MIND OVER MATTER
Managing the mental aspects of injury
TREAT RECOVERY LIKE TRAINING
A runner with a goal race looming will have a training plan that includes all the ingredients to prepare. When that race is no longer an option, one way to deal with the low mood is to treat the rehabilitation process just like training. ‘[ Try to see] rehab as a form of training, rather than an impediment,’ says Chris Carr, a sports and performance psychologist. He encourages athletes to set goals related to crosstraining or strength exercises on the rehab journey.
FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLES
Studies have shown practising ‘mind over muscle’ techniques can help with recovery. Carr suggests using relaxation training, mental imagery and self-hypnosis to help reduce stress and increase positive thinking. Lie in a comfortable position and concentrate on one muscle area at a time, breathing calmly. Clench the muscle area for a few seconds, then relax the area; repeat twice before moving on to the next muscle group. This can be especially important because the added muscle tension tied to stress and anxiety could hinder an athlete’s ability to recover.
REPORT PAIN AND DISCOMFORT
Runners coming back from injury face a new set of psychological issues as they return to regular training – working out what’s acceptable pain and pain that should stop them from running is difficult. Many are hyperaware of the injury and afraid of getting hurt again. Experts recommend conferring with somebody who can use facts to calm any anxieties. ‘Understand that being ‘tough’ and underreporting pain could lead to further injury,’ says Carr.