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coming back from an injury

Hi Brad

I’ll get to the point – I’m injured. Badly. And it sucks. As luck would have it, my injury occurred when I was at my fittest and happiest. I’ll be able to start light swimming in a month, maybe a little gym work as well. But I’ve put on weight and am seriously thinking of packing it in. As someone who had a lot of bad luck injury-wise, how do you keep upbeat and how do you keep coming back?

Davin – Adelaide

Mate, take a number. For athletes there are not only death and taxes that are inevitable in life but also injuries.

Situations like yours where you are battling with motivation and the frustration of constant interruptions are similar to normal training in preparation of an event. Sometimes we don’t want to get out there in the pouring rain or cold when there is a big race coming up. However, if you don’t give yourself the option of opting out then it doesn’t become as big an issue. It works the same with injuries. If you get down on yourself and consider yourself a victim, then you would be constantly battling your demons. It’s all about playing mind games with yourself, a bit of self-administered psychology. In saying that there is no way we can keep upbeat all of the time. Dealing with the severity of the anguish is the only way you can do something positive and flip the negative on its head.

Let’s look at the consequences of your option of packing it in.

1) Sure, you don’t have to deal with the hard times of trying to compete when you have an injury. However, you will still have to get the injury sorted out to get on with life anyway, especially if you want to do any sort of physical sport/work.

2) You would lose all the positive factors involved with training and racing, which can still be gained by competing at a lower capacity/lesser extent. So instead of racing pro you may have to slot into age group competition. One day in time we all have to slow down a bit and if we can delay it to our latter years, then all the better, but sometimes the decision can be taken from us. It’s not optimal retiring young but never the less a black and white option made for you by the “man upstairs”.

3) Not keeping fit with a sport that you must, on the whole, enjoy.

Sometimes an injury presents its own opportunity. When you have down time, it can be used constructively by working on your weaknesses. During a season you don’t have that much time to work on individual disciplines when they need it because you’re invariably torn that all three disciplines need attention, and rightly so. A forced break can therefore be viewed as being given a chance to find that little extra in another area.

The hard part is when you aren’t doing any exercise at all. That’s when we get cranky and possibly, as you have indicated, start to put on weight. That can just exacerbate the situation by making the decision to get back into the swing of things all that less appealing. The climb back to the top becomes more of a slippery slope.

I have also found that when your attention is totally focused solely on the injury they don’t always improve. It’s like watching the toaster, the more you watch it the longer it takes. When you least expect it, things turn themselves around. I always wondered when I would see the light of day again with all the problems I had. I could always say to myself – well what if next week I am able to train fully again, what a shame it would be to have spent so much time, effort and money and pull up a little short of the goal.

With the mind games and psychology behind getting back into racing, I always have to be a realist as well. I knew that it would never be a smooth road to get back on track. It was always going to be two steps forward and one step back. That has pretty much been how things have turned out. The hardest thing for me now is standing on the start line knowing that you’re nowhere near the shape you could be in. Some young guy beats you and says that he doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. Ouch.

All of these solutions might make light of the situation that you find yourself in however I can’t say that there haven’t been times when I wanted to throw it all in. As they say it is how you deal with them that gives the real measure of a person. Stay with it and always be flexible and realistic with your goals. Moving the goal posts seems like cheating but perseverance always pays off in the end. Keep the faith and good luck.

Brad Beven OAM
Byron Bay Triathlon Ambassador
ITU World Hall of Fame
Australia Hall of Fame