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Faded Shapes

Tips for wellbeing during an injury

For the past 2 weeks, I haven’t been able to bike or exercise at all, which left me with a lot of time to think. So be warned, this is a long post. But I think it is worthwhile to read to gain insight into my thoughts and where my mindset is at with my injury. More importantly, I am proud of the growth I have had in my own understanding of who I want to represent through this process.

Focus on what you CAN do instead of what you cannot do

It’s really easy to get caught up in the negative mindset of what you cannot do when injured. I was supposed to be in California right now, riding in the warm sunshine with my teammate for some high volume training before Unbound. I was supposed to be prepping for my “A” race, Unbound, which played into all my strengths as a cyclist. This is where I was going to make my mark. I was supposed to be training to continue to “prove” myself and my worth as a cyclist.

See how easy it is to think about all the things you cannot do? It’s like the human mind just naturally goes there. I wish it didn’t. So, because of this tendency, I have set up daily goals for myself and I try to shift my focus on what I CAN do instead. I can control my attitude and mind during this injury. I can do some upper body workouts. I can nap, sleep and let my body recover during this time. I can spend more time with my family and loved ones during this time. I can dedicate more time and energy towards meditation and reflections during this time. I can celebrate when I go for a ½ mile walk on the crutches to get sunshine. I can celebrate when I make it up the stairs without crutches.

See….that’s a lot of fun things that I CAN do! But you have to put intention into having these thoughts. So when you cannot do the things you have planned, focus on the positive and what you are able to do! I’m confident that it will change your perspective.

Remove triggers of comparison

If you compete in sports, this means you are likely a competitive person. This also means at times you probably compare yourself to others; which I am not saying is a great thing overall, but it’s the reality for most of us, if we are honest with ourselves. Strava is a great example of this. I usually love Strava because it allows me to stay connected with friends and be inspired by all the amazing athletes I know in my life. But, I have stated this in a previous post - “Comparison is the thief of joy.” So I apologize for the lack of kudo’s in the Paige department lately, but I think most would understand. This means I avoid looking at Training Peaks PMC as my fitness markers take a nosedive. I avoid looking at workouts or anything training related for myself - such as how many weeks I have left before the next race. For me, it’s just not healthy to look at these things and I’m self aware to know that. I will leave that part of my return to sport to my coach.

When you are injured, it’s best to be honest with yourself and ask if what you are looking at is helping or hurting your mental aspect of your recovery. If it’s hurting, then you should take a step back and remove those things. It’s not easy being honest with yourself, but I find it leads to a healthier mindset to focus on what really matters in these moments.

Develop your #REHAB team

Modern medicine has come a long way and I have an appreciation for this as a medical provider. Additionally, I have had other injuries before when I was a runner and am not new to the rehab process. Thankfully, this has allowed me to have a robust rehab team in my hometown. Most notably is my physical therapist, Ryan, at Good Life PT. I have seen him for many years, so he knows the impact of my injuries on my life and wellbeing and also is willing to push the envelope to not only get me healthy but, get me back into competition sooner. Modalities we are currently working on are dry needling with stim to keep my quads engaged and neuromuscularly firing. We’ve done some BFR (blood flow restriction) to help with protein synthesis and reduce muscle loss in this downtime. We are being creative in ways to keep my other muscles engaged and activated despite having limited ROM of my knee.

All of this is to say, when you are injured it’s important to have a team of health care professionals around you to rehab you back as soon as possible. There are many little things you and your team can do that will help you get back to your goals sooner than if you do this journey on your own.

Nutritional Support

It’s tempting to restrict calories when you are not riding or working out. But I would advocate against that method for a variety of reasons. First, it’s not usually healthy to restrict and it can cause unhealthy habits even when you are back on the bike. Secondly, your body is still under stress with an injury and when you restrict caloric intake, you are further stressing your body, which may delay healing. Thirdly, if you restrict calories in addition to no exercise, you are more likely to lose more muscle mass.

So rather than restriction, I am focused on WHAT those calories are vs how many. I’m aiming for higher protein than I normally would consume, which will help prevent muscle mass loss. Because in cycling, you want those strong #thunderthighs and power producing muscles. In addition to higher protein, there are also certain foods, minerals and nutrients that can help with soft tissue injuries. I have always been a long time believer in the power of nutrition and importance of what we put into our bodies. I also have a curious mind, so I am always wondering if there are ways to improve healing, etc. We’ve all heard about collagen+C for ligament and tendon health, but what about soft tissue injuries? Turns out there is some research on that as well.

Here are some examples of nutrients that help with wound healing and soft tissue injuries:

  1. Leucine - chicken, eggs, soy

  2. Glutamine - chicken, beans, fish, dairy, cabbage, beets and legumes

  3. Arginine - Shrimp, spinach

  4. Vitamin A - carrot, red pepper, mango, egg yolk, dairy, green veggies

  5. Vitamin C - citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, berries, leafy greens

  6. Zinc - fortified cereals, beans, yogurt, chickpeas

  7. Omega 3 Fatty Acids - fish (salmon, sardines), flax, walnuts

Try and understand “The Why”

This section likely deserves an entirely separate blogpost and I am sure I will add more on this in the future - but here is a glimpse into my current state of mind with this injury. I am a big believer in understanding “The Why” in the things we do in life. If you understand your “Why” then this is your vision, this helps you make decisions and helps lead you to be the person you want to represent. For me as a cyclist, I came into this sport unexpectedly. I had opportunities to “prove myself” early in my career, which then allowed me to have early success. But I’ve reflected a lot on this lately and I realize that the way I entered this sport has led me to feeling like I always need to prove myself. I find myself getting frustrated by the lack of opportunities for female cyclists. I think to myself, “if I perform well then I can open up more doors for others in my position.” It’s a hefty burden I must admit and probably unhealthy to link performance to opportunity.

I’m realizing that this often leads me to be hyper focused on my goals and the cost is rather high. It leads to additional pressure on myself and unhealthy perspectives and expectations. No one is putting these expectations on me other than myself. For most of my life I have been described as intense, motivated, intimidating, etc. These are some of my best qualities that allow me to reach my goals in life. But at the same time, they also project an image that maybe I am not approachable. After a race I spend time ruminating on what I should have done differently. Thinking - “if I only did this or that, if I only started this sport sooner or had more resources to teach me.” But during that time, I’m missing out on opportunities to accept myself for who I am. I am a new cyclist. I will make mistakes. It takes time to learn. If I accept that, then that time and energy I devote to “making myself better” can be spent having fun such as socializing with my fellow racers, who are amazing people in this off-road community, enjoying the scenery and soaking in the beautiful places my bike takes me, and focusing on the community rather than my results.

With cycling, I’m always wanting to do better, because I do believe I have more to prove. BUT…this mentality doesn’t allow the “Fun Paige” to come out as much, the goofy Paige that many in my life see on a regular basis. I fear sometimes that if I let that side out sometimes then I may miss my goal or mark. I may miss an opportunity for a sponsor or support in the future. BUT….the reality is I have nothing to prove. Not to myself or to others. My journey is unique to me and I can allow the relaxed, fun and playful side of me out without compromising my potential. In fact, I think it might actually improve my performance if I just relax sometimes.

So that’s my goal for the rest of 2022 season. instead of focusing on wanting to prove myself all the time, I’m just going to show up and have fun. No more expectations for myself. No more proving myself, I just want to enjoy the process. I want to meet more amazing #gravelfam individuals. Maybe this leads to podiums once I am healthy, maybe it doesn’t. But at the end of the day, I’m still the same woman who loves to ride and loves to motivate others to ride in the process and no race result can ever take that away from me!

So after that mouthful, what’s your WHY?

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