At the time of writing it is three weeks and one day since the self inflicted 75% tear of my Achilles.
It took one second to happen and according to the most positive assessments will require eight months to set right. That takes some managing.
However, rather than inflict the day to day trials and tribulations of my recovery on you (you can get that from the Dair Magazine Instagram feed) I’d thought I’d share some of the learnings I’ve picked up over the years of working with and around some of the world’s pre-eminent sports people who have all come back after serious injury including; Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Per Mertesacker, Nick Matthews OBE and Kelly Smith OBE. Name-drop over. Onto the Boot Camp blog.
Let’s start with the early days.
PART ONE: OH SHIT!
A major injury is, in it’s own way, a type of bereavement. Something you’ve had with you all your life, in this case a physical ability, is taken away along with all the goals and plans welded to that ability. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself in shock. And don’t under-estimate the impact of that shock either.
For my part, shock manifested itself as a unique blend of guilt (‘idiot – why did I play football – look what I’ve done to everyone around me’), anger (‘dickhead – why did I play football at all – I should have said ‘no’’) and general drama queen despair (‘I’m never going to walk again’).
Here’s the gig: do yourself a favour and accept what’s happened to you as soon as you can. Whether or not it’s your fault, it’s happened and the only one who can get things back on track is you. I’m not saying you’ll be able to shake it off immediately – it’s a natural reaction to have an emotional set-back hand-in-hand with a physical setback. You deserve a bit of tender loving care. Just be wary of those emotions settling in for the long run.
Feeling sorry for yourself can be darkly satisfying. Don’t go there.
In a nod to masochism I surprised myself by relishing these feelings for a couple of days – feeling sorry for yourself can be darkly satisfying. Don’t go there. You will completely screw with your own head if you stay in that place and in doing so, slow down your recovery.
What did I do to start my recovery? I used Petr Cech’s advice I mentioned in my last article and made a conscious decision to ignore everything I couldn’t do and identify everything I could do.
Before you click away from the page in a pique of cynicism, let me remind you – I am anything other than an elite athlete. But I do believe, away from all the high tech support they receive, that their fundamental approach to recovering from set-backs is something that can benefit me and hopefully you too.
How do you start the ‘what can I do’ process? It’s simple – although it does require some mental discipline to kick start things. You get creative. Here’s how I did:
I have one useless leg. So I started practicing using my crutches. Kevin Shine recommended one leg squats and calf raises, so I did those. Toni Minichiello told me to wake up my upper body so I borrowed a kettlebell and did seated one-armed clean and jerks. Then Denis Betts told me to work my heart to get the blood pumping so I did the exercise with more focus and intensity. Perhaps the most valuable thing I did was start to build my day around these exercises rather than ‘fit them in’. We have one priority right now: to get well. Why? Because that’s the best way we’re going to be able to support everyone around us who is doing the hards yards right now.
Immediately after I adopted the ‘what can I do approach’ my emotional state altered completely.
Immediately after I adopted the ‘what can I do approach’ my emotional state altered completely. Why? Because, endorphins aside, I was taking control back and applying myself, with purpose, to getting better. It’s a remarkable thing.
Finally, for now: listen to the advice you’ve received and listen to your body. Then in line with ‘what can I do?’, measure yourself against yourself starting today – that’s your benchmark. Not the old, pre ill/injured you. That’s a different person. Why would you ever measure your improvements against someone else? Find your start point and take it from there. It’s new, so let it be exciting.
We got this.