GET BET­TER FROM IN­JURY

TRI MEN­TAL­ITY

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRANSITION - BY DR. CHRIS WILLER

I1. Op­ti­mize over­looked phys­i­cal skills

’m dic­tat­ing this ar­ti­cle into my phone as I re­cover from a bike crash. In­ter­est­ingly, I am smil­ing be­cause while I can’t even tie my shoes as a re­sult of my in­jury, I can work on im­prov­ing my triathlon skills.

Get­ting in­jured is ubiq­ui­tous in sport. We see the im­pact at the high­est lev­els with cases like Paula Find­lay as well as in am­a­teurs. While ironic, get­ting in­jured can lead to im­prove­ments as an ath­lete. Don’t fool your­self – it’s a fight back, although not with­out ben­e­fits. I in­vite you to look at the fol­low­ing tips that you can ar­guably ac­com­plish best when you are in­jured and will make you a stronger and more com­plete triath­lete. Preven­tion of in­jury takes a com­mit­ted per­son. The ac­tu­al­ity of a new in­jury can re­mind us to get back to rou­tine strength train­ing that im­proves mus­cu­lar power. Be sure to pay at­ten­tion to smaller ac­ces­sory mus­cles, and at­tend to core sta­bil­ity. Con­cen­trate on im­prov­ing flex­i­bil­ity with yoga. You can train your brain-body con­nect­ed­ness through pro­pri­o­cep­tion im­prov­ing re­ac­tion time, ten­don and lig­a­ment longevity and bal­ance. Be­ing in­jured al­lows time to look at biome­chan­ics – ad­just your swim stroke, fo­cus on con­sis­tent power de­liv­ery through the pedal arc, or get a run­ning gait as­sess­ment. You can also plan your nutri­tion and how to fuel with food and rest.

2. Get men­tal

3. Re-com­mit to triathlon’s other ben­e­fits

4. Force rest to pre­vent fur­ther in­jury

5. See what’s out there

Ath­letes will try men­tal train­ing when their bod­ies are tem­po­rar­ily out of or­der. Con­cepts in­clud­ing the use of im­agery, men­tal re­hearsal, pos­i­tive self-talk, aware­ness of un­help­ful think­ing traps and reaf­fir­ma­tion of plea­sure linked to triathlon are use­ful tac­tics. Through guided im­agery, you can prac­tice imag­in­ing your up­com­ing race – the anx­i­ety of the swim start or where the climbs are on the bike course. Men­tal re­hearsal in­cor­po­rates your feel­ings and emo­tions for prepa­ra­tion. Pos­i­tive self-talk and aware­ness of neg­a­tive dis­tor­tions amount to find­ing a mantra that is em­pow­er­ing and rel­e­vant while notic­ing think­ing traps like “I can’t do it” or “I’m not a run­ner” that de­grade po­ten­tial and per­for­mance. Find­ing your men­tal pit­fall pat­terns can al­low you to re­frame these com­mon hur­dles to im­prove en­joy­ment too. Af­ter all, triathlon is fun. It’s en­tirely prob­a­ble that triathlon has given you more than you an­tic­i­pated, more than a health­ier body. If you’re in­jured it’s a per­fect time to soak up these other ben­e­fits. Triathlon of­fers a lifestyle – so­cial net­work­ing, travel and out­door ad­ven­ture. Cheer your friends. Be the Sherpa. Be­come the club’s après tri am­bas­sador. You need to adapt the in­jured ver­sion of you to main­tain your sense of self-es­teem and en­gage­ment. Take ad­van­tage of travel not for rac­ing’s sake. Ex­plore the out­doors dif­fer­ently. For ex­am­ple, go for a walk and ex­plore the sites if you can’t yet run or take a spin on a cruiser ride if you can’t get back on the TT bike. These dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pa­tion op­tions de­crease emo­tional dis­tress in the in­jured ath­lete. When our bod­ies are healthy, it’s easy to for­get the to­tal ben­e­fits we de­rive from our ex­cit­ing and var­ied sport. In­jury is a re­sult of an im­bal­ance be­tween stress and re­cov­ery. Think of the cur­rent in­jury as a re­cov­ery ac­tiv­ity (or as I call it “ef­fort­ful rest”). That is cru­cial. Wear your boot cast or keep your arm in the sling. Triathlon is some­what proac­tively adap­tive to the risk of ath­lete in­jury by virtue of hav­ing three sports in it. Im­prove me­chan­i­cal pro­tec­tion by do­ing com­ple­men­tary ex­er­cises that main­tain strength, en­cour­age re­cov­ery and avoid de­con­di­tion­ing. Go and see your ath­letic ther­a­pist, phys­io­ther­a­pist or chi­ro­prac­tor. Also use your in­for­mal sup­port team like your part­ner, fam­ily or friends to help guide you back to sport. Use this in­jury to open your eyes to what life has to of­fer and what you may be thank­ful for. Triathlon can be con­sum­ing and acute and overuse in­juries can be caused by men­tal health dif­fi­cul­ties such as eat­ing dis­or­ders, sub­stance use or to fill psy­cho­log­i­cal need. One im­por­tant ques­tion to ask your­self now is – are you miss­ing other im­por­tant things be­cause you’re so in­volved in triathlon? Go on a date night in­stead of a long ride. You could choose to go to your child’s hip-hop class that you would nor­mally miss be­cause of your master’s swim prac­tice. Or you might go camp­ing with your fam­ily in lieu of another race week­end. Take up a new hobby, vol­un­teer in your com­mu­nity, or reignite a friend­ship. Fo­cus­ing on your qual­ity of life may lead to feel­ing en­riched and be­ing a bet­ter ath­lete as a re­sult.

Get bet­ter from in­jury. I hope you re­cover quickly and use this time to reaf­firm your com­mit­ment to preven­tion of fu­ture in­jury, a strong mind-body con­nec­tion and a re­newed pas­sion for sport and life.

Dr. Chris Willer is a Toronto-based psy­chi­a­trist and has par­tic­i­pated in triathlons for the past 17 years. He is cur­rently in­jured.

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