In Injury and Health

Triathletes have a hard training regimen to manage:  Swimming, biking, running, & strength training.  Not that other athletes don't work hard - I'm certainly not saying that at all - but a lot of triathletes find it hard to maintain training, life, and work. It means early mornings, long days, and in the end it can be hard not only physically, but mentally.

And mentally, when injuries occur, things can become even more difficult.

Maintaining motivation when you're injured is difficult to say the least.  If you're a runner, cyclist, or swimmer, you become very limited as to what you can do as you rehab your injury. Triathletes are fortunate in the fact that an injury in one discipline might not prohibit you from continuing your training in other disciplines.

It's a  psychological drain to be injured.  Motivating ones self to get up and bike, for example, when you know you're unable to run, can be a challenge.  It's sometimes difficult for triathletes to feel that they're still getting good, quality, training done when they're unable to train in all aspects of the sport.  The mental impact of an injury is significant, and should not be taken lightly. 

When I broke my ankle a handful of years ago I was devastated.  I had a great season the previous year, and had a big season planned with my coach.  I had high expectations and goals that year, only to be knocked out of the racing scene for over seven months. (More details on that fun experience here, and full details of the injury are here.)

A few days after my training accident, I was in the operating room having my ankle repaired.  It was a fortunate happenstance that my orthopedist was the husband of an athlete I trained with in my local triathlon club.  I was in a hard cast after the surgery, and the day that hard cast came off - two weeks post surgery - he said: "Physical therapy starts next week - you're in the pool tomorrow".  

I was on crutches, wearing one of those black immobilization boots. How was I supposed to do this?  I knew what needed to be done, and it was just a question of getting off the couch and getting to the pool. My motivation was low. Knowing that I wasn't going to be able to run, ride, or race, for months was crushing.  My wife had a different perspective.  "It's time to buck up and put on your 'big-boy' pants."  Her language was actually a bit more colorful than that, but you get the point.

My wife was a rock star - she came with me to the gym, made sure I made it from the locker room to the pool deck in one piece.  She took my crutches as I "butt-slid" to the edge of the pool to begin my workout.  She'd come back an hour later when I was done to get me back into the locker room.

Did I enjoy the swim workouts?  It was difficult to get really motivated at first, but soon it felt good to be doing something.  It was a tough mental hurdle to get over, knowing that running and cycling - let alone racing - wasn't going to occur for a long time. But one or two trips to the gym and my swimming workouts soon became a routine I looked forward to. 

Everyone gets injured at some point.  How you deal with it is something you have complete, 100%, control over.  You can become depressed and unmotivated. Or you can shake it off, stop dwelling on the negatives, and do what you can from a training standpoint and overcome the adversity. When you're injured, your coach is just as important to your training as they are when you're healthy.  The training that you can maintain will pay off in the long run, and the mental toughness you build during this time will make you a better competitor.