The Art of Injury
I am lucky in that I am surrounded by like-minded people. In my business, my home, my personal friendships. Those who love the outdoors and share my passion for the sport of mountain biking.
Typically my existence is nearly fully consumed by this sport. It feeds my family, gives an immense amount of social support and connection, and satisfies my desire for time well spent in the forest. Most holidays are planned with this activity in mind. It enters most conversations I have with my partner at the end of the day over dinner. I visualize it often as I fall asleep at night.
But what happens when suddenly you can't participate?
As many know, I suffered a crash four months ago that resulted in a collarbone break, concussion, whiplash and multiple aches and pains through my body. Injuries usually terrify me, as I know myself well enough to understand that exercise is my mood stabilizer, and the only drug I will ever use. I dread the inevitable low point that will arrive without it. So looking ahead in those first few weeks not knowing what my recovery would look like, I came up with a plan to sustain my sanity.
A few things that helped me get through the weekends when everyone else was out riding:
1. Develop. Focus on that other hobby you wish you could do that you never have time for. For me, that was baking. I love eating real food and not relying on gels and science to get me through training rides. So weekends became dedicated to new recipes for cookies, muffins, energy balls. Made my teenagers very happy. My favorite website: www.minimalistbaker.com
2. Walk. It's easy to become self-pitying during injury and give up on spending time outside at all, because we can't spend it the way we want to. This was a struggle for me, but my dog walks in Cates Park on quiet Sunday mornings were a great reset and kept my connection to the outdoors. I became a tourist in my own city, hopping the seabus with a book and finding a random coffee shop to read in. There's more to life than the North Shore, and they make some really good gluten-free donuts across the bridge: www.cartems.com
3. Read. At any time I have a stack of books I wish I had time to read, which is why I plan to live long enough to reach centurion status. Stimulating the mind and exploring many topics of personal interest gave me something to talk about with others. I am now quite a neuro-science geek. My recommendation: The Brain's Way of Healing, Norman Doidge
4. Reflect. Self-identity is key here. One dimensional living can quickly become a prison, and I see it often with clients I train. When injury rears its head, they can't focus on anything other than what they can't do. It permeates their conversations and ultimately their self-worth. Who cares that everyone else is getting stronger and riding more than you are? Are they really? Or is that just your skewed perspective? Your number one responsibility during injury is to respect your body and give it the time and energy it needs to heal. You are what you think. Know that you are more than your sport. Take the time to work on your mental game - if you haven't started a meditation practice, now is the time to do it. Meditation isn't easy, but a 5 minute guided meditation on a daily basis can be a game-changer, and will allow you to be a better athlete in the future. Try buddhify or headspace.
5. Play. Arthur and I started playing chess. I've loved games my whole life, but when caught up in the busyness of work, training, parenting, I rarely take time to indulge. This has quickly become our preferred way to spend weekend evenings. I'll be watching the documentary on Magnum Carlsen, a Norwegian chess prodigy who became world champ at 13 years of age, hopefully to gain some strategies on how to win just once against Arthur.....
6. Train. There's always a way to train around injury. For me, I took the time to develop all the important stabilizers around the pelvis and scapula through my segmental strength program, which uses high repetition body-weight only movements. When I return to loaded training, I know my body has the foundation it needs.. Think of all the work your therapist wants you to do, that you never actually take the time to.
7. Take Pleasure in the Success of Others. Whether it was handing Arthur a package of energy balls to sustain his ride, watching my other coach attain her SFG kettlebell certification, or cheering on a female client as she attained her goal of 10 perfect ring pull-ups, genuinely taking pleasure in the athletic success of others is particularly satisfying when your own achievements are temporarily on hold.
At the end of the day, we are a sum of all parts, and our sport is only a piece. The more well developed you are as a person, the more successful you'll be as an athlete.
Remember, it's just bike riding.