How to Stay Healthy When You're Injured
If there is ANY how-to that I feel a) destined to write, and b) is near and dear to my heart...it's this one!
Since I was 16, I have been plagued by injuries.
In 2004, after lettering in Varsity soccer my freshman year, I spent the majority of my sophomore season side-lined after tearing my ACL and medial and lateral meniscus. Knee surgery #1.
In 2006, at the tail end of my senior year of high school and on track to making my second all-league team, I re-tore my meniscus in a stupid and kamikaze tackle. Knee surgery #2.
In 2012, in a freak accident where I merely stepped wrong on an opponent foot, I tore my ATFL in my ankle. Ankle surgery #1.
And, lastly in 2016, a month after my grandpa's funeral and getting in a hit and run, I broke my elbow and injured my wrist in a stupid biking accident.
So, I've had my fair share of injuries. And each time I was frustrated. As an athlete, I was frustrated to be sidelined and as a fitness addict who swears by her workouts to stay healthy and sane, I didn't know what to do with myself. The mental/emotional aspects of injuries are hard, especially for athletes. But, what I realized each and every time is that there are things you can and should be doing!
Focus on your nutrition.
In the 2+ years I ran Beachbody challenge groups, people inevitably were sidelined for various reasons. Maybe it was an injury. Maybe an illness. It happened to all of us at some point or another. And inevitable, each person would succumb to frustration and decide to just throw in the towel on the whole process. Yet, each and every time I would tell them and I would remind myself: "FOCUS ON YOUR NUTRITION."
Even if you can't hit a workout as hard as you'd like, or maybe you can't workout at all, you can still monitor what goes into your body. You can still fuel yourself appropriately. When we're injured, we're all tempted to wallow in self-pity and drown our sorrows in our favorite candies or alcoholic beverage. Okay. Give yourself a day for a pity party. I sure as hell did after I crashed my bike last year. But, you can't pity yourself for so long that the months of work leading up to your injury have gone to waste.
Get off the couch and meal prep. Get off the couch and plan some healthy recipes that you can be excited about eating! The nutritional aspect is somethign that you can always do no matter what is ailing you! So focus on that instead of all the physical activities that you can't do. Focus on what you can do. And that's eating right!
Stretch and rehabilitate.
I tell legitimately everyone I know that has ever suffered from an injury one thing. Make sure you do your physical therapy!
Call me a physical therapy Nazi, but the I know that the only reason that I was able to come back from my knee injury in high school the way I did was because I was diligent with my PT. Simultaneously, I know the reason why my ankle still gives me problems is because I slacked on my physical therapy and on regaining my range of motion! I've seen things from both sides of the equation - doing it right and doing it wrong. And I want you to learn from my mistakes.
So, whether you have PT appointments, are just stretching or doing range of motion work on your own, schedule it! If you have a muscle pull or tear, schedule in your RICE treatment (that's rest, ice, compression, and elevation for those of you that aren't as injury prone as me!).
The bottom line is, treat your stretching and recovery as if it was a workout! Don't skip it like so many of us do with Yoga day. Make it a priority the same way you would your workout, and you'll be on the mend before you know it!
Are you making excuses?
I'm not trying to be rude here - I'm trying to be realistic! We ALL get in this mindset when we're facing an injury that we can't do so many things. But I'll tell you right now, often it's an excuse. Why? Because there are often things that you can do in spite of the injuries.
I want to share this video with you. Going into the 2015 CrossFit Regionals and CrossFit Games, Julie Foucher was one of the top ranked athletes. She had previously announced that 2015 would be her last year competing since she would be focusing on her career as a clinician from there on out. She was killing it, winning events, was in first place, until Event 3 in the competition, where a freak accident on a box jump ended up tearing her Achilles tendon...(see 9:41 in the YouTube video below).
CREDIT: Crossfit from the 2015 CrossFit Games Regional
Her injury would put her in a boot for the rest of the Regional competition. And what did she do? She competed. She competed in her boot. Realizing that her CrossFit career was over, she was determined to do everything that she possibly could for the remainder of the competition. And she did. If you watch that video above - from 9:41 to 15:21 - you will see what heart is. You will hear the commentators say - "That is a true competitor."
So, why am I telling you this story? Why am I showing you this video?
Because Julie Foucher could have thrown in the towel on the rest of the competition. She could've said, "Well, I won't win now so I'm not even going to compete. I'm not even going to try." But she didn't do that. Instead, she immediately said, "I can do this, still!" So, she went out on the floor and did a handstand walk. And killed it. She knew that she couldn't lift as much weight as she usually can, but she can still lift some weight. So, she went out on the floor and did it. She found things that she could still do or ways to modify the workouts and she went out there and competed. And because of that attitude, because of that mindset, she will forever be one of the greats and she will forever be someone to aspire to.
So try. See what you can do. We can all make excuses and give up. Or we can all be like Julie Foucher and find a way to finish the competition.
Do what you can
When we get injured, we get this idea in our heads that we can't do anything. That we're totally and completely sidelined. Well ya - you can't do what you would've been able to do when you are healthy. But guess what!! You can still do something!
There is still so much that we are often physically able to do. And we have no reason not to!
If you've injured your upper body, you may not be able to do push-ups or pull-ups, but you can still go for walks and do body weight squats and lunges.
If you've injured your lower body, you can still work your upper body and do things like use a rowing machine. Heck, if all else fails, you can always stretch, which is great for you.
To get my point across, check out some of these modifications I did when I injured my arm last summer!
Working out with a broken arm - TAKE 1! Lol. The great part of not injuring my lower body and it just being my arm is I can still do a lot! So, after a major pity party yesterday, I'm back at it today! No planks for a bit and no weights on that side! But I can still do this move, which is one of the hardest in the workout! Woohoo! Modifications will be saving my ass! Trust me I know I need to be careful and I am! But working out makes me feel too good, physically and emotionally to just stop until my arm is better! Especially when I can still do so much! #injured #modifications
29 Likes, 3 Comments - Ellyn Schinke (@ellyns8) on Instagram: "Working out with a broken arm - TAKE 1! Lol. The great part of not injuring my lower body and it..."
This whole no ponytail thing while I work out is super irritating! Haha...more so than not being able to do too much weight work! My #gains!!!!!! 🙁 soooooo body weight it is! And you know what, that just gives me the opportunity to work on the quality of my squats and lunges! Get looooooooow Ellyn! Get loooow!!! 😂😂
31 Likes, 6 Comments - Ellyn Schinke (@ellyns8) on Instagram: "This whole no ponytail thing while I work out is super irritating! Haha...more so than not being..."
I may not have been able to do push-ups and pull-ups. I may not have been able lift anything above 3lbs. But I could squat and I could lunge. I may not have been able to put my hair back in a pony tail, but a headband just about served the same purpose!
Instead of thinking about everything you can do, consider what you can do! And do that!
Last, but not least, spend time working on your mental/emotional recovery
I contemplated including this, because I do intend this to be a physical health kind of post. But, the mental/emotional aspects of injuries are so profound. When we're physically not able to do the things we're used to doing, pardon my language, but it really fucks with our heads.
When I injured my knee for the first time in high school, I would cry myself to sleep. I was so afraid of the consequences. Of all the hard work I'd put in and losing that. Of potentially having to give up the only sport I'd ever loved. Of potentially starting to play and hurting myself again.
When I injured my elbow last summer, I felt so worthless! I couldn't work. Couldn't write. Hell, I couldn't put my hair in a pony tail or put on a bra.
Losing your physical abilities is jarring and frustrating.
That's why, when you're injured, there's no better time to dig into some mental/emotional work.
For athletes, that may mean reading some sports psychology, like "The Mental Edge."
For recreational athletes, it may mean just digging into how you feel about yourself and learning to depend less on your workouts to make you feel worthwhile. That's what I had to do! I had to learn to view myself as strong even without the ability to lift weights!
No matter how long your injury will side line you, there's really no better time to start digging into some personal growth! Check out my favorite books for some places to start!