Not one to bemoan my fate for long, I decided today to try to get to the bottom of this injury business. I googled a bunch of keywords, like "Injury rehabilitation for Type-A athletes" and found some good resources.
I think the reason that being injured is so difficult for me is what's known as a "loss of athletic identity". Part of who I think I am is innately tied to my ability to be active, fit, and strong. The loss of mobility, strength, and functional movement is causing feelings of helplessness, frustration, and depression, even though it's only been a week since my injury. Also, since I'm now out of the gym, a place I frequent regularly, I've been feeling pretty isolated.
The answer, I think, is a holistic approach that encompasses the physical, mental, and emotional parts of healing:
Physical Rehabilitation - I'm going to go back to the box today, hopefully, and see my coach. She's told me that she'll work with me on developing a program suited to my upper body and core, so that way I can stay active while letting my injury heal.
My friend Vivek passed me this article from the CrossFit journal about CrossFit's "Specialist" approach to healing. My injury could be a blessing in disguise -- it will allow me to specialize for a couple of weeks on skills I don't normally get a chance to practice. I can address weaknesses this way and get stronger overall, rather than relying on the strength in my legs.
Plus, I think getting back in the box and resuming some activity will help me feel connected, recover my athlete identity, and help me to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't.
Mental Recovery - According to articles I read on sports psychology, it's been proven that goal setting, mental imagery, and relaxation exercises have been effective in helping athletes mentally recover from injury. I'm going to set some small and big goals for myself, so that I can see progress, no matter how small, and hopefully accomplish some cool stuff. This should also help me get over the feeling that my progress has been stymied -- instead, I'm just working on different goals now.
Mental imagery comes in handy when you're facing the fear of reinjury. This happened to me a lot when I was rehabbing my shoulder. I would get so freaked out by the fear of pain, I wouldn't attempt bigger lifts. Imagining myself accomplishing a big lift help me enable the physical and mental resources to actually do it.
Relaxation... still working on that. Returning to my daily meditation practice should really help. And allowing myself to fully enjoy relaxing.
Emotional Recovery - This article is changing my life. It totally describes what I'm feeling.
"..once you get past the immediate event and the first few days of acute pain, the worst part of any injury/illness is psychological.
You’re scared. You’re thinking, “Will I ever play the violin again?” You’re wondering who you are if you aren’t “healthy person” any more."
The steps outlined in the article are these:
- Understand that this process is normal, all of it.
- Remember to learn and practice resilience.
- Allow and accept my injury. Resistance to it will only make it worse, and harder to get over.
- Practice mindfulness and awareness. Become curious about my experience of this injury. Do certain things hurt? Am I compensating? Could I do anything to help alleviate some of it?
- Practice compassion, especially for myself. It's not my fault I got hurt. It's just something that happened. It doesn't have to define me. And further, this might be a chance to really focus on self-love.
- Allow myself to grieve the loss of mobility, ability, and sense of self. It may feel self-indulgent, but it's not.
- Reframing - this could be an opportunity! A chance to read all those books I wanted to read, watch the movies I have in my Netflix queue, make more art, and work on my CrossFit weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
- Refocus on my new goals, as outlined above. I will choose where to place my attention, and not have it be pulled by my injury.
- New game plan - I can mourn what I was working on, but I have new goals now. I will make an appropriate game plan, and focus on that.
- Do what I need to do. Instead of whinging on about it, I will just show up and do the best I can on any given day.
- It's not forever.
- And it's normal. That helps, knowing that it is. That I'm not the only one.
So that's my plan.