Injury Rehab: The Right Stuff For A Fast Recovery
Toolbox: A few weeks ago, it happened. On a random Friday afternoon, I got hurt. No it wasn’t while I was slicing down a long mountain descent while dropping the peloton behind me, nor was it locking up handlebars in an aggressive bunch sprint…
Sunweb’s Giro’19 hope, Tom Dumoulin crashed out on stage 5
Like so many injuries, it happened doing something stupid, something mundane, something we feel ashamed to admit. And mine? It happened warming up. On AstroTurf. Something I’ve warned my athletes about 1000’s of times over, but due to a packed gym, wound up doing myself anyhow. (See guys and gals, I told you so!).
This isn’t my first injury, and it was, in fact, an injury 10 years ago that pushed me to becoming the best damn strength coach for cyclists and triathletes in the first place, as after the injury I dug in and read, researched and went through the medical system to figure out how I could help my athletes get the best possible treatment if they ever had to.
Injuries can and do happen to even the most careful of us. But while it’s been a tough few weeks, I want to share with you my journey so you can learn from what I’ve done right, and what I’ve messed up. Yes, just like every human being, I’m imperfect, can be stubborn, and also have emotions that come in to play. The latter is an important part, so often brushed aside or ignored, but can have far-reaching implications in speeding up, or slowing down recovery.
But let’s start from the physical side, and move on from there.
What I did right
Returned home and rested for 2 days
The next 2 days I did absolutely nothing non-essential (you can ask my wife, lol) in an effort to give my body the best chance at healing quickly and fully. I altered my routine to be as low stress on the affected area as possible, without coddling it too much.
Set up a physical therapist appointment asap-
Sure I paid out of pocket, but because my body IS my livelihood, I couldn’t waste any days to get it assessed and get on track.
Increased my healthy fats along with my water intake
(Healthy) fats are an important source of healing-aiding hormones in the body. Don’t go crazy though. Just a tiny bit more goes a long way. For me, it was adding an avocado and 1 g of fish oil a day. And water? The blood IS a connective tissue which needs water (along with sodium and other electrolytes) to keep it able to best do its job.
Contacted my coach immediately
I told him exactly what happened the next morning after I woke up and realized this was not going to be “just rest a few days” kinda thing.
While not everyone will have as deep of an understanding of injury mechanisms and self-diagnosing, the vast majority of us do get that “gut feeling” about an injury in the first 2-3 days. Tell your coach right away so they can adjust, adapt, and move into helping you recover and see the bigger picture.
Acknowledged my anger & frustration immediately
See, even as I walked out the door to go the gym that afternoon, I JUST FELT LIKE STAYING HOME and watching TV. For me, this is a rare occurrence and is one of my known BIG RED FLAGS telling me I’m pushing too hard and need to back off.
I didn’t listen because for the first time in 2 months, I could finally get in 4 lifts in a week.
But 4 lifts is pointless if one of them leads to injury, and I acknowledged that anger with myself right away.
Followed my PTs instructions closely
Asked clarifying questions, made sure it was crystal clear, and EXECUTED. No “just trying to see if this hurt” and no “well she didn’t EXPLICITLY” say no doing x or y, so I’ll just try it”…
Activated my sports medicine team
Got my personal network of professionals to jump into action, and to help me get on track to health.
Cancelled my work trip to Mallorca despite it being the highlight of my spring
This was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in years. It was a huge mental and emotional letdown but was 100% the right call.
Got a second, and third opinion on what the treatment plan should be
Always get at least 2 opinions before moving forward with any moderate to serious injury (unless it’s life threatening of course, then you get it done!). This is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to things where surgery is a possibility.
Dumoulin recovering at home
What I messed up
Giving myself a break
We are our own worst critic, and the words we say to ourselves in our inner monologues are the most uplifting or the most damaging. Be careful how you speak to yourself.
Being more aggressive about getting diagnostic imaging
Largely because I WANTED the injury to not be as serious, I delayed getting the diagnostic imaging done sooner. While images cannot and do not tell us the whole story, it can give us indications of which hypothesis is most correct. In my case, it was the missing link, and I put it off too long.
Drastically changing my nutrition after day 5
I’m a Precision Nutrition coach, and have read countless more books on nutrition, yet I failed to change my eating habits from someone who is active 20 hours a week to that of someone who is injured and now stuck on their back all week.
Even though I knew I needed to, I resisted, in part because of denial, and in part because due to how active I was, I usually struggled to hit my nutrition needs each day, a tough habit to change to the other end of the spectrum.
Cheetos, and chocolate pudding, and croissants, and chocolate.
Having a meal or two in the injury process like this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when it repeats as your lunch for 2 weeks… It’s important to talk with someone about how you’re feeling, and recognize and embrace what you’re going through.
Not talking with/to my friends about how I felt sooner
As mentioned above. I was so ashamed to get injured in such a stupid way. But you know what, when I told my friends and colleagues, they were super supportive, and even helped me laugh at how stupid and yet funny it all was.
Not taking mid-day naps “because”…
I was incredibly stubborn and did not want to recognize that my energy levels dropped because my body needed more sleep in order to repair the damage, NOT because I was being lazy like a teenager on summer vacation with a game console at home.
I will say, that the construction workers drilling all day on the floor below me in my apartment building as a part of the renovations didn’t help, but there were certainly opportunities which I did not take.
Giro ended – Tour to come
There are many pieces that we need to pay attention to when it comes to swiftly and fully addressing and healing an injury. It is my hope that by sharing my journey the last few weeks, and in those upcoming, that I can help you realize that CONSISTENCY and staying healthy to stay consistent, NOT drilling yourself into the ground until you break, are the keys to short and long term success.
I also hope to spark conversations to help others out there learn from the best practices when it comes to injury, rehab, and the return to sport process, so that each and every one of you can “Train smarter, not harder, because it IS all about you!”™
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Menachem Brodie is a USA Cycling Expert Level coach, SICI certified bike fitter, and NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. For the last 10 years he has been working with athletes from around the world to get fitter, faster, and stronger through strength training and in-sport training plans. He has presented on Strength Training for Cyclists & Triathletes internationally, and is the author of 2 authoritative online courses: