The biggest problem with injuries is that you probably do not care about them until you are hurt. It is much more fun to watch highlights then it is to pop on YouTube and learn a bit more about your hamstring and how it works. The culture when it comes to injuries and healthcare, is to be reactive instead of proactive. Being reactive means, you sit back and wait for something terrible to happen before you start doing any work. There is a much better alternative to this approach.
All Athletes Come to Learn This The Hard Way
When I was in the NCAA at Iowa State, I spent my first two years dealing with injury. The reason for this was because I refused to be diligent about staying healthy when I was healthy. The approach that made more sense to me was to push the limits and then when I get hurt panic and start doing all of the things that I should have been doing. That probably sounds a lot like your current approach doesn’t’ it?
The problem with this approach is that by the time you start reading it is already too late. If you wait for someone to press a trigger on a gun before you decide to get out of the way, it is already too late. The best way to avoid being injured is to stay as far away as possible from injury. If you never get hurt, then you don’t have to do any work to come back from an injury. It is easier to prevent an ACL tear than it is to come back from one.
What Being Reactive Looks Like
When you are reactive, the only concern you tend to have is training hard. Too many athletes working hard is the key to success. Working hard is far from what it takes to succeed. If you work so hard that you overtrain and get hurt, that does nothing for you. If you work so hard that your body falls apart, you are going to have to start back at square one anyway.
When you are reactive, you focus on the short term of how you are feeling. You may do some rehab for a bit, but the second you feel good you stop. The problem with doing things this way is that it will always open the door for injuries to sneak back in.
You get caught in a constant cycle that looks like this:
- Feel good
- Stop doing exercises to stay healthy
- Stop getting treatment from healthcare professionals
- Stop doing self-care
- Body starts hurting again
- Start doing 3 -4 -5 again
- Back to step 1
The cycle just never stops until you make an effort to break it. The place where you break is by never straying from steps 3-4-5 wholly. You may reduce the volume, but you always make injury prevention a part of what you do. Injury prevention must be seen as being just as essential as training itself.
Get Help From a Professional
If I can name one thing that made a huge difference in my career and allowed me to get my school paid for and made an Olympic team, it was being wise to getting treatment.
You want to have a team of healthcare providers that you work with at all times. This team can include but is not limited to:
- Physical Therapist
- Massage Therapist
- Sports Medicine Doctor
You don’t have to see them all normal week or month, but it is essential to have the different connections. They all bring different skills and treatment styles to the table. There are things that an acupuncturist can do that as massage therapists cannot do and vice versa.
If you need help finding these connections, Kho Health will allow you to search for sports medicine providers by type and skill set and make it easier to compare the options that come up.
Self-Care Is Your Best Friend
The last piece of this entire puzzle is self-care because it is work that can be done daily. Self-care does not make working with professionals pointless; it just means you need to less often. A foam roller cannot place a 60-minute massage.
Self-Care does a few things for you as an athlete. The first being that it gives you a daily check in with your body and how it is doing.
- Is that quad getting better?
- Does your whole body feeling achy?
- Are you just feeling amazing?
- How many days of the week are you feeling okay?
These are questions that are easier to assess with self-care because you are taking the time to foam roll and stretch on a daily basis.
The second thing that self-care does is make it so that you don’t need to get treatment as much. As an athlete that is pushing the body to the maximum extent, it is essential that you realize that a huge part of not getting hurt is helping your muscles recover quicker. Treatment will help you to do that. It is not realistic for everyone to afford to get treatment after every hard workout though. The self-care helps you to supplement this.
Being Proactive is About Discipline
Being healthy and staying that way requires a new level of commitment. Anyone can show up and work hard. But when you dig into the great athletes that have long careers, the common denominator is that they all take care of their bodies. They go the extra mile to sleep, eat right, get treatment and do their self-care to stay healthy.
You have the power to do the same thing. Get the most out of your athletic career and go the extra mile to stay healthy. No one is going to do it for you. Your commitment has to show up and get the job done even when your body is feeling great!