I have been injured numerous times. I sustained a low back injury during my second combat tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009 that still haunts me to this day, and will for the rest of my life. But, nothing has prepared me for my recent injury. It’s something I have never experienced, even though I have faced adversaries and stared death directly in the face.
I had never broken or fractured any bones in my body, until the Obstacle Course Racing North American Championships held in Stratton, Vermont in August 2019. When I was flying on the final descent of the 15km course, with the hardest obstacles and most technical terrain behind me, I landed with my full weight on my left leg after I hit a hole in the ground and heard my lower leg fracture. Not the sound I wanted to hear while competing in one of my biggest competitions of the year. Right there and then, I knew I was on the long road to recovery and the first thought that came to mind was surprisingly nothing to do with a DNF, but how I was going to complete day to day tasks.
I was in a splint for 6 weeks, and no weight bearing for a full 3 months. Mentally, I was devastated because I had never experienced this and simple tasks quickly became the most challenging. To cope, I set some insane goals that I hope to accomplish in my upcoming OCR season, and even decided to attempt to set a Guinness world record. I began reading books to expand my personal knowledge, while also designing my own strength & conditioning + running program. On the outside, I was handling this perfectly fine, but deep down inside I was broken, and I never felt this broken in my life. A part of my identity had been stripped away in a split second and all I could do was focus on my recovery in order to regain the strength and endurance I once had.
So how on earth did I deal with this type of injury that had stopped me dead on my tracks?
These are the strategies I used to get to where I am today.
- Do not fight it. Instead, accept that you have been injured and seek professional help in order to rehabilitate you back to where you were or at least as close to it. This injury is now your new sport, and you need to put in the work just the way you did in your previous sport.
You will experience many highs and lows and at points feel like you have taken 10 steps back rather than moving forward. Instead of focusing on the things you cannot do, focus on the things that you can do. Work on your weaknesses (if they aren’t affected by your injury), and do the exercises that you can do so you can maintain your strength.
It’s an emotional roller coaster. You will experience joy when you hit a milestone in your recovery, and you will experience sadness and frustration when you feel like you should be progressing further than you actually are. Use your family and friends support system to help cope with these mixed emotions.
Stay mentally strong. It’s a very tough road to recovery and your mental game has to be at its peak, even more so than when you are competing. Your mentality is what will propel you forward to where you want to be. I highly recommend “Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries. This book was instrumental in helping me battle my mental demons during some pretty tough times. It also highlights various athletes injuries and how they dealt with them.
Listen to your rehabilitation team and follow their direction. This will ensure that you do not re-injure yourself. Do your prescribed exercises because they WILL help you recover and put you back in the game faster. And, do not be afraid to push yourself to that edge when doing those rehab exercises, as long as your therapist advises you to do so.
TRUST THE PROCESS. You have to trust the process and know that each case is different. Even though it’s the same injury, everyone recovers differently. So don’t compare your injury with someone else. Instead, focus on YOU, on YOUR goals and YOUR own recovery.
Nutrition! If you are not a nutritionist, I would hire one. I worked with Melissa Boufounos on my nutrition to aid in the recovery process and it was instrumental in healing my bone. As a matter of fact my bone healing has been beyond doctors expectations, meaning, it healed faster than your average person.
Lastly, you will return a much stronger athlete, both physically and your mental game will be at another level.
These are the strategies I used and found them extremely helpful and I hope that these will help you recover from your injury. “Believe you can, and you will accomplish”
by LegendBorne Ambassador