up with over fifty exercise items on my list. A simple re-framing of the situation was all it took to move forward, because the truth was—the list of what I could do was actually longer than what I couldn’t do: running, box-jumps, skiing, and cage fighting.
The best advice for injury rehab is to keep moving the parts that aren’t affected by it. Stay positive and focus on what you can do. Time really does pass quickly in the grand scheme of things. You got this.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. You can download a free triathlon race day checklist here. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com. She has two books coming out in 2019.