5 Tips on How to Return Stronger From an Injury
Injury is something, that more or less every athlete will encounter during their career. It comes as a natural result of pushing the limits in training and racing in order to become the best athlete you can be. But how does one turn the misery of an injury into a positive thing, and return back stronger than ever? Our ambassador Birgitte Ravndal has recently come back from a knee injury and shares her best tips on how to return stronger from an injury.
1. Why did you get injured?
First and foremost, you need to figure out WHY. Why am I feeling pain in my knee right now? What kind of injury is this? Why did this injury occur? Did I train too much? Too hard? Is my saddle height incorrect, or my cleat angle wrong? I would advise you to seek professional help from a physiotherapist or similar, to get an external opinion on the problem. They will often be able to diagnose what kind of injury you are struggling with, and also ask the questions that makes you realize why the injury occurred.
Very often, as for my own case, you will have to admit that you actually could have seen the injury coming. Maybe you were too stubborn completing a session even though you had some pain? As much as athletes like us feel the need for executing sessions 100% according to plan, we really need to listen to our bodies. They are the only ones who can tell us if we are headed over the limit or not.
2. Treat Yourself
The next step is the TREATMENT of the injury, in order to return to normal training and racing as soon as possible. Normally your doctor or physio can make you a plan for treatment of the injury. It could be total relief and offloading of the knee, anti-inflammatories, physio treatments, or a combination of them. During the treatment phase you really get a chance to show your motivation and creativity.
What kind of alternative training can I do to continue improving my performance on the bike? Core strength and mobility are important qualities that are often neglected. If you can still run without pain, why not do some hard VO2 efforts uphill, to really push the cardio system? What about the mental part, visualization, meditation? There are endless possibilities to improve on things you normally wouldn’t take time to work on, that in the end will make you a better cyclist.
3. Prevent Getting Injured Again
When the injury is treated and healed, you enter the PREVENTION phase. You are finally injury-free, but you really want to avoid getting the problem back.
In my opinion, there are two main preventive measures. The easiest one is to have a proper look at your bike position and biomechanics. There are lots of adjustments you could make to reduce the risk of injury. Visit your local bike fit studio, explain your injury and they will help you make adjustments accordingly. Just remember to make incremental adjustments, to avoid other problems arising.
The second preventive measure of strengthening of supportive muscles around the injury. By strengthening surrounding parts, they will take more of the load than before, reducing the stress in the weaker parts of the knee. Just remember to keep on doing the exercises, even when the problem is gone. It’s called preventive measures for a reason.
4. Easy Back
The last step returning to a normal training routine, is the PROGRESSION phase. Even though you might not feel any pain and would like to return straight back to normal training load, that is usually a terrible idea.
Starting slowly, and adjusting the load, time and speed day by day towards normal, is the only way to reduce the risk of fallbacks. Maybe even apply the “two steps forward, one step backwards”-method in order to give the weak spot time to adjust to increased load. And again, listen to your body. Try to distinguish between discomfort which could be a good sign of ongoing healing, and pain which is a bad sign of injury.
5. Stay Positive
As an athlete striving for improvement, an injury is never really welcome. You’re allowed to be upset and sad for a day or two, before you need to pull yourself together and start working on your comeback. An injury can actually bring some POSITIVES as well. You might get even more motivated to do everything right when you return to normal training. Most likely, you will also appreciate the times when you are injury-free even more. It could also make you even more dedicated than before, in order to make up for lost improvement during the injury. Just make sure to not make up for lost training volume – that’s the easiest way to another injury. Lastly, you will have gained valuable experience in how to avoid getting injured again.
Overcoming an injury can be extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. If you’re able to do the right things during your rehabilitation, I can promise you that you are set up to come out stronger in the end, prepared for consistent training with high quality towards your next big race. Just get through those first few tough days, and get the work done. It’s actually not as bad as you think.