Since I last competed in India a few weeks ago I have been recovering from a minor wrist injury. Nothing too much to worry about but I have to be vigilant with looking after my body after such a long time off. It is very difficult to find the right balance as my mind is so used to pushing myself at a high level but my body is not in good enough condition to handle it. There isn’t really too much I can do about this as 6 months of training frustratingly just isn’t enough time to get back to peak physical condition. I know I will get back there soon, I just need some more time and I have to be restrained or my body will break down.
As an athlete it is important to understand how your body works in all sorts of ways. You experience different types of pain, often it is the type of pain that should be there which is great and can feel good. Frequently it is pain that is not fun but it is normal (otherwise known as niggles), and sometimes it is pain that is not right and needs to be looked at.
Knowing which particular pain you are experiencing can be problematic. There are 3 basic questions I ask myself when I am in pain and if I answer yes to any of these I need to take it seriously as it could be an injury. These are
- Is the pain is more than a 5 out of 10?
- Is it getting worse?
- Is there little to no improvement with rest?
To be honest I very rarely experience any days where nothing hurts but that is part of being a professional athlete… just as injuries are part of the job. As I walk around this evening I have pain from tightness in my back (I have a massage tomorrow), pain from lactic acid in my quads from weights yesterday, and my wrist of course, which doesn’t hurt as I am not using it. However all athletes know that staying fit an healthy and being able to step in to the arena to do battle is the most important part of the job. We know this because we have seen far too many talents disappear from the sport due to career ending injuries.
In a normal training day I dedicate an hour to what I see as injury prevention. This includes, core strength, shoulder stability, stretching, yoga, and the prehab and rehab my physio has given me for my niggles. To be quite honest it is incredibly tedious… especially when I am shattered after the main bulk of my training, and I still have an hour left of exercises that aren’t excruciatingly hard on the body, but do require a lot of concentration to complete correctly. However, I plough on with it aware that if I slack off on it and I get injured I will be very disappointed with myself.
There are many different types of recovery and everyone has their personal favourites. After a tough day at the office one might recover with the infamous ice bath, a long hot bath, holding your legs up vertically against a wall or wearing skins overnight. All of these methods increase blood flow to the legs and therefore recovery. On a rest day it is important to flush out your legs so one might cycle or walk for a couple of hours. I am a particularly keen walking explorer on my day off and I usually ramble my way to a fantastic view somewhere in the British countryside.
One thing I have learnt as I matured out of the super keen, enthusiastic teenager, is that rest and recovery is as important as training. Whenever I used to rest I always felt like I was wasting time and I wasn’t improving. Actually, rest allows you time to bank your improvements before pushing for the next level. I didn’t see it as important, and therefore I didn’t rest enough. I have more knowledge of my body now, and I will listen when it tells me to slow down.