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FitDeck Blog with Founder Phil Black

10 Strategies to Cope with Injury

Posted by Phil Black on August 1st, 2014


Injury can be one of the few harsh downsides of an active lifestyle. I've strung together a longer-than-I-care-to-admit streak of nagging injuries that have really cramped my style - including a fresh shoulder injury that's taking its toll on my psyche.

When you're a fitness professional, and a big part of your life and identity is being active, staying active, and promoting an active lifestyle - injuries create additional challenges and pressures.


Over the years, I haven't broadcast every one of my injuries because I didn't want to show weakness. After all, if you're doing all the right things, you shouldn't get injured too often, right? Why would anyone take fitness advice from someone who gets injured periodically?

Well, injuries happen for a myriad of reasons. Some we can control and some we can't. It's time to deal the reality of what living a very active lifestyle can do to our bodies and minds. Sustaining an injury is by no means a given, and many people live injury-free-lives but at some point or another, the very active person often comes face-to-face with injury.

Let's take this opportunity to vent, discuss, and compare some strategies that people use to get through these tough times.

Do I have it all wrong?

One of my firefighting buddies stuck it to me last year when I was hobbling around with a recurring hip injury. He said, "See Phil, that's what you get from all that exercise. Look at me. I'm never injured. I never exercise, but I also don't get injured".

I was at a loss for words. I didn't know what to say. I laughed, uncomfortably, as if it was a joke - but was it? Was he right? Was all this exercise really worth it? Was my recliner-bound friend going to have the last laugh? That really got under my skin. What was I doing all of this for anyway?

Types of Injuries

Short-term, identifiable, fixable: These injuries include broken arms, sprained ankles, bumps, scrapes, cuts, bruises, fractures, etc. Causes: accident, trip & fall, clumsiness, or some combination of events. Each time, there is a known event that caused the injury, the affected area is handled with a sling, cast, suture, etc., and it's a waiting game before you're back in the game. The recovery time is defined, there are universal benchmarks that dictate progress, and you can plan your life around them. While these types of injuries are still no fun, they can be tolerated.

Long-term, questionable cause, unknown recovery time: These are the toughies. Such injuries often include lower back spasms, tendonitis, hip pain, ITB pain, knee pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, etc. Causes: overtraining, body misalignment/imbalance, lack of maintenance. These are often chronic injuries that a doctor has to guess as to their cause, experiment with treatments, and randomly assign an extremely generous recovery window. Basically, you're left with no answers, no timeframe for recovery, and a shot in the dark treatment option. These are the injuries that drive me mad.

10 Strategies to Deal with Injuries

1. Perspective: As frustrating as it is to be injured, understand that in most cases, the body heals itself. It may not be on the timetable that we want, but time heals most wounds. Have faith in what the body can do on its own.

2. Rehab: If you're like me, I start climbing the walls when I can't do my "normal" workout routine. Even though you might be limited in what you can do, pour your heart and soul into your rehab in order to keep the habit of fitness alive.

3. Routine: Just because you may have to alter your regular workout routine doesn't mean you should bag it. Keep up a normal routine even if it's half of what you normally would do. Stopping your routine is a slippery slope that rarely ends well.

4. Sleep: Sleeping promotes cellular growth, recovery, and healing. Your body does its best rebuilding at night. Take advantage of this miracle.

5. Eat well: I am forever tempted to throw in the towel when it comes to eating well while I'm injured. What's the point? Injuries lead to decreased appetite, a messed up schedule, and unfamiliar patterns of behavior. Avoid this trap. The food we eat plays a critical role in our recovery. The better food (fuel), the better the body fights off infection, disease, inflammation, etc.

6. Diversify: Injuries can lead us to explore new workout modalities. The need for low impact movements might get you back in the swimming pool. An upper body injury might motivate you to build the legs you've neglected. Or maybe rowing becomes an activity that you hadn't thought of until running became a non-starter.

7. Positivity: Find the greatness that comes with a new routine. Maybe your body needed a break? Take up reading or catch up on old movies that you've been putting off. Find things that will engage your mind and heart in new and unique ways.

8. Study: Don't try to second-guess or outsmart your physician, but use any pent-up energy to learn all that you can about your injury. Digging into the medical side of the injury might peak your curiosity about the healing process.

9. Share: Don't be afraid to spread the word to a community you feel comfortable with. There may be others who can share perspectives, outcomes, or their support. It's nice to know that people are pulling for you and it motivates you to get better faster.

10. Support: Help others who may share your injury. Give them encouragement, share your success story, and it will remind you how grateful you are to be healthy again.

I'm scheduled for a shoulder MRI next week and I hope it comes back negative. In the meantime, I will endeavor to follow my own advice and strategies for coping with injury.

Have you been injured? What type of injury? Did you have any tips or strategies to add to the mix?

All the best,

Phil Black (FitDeck Founder)

[Note: I want to acknowledge that there are many people in the world with problems that reach far beyond injury. I don't want to overstate the issue here. People are dying all over the world from disease, malnutrition, and neglect. I certainly don't want to make it seem like an injury that inconveniences us can compare to real problems that some people have.]

photo: www.justjared.com

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