Whether you’re an athlete, a bodybuilder, a recreational sports player or regular gym goer, getting injured can be a very impacting and devastating experience. From personal experience, a few years ago, I suffered a wrist injury during weight training. While nothing was fractured, it hurt every time I applied pressure to it in certain directions and it definitely hurt to move the wrist joint. This was a pretty devastating time for me and my injury affected my training and work. As a result, many areas of my life suffered as a result of the negative thoughts and feelings I had during this time. If this sounds similar to you or if you’re in a similar position now, read on and see how you can beat this injury and its effects and come out on top.
Injuries & Weight Training Progress
A bone fracture, a twisted ankle, a pulled muscle or a torn ligament. The list goes on and whether or not the injury sets you back a week or two, a couple of months or longer, there’s no doubt that during that time, you’re going to be inconvenienced. The severity of the injury is of course the biggest factor but whether or not it’s a mild injury or quite a severe one, it really is what you do, think and feel during that time off which will determine the progression of your life from that initial shattering moment.
The Stages of Injury
Sustaining an injury can lead to feelings of grief, loss and depression. However suffering an injury isn’t all bad news, it can often lead to future benefits and the ability to promote personal growth; physically, mentally and socially. In terms of the injury process, we can imagine that it has 3 distinct stages, all of which contain factors which can help us to better ourselves. These stages are:
- Injury Onset Stage
- Rehabilitation Stage
- Return to Sport or Exercise Stage
Injury Time - Turning Negatives into Positives
Let’s have a look now at what you can do during each stage to help you through this difficult time and to promote personal growth.
Injury Onset Stage
During this stage, our thoughts and emotions are probably going haywire. We start to realise the severity of the situation and are trying hard to comprehend what the injury means; short and long term. It is important at this stage to use all that energy to figure out ways to bounce back rather than letting the situation overwhelm you. At this point:
- Critically question what’s happened and why it has happened. Was your technique a bit off? Were you trying to lift too much? Re-evaluating the situation and doing a bit of research either by yourself or speaking to professionals can help you gain a better understanding of how to avoid future similar injuries.
- Take time to write down clearly or to vocalise your thoughts and emotions. This will help you understand your emotions better and learn to regulate them to boost future performances or just for everyday life.
- Understand that being injured will often mean being unable to complete some everyday tasks. Use this fact to help strengthen your current social networks and even discover new social networks which may be helpful to you further down the track.
As with all the other stages, this stage differs between people and their injuries. In general, having an injury can mean more free time from an inability to train or in more severe cases it could also mean a structured, professional rehabilitation program. It is essential not to mope around and focus on using your free time and/or your rehabilitation constructively.
- Use your free time to advance yourself in other areas of your life to grow as an individual or even learn more about sport and exercise which may help you achieve better results once you do get back into training.
- Strengthen and build social networks as mentioned previously.
- Use the time to complete other tasks that you may have left aside due to lack of time.
- Gain perspective into your goals and whether or not you are meeting them or require new ones.
- Being unable to train, especially in sport can seem like a backwards step. But remember that a sport is more than just the physical performance. Use the time to work on your tactics and your technique.
- Depending on the injury, you may find that the lack of training means putting on a bit of extra weight. Force yourself to get creative and find new ways to train and gain a better understanding about how diet and nutrition changes depending on activity or inactivity.
- Pay attention if you are going to professional rehab sessions. A good physiotherapist will help you not only recover faster, but understand your body anatomy and body movements better so that you will have a reduced chance of sustaining more injuries down the track.
Return to Sport or Exercise Stage
At this point, you’re reaching the business side of things. All that time off preparing for this moment needs to be put into practice.
- After any injury, there is always trepidation about performing the exercise that caused the injury in the first place. It is at this time that you should reflect back on injury and its causes. Use this knowledge to mentally adjust factors such as your grip, stance and movement to ensure an injury free performance.
- Understand that you have been faced with adversity and dealt with it. This will help you become more resilient to other difficulties that you may face.
- By now, you will also have gained a new perspective on many facets of your life. Use that new found perspective to ensure that you appreciate what you had before and to empathise with other people and maybe even help similar people through their injury.
Injuries - Not The End of The World
Remember that being injured, whilst possibly devastating at the time is not the end of the world. Use this time to grow as an individual physically, mentally and socially. Your ability to use your time wisely during that injured period will help you deal with other future potential setbacks and their effects. It took me 6 months before I was able to train properly again without fear of hurting my wrist. These days, I am more in tune with my body and exercise form and am stronger than ever before.
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely” - Rodin
1 Wadey R, Evans L, Evans K, Mitchell I. ‘Perceived Benefits Following Sport Injury: A Qualitative Examination of their Antecedents and Underlying Mechanisms.’ Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 2011, 23(2):142-158