The importance of listening to your body is often underrated. In today’s world, with immediate data sources available the simple notion of stopping and respecting what your body is telling you is often overlooked.
When you have been injured physically or mentally, you need time to heal to get back to 100%. As an athlete I would often push the boundaries on recovery from injury, with the thought that getting back sooner on the bike was better to not lose my form and fitness and to limit the necessary time away from racing. If the doctor said 6 weeks, I would take 3 weeks. This impatience can be seen as motivation and drive, but I now realise this is immaturity and to some extent stupidity. Impatience can be useful when it propels you to not be satisfied with where you are at, but it can be detrimental when you don’t respect your body and mind to allow you to fully heal from a trauma.
Three tips on returning from injury:
Focusing on the basics.
When you are injured or even just a little under the weather, I believe it is necessary to focus on the basics first to help your body get back to where you need to be. Before becoming the ultimate bio-hacker make quality nutrition, optimal sleep practices and happiness your key priorities. Focus on home cooked meals with lots of vitamins and nutrients as this is more important than what recovery protein powder you are using. Give yourself a minimum of 8 hours sleep opportunity each night and practice good sleep hygiene by limiting screen time before bed, having a set bedtime and creating a quiet and cool sleep environment. Make sure you are doing daily practices that bring you joy, this might be calling a friend, enjoying an afternoon cup of tea with a book, enjoying hobbies and meditating. Taking time to boost your mood each day is important when you are out injured.
Taking an extra week at the start of the recovery to reset.
My first coach used to always say, ‘when returning from illness no training until you are well, then to wait a day longer’. This is very important. One day longer at the start or a week longer in the beginning of an injury can save you so much more time at the other end of the rehabilitation period. When you are injured you need to rest, particularly in the acute stage, an extra week off training in the acute stage of an injury can save you months due to lingering aches and pains, preventing you from return to full training and competition Spend this time getting in touch with other aspects of your life that you normally don’t have time for, catch up with friends and family, do your taxes or go to the local gallery.
Trusting your support network.
When you are injured or going through a trauma, it is key to lean on your support network to make sure you come back not only in good shape but even stronger than before. Trusting your coach, trainer, manager, parents, partner, team or other supporter is so important as this can save so much energy you would otherwise loose to anxiety and second guessing your every move.
An injury can often be a ‘reset’ moment for athletes. Giving them time to actually rest from the non-stop travel associated with racing and training all over the world and also get some solid time at home. Many athletes come back stronger from injury, turning a negative into a positive. So don’t rush it and listen to your body.