01 January 2008

The Baron On Damage Control

Clas shares some practical tips on coping with unplanned lay-offs.  

Above is how modern Vikings take-it-easy over the winter.  Clas claims that motorsports enhance bike handling skills.

Even if you have read my previous articles 5 or more times and happen to get injured, over trained or sick, don’t freak out. Getting worked up will not help your situation at all. The best thing you can do to speed up your recovery is to accept it, stay positive and spend more time on other things in your life that make you feel good.

No matter the degree of your over training, injury, or illness, in my experience there are a few things you can do to help speed your recovery. Of course you can use these things even if you do not have an injury or illness that forces you to take a break. I think that most of us would be even better athletes if we could be a little more “human” in our living for a few months every year. If we want to perform 100% at a few races every year, then I believe that we must also let ourselves perform at 50% at least for a few month every year. If not, then I feel you may risk having your body perform at 90% all year round.

Take a break after the season, do some other fun things for a few months. Keep your running, swimming and stretching going, but keep it light. Then when you start training again your body and mind will be ready to push for another 9-10 months.

I've brought up a few of these things in my previous articles, but I bring them up again because they are very important for your recovery.

I will mix up some concrete ideas with some basic writing in regards to having an illness or injury. I know the subject is what to do if you already have a illness or injury, but I hope most of you are injury free and want to share some ideas so you can stay that way.

First of all, when an injury or illness occurs, see a good sports physiologist, doctor, or literature on your problem so you can get started on a good recovery program. The sooner you get professional help the sooner you will be back on the road. Ask your friends if they have someone they would recommend.

The above advice also includes minor injuries that you deal with during daily training. If you know you have a weak spot, work on it daily, or at least weekly. Some of us, like myself, are not yoga gurus that can make a knot of our own bodies. So, if you know you are tight, don’t wait until you get injured before you stretch. Make it a daily routine to stretch for at least an hour on your days off from training.

If you keep a training journal, also include the hours you spend stretching. These hours can be more valuable than some of the hours you spend out on the road.

Once you have more information about your illness/injury and have started your recovery program you should have a good idea how long it will take until you will be back on the road. Even if your break is a few months to a year, try to make something good out of it. This is a good time to focus on all the items that get neglected during your regular periods of training.

If you happen to develop some chronic fatigue your energy will be VERY, VERY limited and you must be careful with not doing too much. Spend your energy finding a good doctor that has experience with treating illnesses like this. I doubt that you will get the right treatment from a regular doctor because this illness is so complex and you have to treat your body on many different levels which most doctors don’t have experience doing. This is the illness that I have the most experience with and because your energy is so limited it’s even more important to spend the energy on the right things and with the right people. Your life doesn’t stop because you are ill or injured, so, you might as well do something productive with your time.

Here is a list of some random ideas for you if you have/want to take a break from training.

1. Learn to speak a new language or to play an instrument…….

2. Spend more time with your family and friends. (Choose the ones that bring you energy and make you laugh)

3. Spend more energy on your job (If this makes you feel good and brings you more energy, otherwise leave it out)

If you are a professional athlete like myself who doesn’t have a “real” job, then try to get one. When my energy got better, I found it very useful for my mind to get a part-time job to have something else then just training to think about. This can also provide financial stability when prize money is not an option.

4. Learn more about items that will be useful when you resume training and racing. For example, learning more about nutrition or overall training philosophy (this is okay as long as it doesn’t make you feel stressed because you can’t train as you want)

5. If you can still do a little bit of activity but have to stay away from your particular sport, why not try learning some other sport that doesn’t affect your injury or illness. This could be anything from motor sports to yoga. Learning new things can be very fun and bring you a lot of energy.

6. Take a vacation or go on a retreat. Go alone or with a few of your favorite people. This is a great time to get to know others better or if alone, rediscover yourself. Some of us have been so busy for so many years that we barely know ourselves.

Take some time to reflect on your life and what you want to achieve in the future. Evaluating yourself can be a little bit depressing at first because it can be the first time that you've ever experienced something that took you out of your normal routine. It may also be the first time you've realized that the things you are doing might not go on for ages. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you are doing, but if you at least know it won’t go on for ever, then you might put some more effort into enjoying it as much as possible while it lasts.

These are the sort of things that I have done over the last year that have helped me in my recovery. It’s very easy to get depressed, sad, or angry when you get a long lasting illness or injury, but it’s okay if life sucks sometimes (as a good friend of mine told me) and it’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. However, it won’t help your recovery if this happens too often.

Many people have told me, and I've slowly started to believe them, that it’s often after a injury or illness that forces you to learn new things that will help you grow as an athlete and come back even stronger than before.

Instead of freaking out, get the best professional help you can, enjoy your break and you will be back stronger then ever.

Best regards
Clas Björling