For all my fellow skiers, runners, or active friends dealing with injury- this one is for you. I’ll preface this article by saying I am clearly not a doctor, PT, or sports therapist. However, I wanted to share a bit of what I have been going through and what I have found helpful in dealing with my injury.
I’ll rewind to mid-July when I started having some nagging hip and back pain. What I thought was just tight muscles was gradually worsening, and by the end of August the pain became very acute. After a lot of doctor’s appointments and imaging, I found out that I had a torn and bulged disc in my lower back.
I took a few weeks fully off of all activity, and then was able to resume some walking and swimming. This week I did my first rollerski back in over a month (super short and super slow) but it was so nice to do it. I have been doing a lot of PT, talking with a lot of doctors, and doing everything I can to help my body heal. I’m still not exactly sure what my winter season will look like, however I am trying to remain hopeful! As one could imagine, an injury of any degree can have a huge impact on mental health. The past month hasn’t been easy for me, and I’ve had my share of tears. However, I wanted to share some of the things that have been helping me shift my mindset.
- Becoming an Ultrarealist- I am currently re-reading a great book by Matt Fitzgerald called “The Comeback Quotient” which I would recommend to any athlete dealing with injury. The main idea of the book is “ultrarealism”, which is an approach that can help athletes achieve comebacks in their sport by making the most of a bad situation. Fitzgerald outlines three steps to being an ultrarealist:
- Accepting the situation, rather than panic or denial
- Embracing it with the commitment to “make lemons into lemonade” rather than being demoralized or apathetic
- Addressing reality with effort and judgment, rather than giving up
I will admit, it’s pretty hard to follow this approach perfectly. When my back took a turn for the worse at the end of August, my natural instinct was to panic, and get depressed. Accepting my injury and situation was the first step. The next is to embrace the situation, which I have to encourage myself to do every day. And finally, addressing my injury with effort and good judgement. The next bullet “executing the little things well” explains how I have been trying to address reality.
- Executing the little things well- When I first got injured, my friend Erika Flowers sent me such a kind and powerful text. After having struggled recently with injury herself she said, “Don’t be afraid to take time off from training, and then ease back into things but with fierce attention to the small stuff and getting it done well”. For me, this has looked like being diligent about my physical therapy, making each short workout count, continuing to watch technique video, being consistent in my stretching, eating nourishing foods, and executing all the little things really well.
(Executing my 30-minute treadmill walk)
- Journaling- I just started journaling last week and I have found it very helpful. Sometimes when you’re injured it’s hard to see clearly or notice any progress that you’ve actually made. Writing down my symptoms, emotions, and progress every day has allowed me to realize the small wins that I have actually had.
- Avoiding social media- I have been trying to minimize my time on social media. I think that seeing posts from other people training, doing super hard intervals, and looking fast can send me into a head space that is not healthy. Decreasing my time on Instagram and Strava has helped me to focus my energy on healing and not on comparing myself to what other people are doing.
(First roller-ski in a long time!)
- Hobbies- Although I do spend a lot of time doing PT and trying to maximize my healing, I don’t think it’s healthy to be thinking about my injury 24/7. Along with work, I have been doing quite a bit of cooking, baking, and learning to play the guitar! I would recommend finding a fun hobby to anyone that is injured.
(Yesterday's baked good!)
For anyone going through an injury or who has a friend going through one, I hope at least one of these tips resonates! I’ll be back with more updates, and hopefully some more positive news in the near future!