by Mark Wolff

I wasn’t sure what to write about today but the past few weeks I have been dealing with many athletes who have had either illness or injury and I noticed a very real trend. Possibly you have experienced this as well.

Around 6 weeks ago while overseas and I decided to go on my first bike ride outdoors in months. A hot summers day and an awesome ride and with just 200 meters from the finish line, BANG. I hit an oil slick while coming through a traffic circle and face planted badly. I also had the bad luck of breaking my baby finger on my left hand. Oh and Murphy’s law would dictate that I am also left handed.

I have to admit I was in a lot of pain and a little disorientated from the quick fall. A car stopped and asked me if I needed help. I looked at my bike reconnected the chain, spun the pedal around, did a quick check that all my bike mechanics were working correctly and said “Yeah, I think I am fine”. I got on and started to ride the back, she was of course shocked to the core. I was just in lets get this resolved as quickly as possible. A self check, showed bumps bruises a torn kit and a broken finger. I got away quite lucky and realized I could keep on training.

The next morning I got up early, went out for a beautiful 20km run and really enjoyed it. I felt a mild stiffness from the day before but nothing like I thought I would. I resumed my training as normal and kept up the cycling and running. However in the background something was lurking and it all happened one morning when I woke for a short comfortable run. About 7km into it I started an ascent up a hill I had run many times before however on this particular one I felt a tightness in my left calve muscle. I stopped immediately and walked a few meters then started to run slowly again but it pulled again. I knew immediately. Calve muscle grade 1 tear. I had to walk around 75 minutes to get back home as the route I chose was not an out and back and I was stuck on the other side of a hill.

I got back home and immediately went into rehab mode. Ice and Heat, Elevation and complete rest for 72hrs. Immediately after I started a series of eccentric loading exercises as well as placed a mild heal raise in my shoes to limit the calve stretch. I eventually managed to get back on the bike and ride lightly as this did not aggravate the area at all but helped speed up the healing. Usually I would call my sports physician and immediately get a platelet injection. I find PRP therapy works amazingly with soft tissue and dense muscle fiber. However I didn’t have access. It was great that I was getting back into the swing of things. However the underlying cause was not being resolved. The main issue was of course misalignment. The impact of my bike fall had thrown out my body alignment quite severely. My left leg according to running analysis was doing around 3% – 4% more work than the right let. That was enough to cause the strain. So some chiropractic manipulation some shock wave and I was back to running again.

A process like this doesn’t happen overnight it happens over time and age and lifestyle can determine the time it will take to heal. Experience has taught me never to get emotional. I understand the physiology intimately and under any circumstances I go into a complete understanding that the body has messaged me in a harsh way. I sit up, I listen and I initiate a plan of action.

The biggest issue I see with health and endurance junkies these days is that they are very emotional. Training and racing is everything and they only think about the objective but not about where they are at this current moment in time. You absolutely cannot get emotional about injury or illness you need to accept it and plan your recovery.
Never set a time frame for recovery based on a particular goal. The goal needs to be set aside it only creates brain fog and you will lack the focus needed to recover properly. Many athletes sit for days thinking their injury will just disappear over time. That just does not happen. It might ease up but if the root cause isn’t dealt with it will come back to haunt you far worse the next time around.

Master your emotions and follow put your recovery plan into action. This should consist of consulting with an expert who understands the injury or illness. It should consist of researching the kind of exercises you can and can’t do. Very often when a runner cant run due to injury they are devastated. I can think of a hundred things they can do, its just you need to think out of the box and work within the framework of your recovery plan. Another thing you can do is absolutely focus on your nutrition, because injury or illness can be attacked nicely through nutrition and it can speed up the healing process if done properly. If you have a lower limb injury like I had there is no chance you can afford to gain extra weight as this will place more stress on the injury. Reducing the weight, reduces the force on the injury and helps with a faster recovery. However many eat themselves into weight gain due to emotional collapse and this just makes the healing process that much longer and more frustrating.

A race or particular training goal will always be there you might just have to shift the goal posts a little and get over the hurdle before getting back on the road. Don’t let the pressure of friends, peers, goals or sponsors push you into the emotional hurdle of your ailment miraculously disappearing. It wont.
Master your emotions and you will master your own journey of health and fitness.

All the best


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