This is THE book!

This is the book and the community that I had been looking for. And I would recommend that if you know an injured athlete, then this book is probably the best gift that you could give them.

I came across it when I was listening to one of the podcast series that I often listen to and heard it mentioned: ‘Rebound: Train your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries’ by Carrie Jackson Cheadle and Cindy Kuzma.  As well as reading it cover to cover, and going back through it over and over, I also discovered the Podcast series and the Facebook page under the title of ‘The Injured Athletes Club’.

Practical support

The book has forty-nine mental drills that map against fifteen key mental skills that you can build to aid recovery from injury. It is built from real experience helping athletes through successful rehabilitation from injury – and the core belief that one can rebound from injury.

The book includes

  • narratives describing athletes’ journeys through injury, including the key inflection points
  • Scientific explanations of the underlying psychology
  • Key points to take away and work on
  • Specific mental drills that you can incorporate into your recovery

But perhaps the community is the most important part

The book opens with talking about the fact that you are not alone, and that with that pillar in place – there is a path forward.

The community allows for the stages of grieving – accepting and defusing the negative emotions, finding the clarity and support for the steps needed for your progress and then having a genuine cheerleading group to celebrate the simple, baby-steps steps of progress towards your bigger goals.

What I really like about the book

What I really like about the book is the fact that it is flexible and multi-faceted, so you can keep coming at things from different angles and building up even as your situation evolves and changes – whether that is progress or a slip backwards.

I hope that it brings you or your friends support and strength when this is most needed.

Brace! The one year anniversary is tough!

I’ve seen a few people go through the one year anniversary of their injury and have a really hard time. But why is the 365 days marker so significant? After all, there are about forty calendars in use around the globe – so it is a mental construct and based on the lines that our minds naturally travel down.

So this is where working on our mental strength and how we think about things can really help.

Humans constantly search for meaning

I was very struck by the parallels in the incredible books from Viktor Frankl ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and Jim & Sybil Stockdale’s book ‘In Love and War’. Both of them were clear that the people who died in the inhumane imprisonments were the optimists. Both suggest that the people who set timeframes that they could not control (‘we’ll be out by Christmas’), suffered from a broken heart when things did not turn out this way. This, combined with their physical frailty from their terrible treatment, meant that they succumbed quicker.

As well as being very humbled by the accounts, I was struck by the story of Jim Stockdale. His full name was James Bond Stockdale and he was a United States Navy vice admiral and aviator. Commander Stockdale was the senior naval officer held captive in Hanoi, North Vietnam for over seven years after being shot down in 1965. He personally suffered terrible torture, but led his men to ensure that as many as possible made it home. Meanwhile his wife actively and tirelessly campaigned through the international channels for their release.

What we as injured athletes can learn from the ‘Stockdale Paradox’

In the business book ‘Good to Great’ the author, Jim Collins, interviewed Commander Stockdale about his experiences in Vietnam and coined ‘the Stockdale Paradox’.  This is:

“Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

As athletes we are often good at each of these at different times, but combining them together and holding them side-by-side through the highs and lows is really hard. Yet important. And even more important when we are injured.

Back to setting deadlines

At one level setting deadlines for reviewing progress and rethinking is helpful. It can make us confront the brutal facts – that the current treatment or rehabilitation is not working as well expected and we need to explore and evaluate new approaches. But if the deadline leads us into a tailspin of losing hope in the eventual destination – a loss of faith that we can and will prevail – then it is not serving us well.

So we need to recognise the human tendency for each of us and our families and friends to think along the lines of anniversaries. But to use these as checkpoints on the journey, not destinations.

In summary

I have to leave the final words to Jim Stockdale and hope that his wisdom lifts and buoys you:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be”

Jo Pavey’s ‘This Mum Runs’

One of the things about being injured and unable to move very much (without a lot of pain) is that I have read some great books. I wanted to share a few things that I took from reading Jo Pavey’s book that I think are really relevant for an injured athlete – but do buy the book, as it is a wonderful, human and inspiring read.

I remember really clearly the feeling of being in the crowd with my husband and two close friends and all screaming ourselves hoarse at Hampden Park stadium when Jo Pavey took bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games 5,000m and stopped the Kenyans taking a clean sweep of the medals. The race was incredibly exciting and inspiring – as this race report summarises https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/commonwealth-games/28626133, but how Jo had come back to win this medal (and a Gold medal at the European Championships 2 weeks later) is even more inspiring.

Here are the top three things that I took away for injured athletes specifically:

  1. Having been British Champion in her late teens, Jo had six years in her 20’s of not being able to train and compete. She hung in through this – did not let it get her down and also qualified as a physiotherapist (which must have helped her to understand how to rehabilitate her injuries). Six years! And yet she came back to win major medals in her 40’s – to me that shows such true grit, resilience and mental strength.
  2. With her coach (and husband), Jo managed her annual, training block, weekly and daily training schedule and sessions based on what was possible and what her body responded best to. The fact that she could turn out amazing track performances in spikes, having done almost all of the training on much softer and more forgiving surfaces and in trainers says that peak performances are still possible when we do the right things for our bodies.
  3. After her stress fractures Jo threw away her orthotic supports in her shoes and concentrated on strength training to address the functional muscle, joint and bone issues.

I don’t under-estimate the incredible dedication and hard-work that lies behind the achievements. But if we could all soak up a little of the balance with which Jo has managed her way through the lows and the highs, this could help any injured athlete move forward.

Enjoy the book. It is great.