For triathletes, injury prevention should be a key training objective, but the fact is, in triathlon, injuries still happen.
And, although a lot of triathletes will suffer some kind of injury, how the athlete handles the injury can have a significant impact on fitness, both physical and emotional, throughout the duration of the injury. The following are four key strategies for getting through the injury as best as possible.
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1) Maintain perspective.
Contrary to popular belief, an injury is not the end of the world. Chances are, if you are injured, you'll be sidelined for a few days or weeks. For exercise addicts, missing even one workout can be traumatizing, but it is important to keep your perspective. Shin splints or a broken collarbone are nothing compared to some things life could have thrown at you that are much more significant than not being able to train.
2) Do the rehab exercises, if any are prescribed.
Injuries sometimes involve a visit to the sport doctor or physical therapist, and when that happens, there is a good chance you'll be given a set of exercises intended to correct a muscle imbalance or weakness that is the root cause of the injury, or to rehabilitate a limb after surgery or being in a cast. Perform the exercises as prescribed by your practitioner. This "homework" is the key to a faster recovery and preventing recurrence of the same injury.
Consider, for example, if the prescription is for 30 repetitions of an exercise three times per day, that would be 630 repetitions in a week. If the athlete does 30 repetitions of the exercises only during one weekly session with the physical therapist, then that would be only 30 repetitions in a week instead of 630. It will take much longer to get the desired effect if you only do the exercise at the medical practitioner's office instead of at home, as prescribed.
3) Focus on what can be done, not what can't be done.
It's really easy to get hung up on everything you can't do when injured. The better route is to focus on everything you can do, and then do those activities. For example, if an injury prevents you from running, you still may be able to bike and swim.
Lower body injuries do not often preclude upper body strength work, and vice versa. One arm out of service? Remember that the other arm works just fine. You may not be able to hoist a barbell overhead, but nevertheless you can still press overhead with one dumbbell.
Take a complete inventory of every possibility for exercise during the recovery period and make sure that you continue working out with whatever accommodations are necessary.
4) Watch nutrition.
While injured, you probably won't be training at the same level as you would otherwise. Therefore, calorie intake will need to be scaled back, too. It's not all that different from cutting back on calories during the offseason.
Focus on high-quality calories: lean protein and plenty of vegetables and fruit. Avoid excess starchy carbs. While additional carbs may be necessary during heavy training periods, they will simply result in excess weight gain during the reduced activity period. And that will only fuel the negative mental outlook you may already have about being injured.
Injuries happen and they are out of your control, but you do have the power to control how you will deal with it. Focus on these four key strategies the next time you are injured, and you will have a plan of attack that will help you get through this difficult period.
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