Back in early February, not long after I excitedly bought my entry to the Ben Nevis Ultra-Marathon held in Scotland later this year, that I flared up an old back injury whilst on a relatively easy 10km trail run around Lane Cove…
The frustration set in quite quickly and the timing didn’t help. I went from being 200% keen and committed to my training, diet and mindset, to having jolting pain shooting down my left leg every single time I took a step.
“How the f*** am I going to run 52km and climb 4000m when I can’t even walk without pain?” I thought. I allowed myself to be a miserable shit for a few days and then decided that wasn’t going to help me get any better.
Almost 2 months, 8 packets of Voltarin, and 5 experts later, I’m finally feeling like I’m making progress…
I’m far from out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling a heap better, can walk without pain now and I’m feeling confident about my road to recovery. I wanted to share these few tips I’ve learnt and figured out so if you’re struggling with something similar, hopefully, these help in some way!
Tips for dealing with setbacks and injury…
Stay focused on your goals.
It’s really easy to lose sight of what you wanted to do, or what you signed up for when you’re injured. The temptation to wallow in your self-pity and throw it all out the window is very real. Don’t pretend it’s not. But don’t allow yourself to succumb to these thoughts.
Re-engage with those feelings you experienced when you set your goals. Get a big piece of paper and write it all out. Was it enjoyment? Was it proving to yourself that you can do it? Was it a big middle finger to all the people that doubted you?
Whatever the reason, re-engage with it, surround yourself with it, and remember that your current situation or setback will seem like merely a speed bump when you’re looking back from the finishing line.
You can’t shortcut your rehab.
I’ll blatantly steal a quote from my friend and expert physiotherapist, Jarryd Langford:
When you feel 100% better, you’re only 70% better.
It’s this advice, that if followed, would have saved me months of pain and meant I would be in the hills training right now!
If you’ve been nursing an injury, especially a nerve related one, don’t get carried away when you start to feel better again. Just because you’re not in pain, doesn’t mean you’re 100% better.
Start off slow. Focus on exercises that won’t aggravate your injury. Listen to your body and continue your prescribed rehab work even after you think you’re better. Don’t be a hero!
Funnel your frustration into positive focus on what you can control.
For me, my love is for trail running. I find the experience so rich and fulfilling. It’s invigorating yet meditative at the same time. Not being able to run for the past couple of months has been incredibly challenging and frustrating.
Accepting that this too shall pass, and re-funnelling any frustration into the areas of my life I can control has been overwhelmingly beneficial.
Find exercises you CAN do.
Since running was out of the question for me but I needed to do SOMETHING so I didn’t go stir crazy, or lose too much fitness, I worked with my physio to find exercises I could do. For me, that was pilates to help strengthen my weaknesses (TA) and cycling to work to keep my cardiovascular fitness level up, without aggravating my injury at all.
Eat Well. Drink plenty of water.
Even when you’re not injured, the food you eat is one of the most important daily decisions you make. This is even more important when you’re injured. If you don’t give your body the complete nutrition it needs, you’re basically asking it to “magic” itself better.
For me, eating well means simple, nutritious meals and snacks. A diet high in protein and good fats, plenty of fibre, and low in carbs. Plenty of vegetables, meat, and PBCo. products on hand. It’s this clean eating that helps my body, and my mind to stay strong, repair itself and get back to feeling 200%.
I feel like if you haven’t got this by now, you might never get it, but drink water. Lots of it. If you’re in a constant state of dehydration your body can’t perform optimally, or repair itself properly.
Your body doesn’t need soft drinks, it doesn’t need coffee, it doesn’t need juice, Red Bull, Gatorade or alcohol, it needs water.
Know your body.
This sounds wanky, I know – but it’s so freakin’ important. You need to understand your injury, your body’s natural strengths and weakness both mentally and physically in order to truly get better.
Understanding these weaknesses will allow you to target your recovery on the right areas, making sure to strengthen them over time, so your body can work properly, aligned and symmetrically – the way it’s evolved to work.
Fix the imbalances, strengthen the weaknesses and you’ll come back even fitter and stronger than you were before.
Find the right physician.
This heavily ties into the last tip about knowing your body. There’s a good chance you’re like me – not a physiotherapist. Which means when people start talking about L5 S1’s, fibularis brevis, soleus, or retinaculum, you probably sit there looking dumbfounded like I do.
This one has taken me a while to learn and is incredibly valuable for all aspects of your life… explaining something with big words is easy, but true expertise and value come from being able to explain something complex, in a simple way.
Many physiotherapists (in fact people from most professions) will hide behind big words, but the best physiotherapists will take the time to really understand what’s happening, explain to you the mechanics of how the muscles and joints work in a way which you will understand, and work with you fix the underlying cause of the issue.
I hope these tips help you in some way to get back to being your 200% best as fast as possible.
Promo Video for the Ben Nevis Ultra
- An avid barefoot trail runner, explorer, creator, and keen learner. I'm incredibly humbled by everyone who's helped The Protein Bread Co. to grow to where it is today – actively supporting our mission to help 5M Australians and 20M people globally to live fitter, healthier and happier lives. You can reach out to me via Twitter or Instagram @thelowcarbgiant, Facebook @lukehopkins, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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