One of the scary parts of being injured is that you realise how little we really understand about the human body, and how much of medicine is guesswork and a process of systematically working through likely causes in a logical order, and observing how the body responds.
This brings us to the injured cat analogy used by one of the rehabilitation coaches that I have been working with – Matt at APS Fitness http://apsfitness.co.uk/
Be kind to your body!
Matt’s analogy is that if your cat was clearly ill, you would be nursing it and nurturing it – even though it could not tell you what was wrong (just like your body cannot). And you would be giving it food and rest, and trying to see if gentle movements help. If the cat showed signs of pain or discomfort, you would immediately back off.
What a great analogy for your body!
The limiting mindset as athletes is that we have been constantly used to pushing our bodies
As athletes we build limiting mindsets like:
- “it’s not worth putting my trainers on if I am going to run for less than 30 minutes”
- “ If I don’t feel that I have pushed myself, then it is not a session”
- “Aqua aerobics is fine for old people, but not for athletes”
- You can probably add your own ones in too…
But back to the injured cat – as an injured athlete your body is not happy, and it needs you to forget all of the past and respond to its needs right now.
The bank account analogy is about pacing
The analogy is that to live a stress-free life, ideally, we live within our limits – so we do not spend more than we have.
So now that your body is injured body, your ‘energy bank account’ has been severely dented and you have a lot less to spend each day than you used to have. So you need to choose where to spend your ‘energy coins’ across the day – which activities and for how long. And once you are getting down to your last few pennies, you may need to save them in case something unexpected comes in at the end of the day, so that you can be sure not to go overdrawn. Because overdrawn often means a relapse where little or nothing is possible and you have to rest up until you have put enough coins back into the account with some quality sleep.
This analogy is really helpful, as it enables you to start to be honest about how much energy different activities cost, and help you to make a proactive decision in advance of whether you are able to cope with those.
And it also helps you to measure your healing. Although your progress may seem slow to you, the energy cost of activities will go down and you will start waking up feeling that you have more in your energy bank account. Staying within your limits will help this process go faster.
The body’s ability to heal is amazing – but you have to give it a chance!
Working out what is going to get you out of pain, and able to build up your ability to move again may not be simple. You may have to keep trying lots of things, and have to keep taking it down to the level that you can manage to not over-extend yourself, plus back off and change tack when they are not right at that time.
But stay humble and curious – it may seem mysterious, but you can crack the injury code, but only by being kind and responsive to your body.