Injury and body image
When you’re injured and training stops/reduces/changes from what you are used to, it is inevitable that your body will change in some respects. This is completely normal, however it can be difficult to come to terms with. There are some changes that because you have more time and may be dwelling a wee bit, suddenly stand out to you. However, these changes should be embraced, because they represent the amazing power of our body. It has the ability adapt and change in order to help us as best it can at that moment in time.
As a result of these changes, it can lead people to ask themselves one question. Should I eat less because I’m injured? And the answer to that is…NO!
*it is important to know I purely speak from my own experiences.
A lot of people assume when injured they should cut back on the amount they are eating because they are less active. However, your body still requires a lot of energy in order to repair and recover properly and the only place this energy comes from is food! If you reduce your intake, you risk slowing down your recovery rate, but also reducing the extent of healing, which will be of no benefit in the long run. So, how can we you think positively to see this time as a good thing?
Remember, food is fuel. You NEED it. Whilst you may not think you are fuelling as high a volume of training as normal, when you think of it in the long run, you actually are. How you treat your body now and how you fuel it will directly impact how strongly you come back to running in the future. Your body is an investment, and what you put into it now, will directly impact what you get out of it in the future. A well fuelled body during injury, will be a strong body when making your comeback.
Food is enjoyable. Try not to see it as the enemy. Now is the time to make the most of going out for dinner with friends and family. Training doesn’t quite take up the same amount of time as usual, so enjoy being able to use that extra time. Catch up with those close to you over some tasty food. Good food tastes EVEN better with good company. This is also a good way to make food more enjoyable and less of a necessity.
Enjoy the time. As athletes, we rarely have an extended period to rest, recover and recuperate. We are always on the go. Whilst this might be because we love being busy and we love training, it is also good to accept we need to slow down at times. If all goes well, you won’t be back in this situation, so enjoy the downtime whilst you can.
If you’re injured and body image is something bothering you, I hope this helps show you that everyone goes has the same thoughts but it can also be a positive time. We all worry about the physical changes that happen as a result, but it is all for good in the long run.
Week 2 of injury: What can I do?
When it comes to injury, it can be difficult to know what you can and can’t do. As a general rule, however the injury feels, in the early stages, I believe it is always better to underdo it than overdo it. The most important thing is recovery and healing, and the less you do, the better the healing process will be in these early days. I am still not weight bearing, so if I wonder if it’s ok to do or not, it’s probably not. Less is more. So, what have I been able to do since getting my fracture?
*it is important to note I have had guidance from professional, experienced physios regarding this, and it is imperative you listen to your physio as every injury is different and cannot be treated the same as another.
In terms of cardio based work, I have done a blend of the bike and aqua jogging. My time on the bike has been very limited and minimal due to reducing the amount of contact my foot has with another surface. I have been doing no more than 30 minutes continuous on the bike. 30 minutes is the limit, so a bit less is always better. I have been told by the physio that a little bit of foot contact is good to promote bone healing, but any more is counter productive. I don’t want to do anything that will prolong the healing process, so I have been sure to stick to this and hold back.
Aqua jogging for me is where it is at when injured. There is no weight bearing, therefore the sight of injury is not being stressed.
What is aqua jogging? Put simply, it is running in the water without your feet touching the ground. You can do it either with or without a float around your middle, but I usually use the float. The float can be very beneficial as it allows you to keep your posture upright and focus on working hard instead of worrying what your body position is doing. You do not want to learn forward too much and you want to stay as upright as possible. It is also worth ensuring your hands are not being used as paddles, as that makes it easier and a less effective workout for your body.
Aqua jogging is also best done in water out of your depth. You do not want your feet to touch the ground, therefore the deeper the water the better. This can be in a pool, but I have also done it in the sea and a lake to spice it up and keep it interesting.
To keep the pool work interesting, I tend to imitate a road workout. For example, this may be repetitions of 3 minutes. You could do 6-10 of these with one minute recovery. Other sessions include sets of 60 secs, 45 secs, 30 sec, 15 sec with the following rep time as recovery.
When aqua jogging, I aim to keep the recovery short and rarely go over a minute. This keeps the heart rate high and gives you a solid session.
I have also done a small amount of conditioning a few times a week. This has included a little bit of core, some upper body work, and a small bit of glute work set by the physio. This is to maintain a little bit of running conditioning.
The most important thing I CAN do however, is REST. No form of activity is going to help as much as rest is, so this is always priority.
Sunday 31st July
In true covid style, my first experience of the Commonwealth Games was having someone stick a swab down my throat. Aside from the invasive welcome, from the moment I arrived at the welcome centre, to the moment I left, everybody was so incredibly friendly. 90 minutes later, a negative result was confirmed and I could head into the village. It was then just myself and 2 other people on a double decker bus heading to the athlete village, luxury! I was staying in the University of Birmingham village. All countries competing in athletics, gymnastics and aquatics were here, which was great for athletics as it was right beside the warm up track. The village itself literally had everything you could need in the days before competing. There were lots of food halls, nail bars, physio, treatment rooms, a gym, laundrette, and these little grab and go food stalls. Upon arrival, I was greeted by someone from NI before heading to dinner with some girls from the team.
Monday was the day we got to take a look at where the magic would happen (I anticipated a different sort of magic to what actually happened). It was actually pretty incredible to see the stadium without any spectators in it and to see the sheer size of it. It was unsurprisingly like nowhere I had ever raced before! Seeing the stadium allowed me to visualise the race unfolding and picture myself on the track. I found this incredibly beneficial as it actually took away a lot of my nerves. There was less uncertainty and imagining, because following the visit I could see exactly where I would be racing. The nerves began to lessen and the excitement started to build.
Initially, Tuesday started off as a dull day and I was going to talk about the food hall as I wouldn’t be doing very much else. I absolutely ended up doing not very much, like I would before most race days, but for a different reason. Half way through my easy morning run, my foot became very sore. This came as a complete surprise as I had not felt any discomfort previously. I went to see the physio and was told to stay in my room and not leave unless essential. I thought this was just precautionary, but on reflection it was probably the physio preventing me from doing as little additional damage as possible. I think the physio knew I would race the next day whatever they said to me, so he didn’t want to stress me out with the possible diagnosis. The rest of the day was therefore spent lying in bed, or hobbling to get food. This takes me nicely onto the food hall.
Of course, one of the most important parts of the village was the food hall. If not training or resting, most of our time was spent in the food hall. There were so many options, from lots of different countries, that you were spoilt for choice. There was everything from African to Asian to Mediterranean. You could have almost anything you fancied. For all the avocado lovers out there, they even had smashed avocado, which was a winning point for me. Outside of the food hall were trucks with even more options. There was a pizza van, a grill truck, Mexican and Mediterranean. To avoid the possibility of a dodgy stomach before the race, I steered clear of these until after, then I enjoyed them until my heart was content.
I thought this entry in my journal would be very different to the reality. I hoped I’d be telling you how amazing the experience was, and how the race went better than I expected, but sport doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you deserve.
The day before the race, my foot suddenly became very uncomfortable on my run. I knew it wasn’t the usual muscle strain or tightness. I therefore knew going into the race that something wasn’t right, and following a very painful warm up, I was pretty nervous as to how my foot would hold up. All this being said, I was never going to not stand on that start line. I had earned my place there, and I was going to show that to those around me. The pain was dull for the first 2k and the adrenaline was masking it, but from 3k the pain was just getting worse and worse to the point I was unable to run without a limp. From 3.5k it became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to make it to 10k, but I really didn’t want to drop out of that race. My heart didn’t want to let the opportunity go. It was around 4.7k that I knew I had no option. I couldn’t run on the foot and the longer I kept going, the more damage I was doing. Accompanied by a lot of tears, I called it a day.
I won’t deny, the experience was incredible and the audience was second to none. It was the most amazing race I have ever done. I just wish I could’ve made the most of it and used it to show the fitness I have, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I fractured my foot now because I was meant to. Whilst it doesn’t seem it right now, I think I will look back on this time and be grateful that it happened. The support from NI has been second to none, and the things we are setting up as a consequence of this would not have happened otherwise. Injury is just a sign that changes need to be made, and only positives can come out of these changes. The Commonwealth Games also confirmed to me, that this is the level I want to be competitive at, and I’ll work hard for it.
After very little sleep, the MRI and confirmation of what I suspected was going on in my foot was very much welcome. Fortunately, Kate (heptathlon silver medallist) couldn’t sleep either, albeit for the opposite reason to me, so I had company at 3am! The morning quickly came around, and I had prepared myself for the MRI to confirm a stress fracture, so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest when this was confirmed. I was sort of relieved, because recovery for bone injuries can be more straight forward than tendon injuries, and once I had a plan of what the next few weeks would look like, I knew I’d feel a lot more settled.
Friday came as a positive step in the right direction. I took a trip to the physio in the village gym, which was equipped with everything you could need. He ran through a few exercises I could do whilst in the boot to keep a little bit of strength on my left side and then gave me 20 mins easy spinning on the bike. I had to push down with my heel to make sure I wasn’t putting any force through the fractured area, but it felt nice to spin the legs a little.
After a week full of extreme emotions, both good and bad, I was ready to go home. I initially intended to stay until the closing ceremony, but everything had caught up with me and I was feeling pretty knackered. The village itself was also quite spread out, with a 15 minute walk to the food hall, which was becoming a bit of a struggle for my hands on crutches. The week had been an amazing learning experience regardless of the outcome, and I felt ready to get back home, digest everything I had experienced and recover before I was able to get going again.
Today was meant to be the day I did the 5,000m. The field was incredible and it was another stacked out stadium. I was really excited for this one, but instead of being in the stadium, I was back home on the sofa. There were some super strong performances from the home nation girls, and I really felt I would’ve got a decent run out in that field. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and I love watching home nation girls smash it, because it makes me excited for when we can race against eachother and help one another to fast times!
Regardless of the outcome, my Commonwealth experience was an incredible one I still haven’t really processed. For the next few weeks my focus will be on recovery and getting my foot back to one piece. I will then be able to start increasing the load and start finding some fitness.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!