How to get through a leg injury and come out mentally & physically stronger
You’re training for a marathon. Things are going well; fitness where it should be, finally got your nutrition dialled in, and got all your kit ready.
You’re ticking off the days in your calendar and starting to get that pre-event buzz and excitement. And you get injured.
I desperately searched for things to speed up the process of healing, but sadly, apart from waiting and looking after it, the bone needs time to recover.
To help anyone who’s just been injured, I put together my TOP 10 list of things that I learnt during my 6-week recovery and helped me to come out as a stronger athlete.
1. Don’t leave the A&E until you feel confident you have all the information
Get an X-ray and take a copy for insurance purposes. Ask questions about the healing process, rehab, next steps, what to do and avoid. The doctors are there to give you medical advise.
Get an idea what’s happening to your bone and what is the healing and recovery process.
2. Make your life easier with these:
Crutches: Get them asap. I ordered tennis racket tapes and double wrapped the handles. You’ll spend a lot of time using them, might as well make them comfy. Last thing you need is more pain. Oh and padded cycling gloves work amazingly to take a bit of pressure off!
Rucksack: To be able to move between places in your home, you won’t be able to carry anything in your hands if you’re using two crutches. Even with one hand I found it tricky to walk, so carried a small backpack everywhere.
Stairs? Until you’re able to walk on the injured foot, don’t attempt going up or down the stairs standing up. I used two techniques: heels and sitting on my bum, and going up on the knees. Neither are dignified but go me outside in the fresh air and that helped me mentally!
3. Eating: I used plastic plates and cups; lighter, easier to wash & carry them. I also used a plastic container to for dinner, that goes inside the rucksack, and hop to the living room or if you have a balcony etc. If you can’t carry a plate to another room, eat where you are.
4. Icing & elevating:
A pack of peas is great but I invested in a reusable ice pack and compress wrap with Velcro fastening. Cost £10 on Amazon. If you don’t want to use your frozen food, get two ice packs; leave one in the freezer while using the order. After a few weeks, I found it took them a bit longer to freeze. Elevating is important every time to sit down during the day and if you can, try to sleep with both feet elevated.
5. Routine: a few things I forced myself to do.
With my everyday routine, I couldn’t believe how quickly the first 2-3 weeks passed. Mind you, even lunch takes 1.5-2 hours and with some work on the laptop, home gym and afternoon walk, the day is gone! One day closer to riding your bike / running!
Since I received zero advice and help from the doctor at the A&E, I researched the web for supplements to support the bone healing.
Collagen powder: buy one with Type I & III in one if you can. I is more common and that will do a job. Together both types help strengthening your hair, bone and great for your skin.
Vitamin mix: should contain B, D, K2 (if it’s named after a mountain, it can only be good!), C, Magnesium, Calcium & Zinc. I found one that has them all instead of taking them separately.
Extra Vitamin C: I had a large glass of grapefruit juice every day. Half a glass to mix the collagen powder in to disguise the taste and smell and a half a glass to enjoy with my lunch. Of course, OJ is a classic.
Comfrey oil: When my foot wasn’t wrapped in a freezing bag, it was resting on a towel after massing this oil. My foot was bruised at many different places not just where the bone broke, I gently rubbed in oil everywhere covering a larger area.
With a leg injury, you can’t ride your bike, or go for a run. Even walking is a challenge. Suddenly, home exercise is all you have. Hurray! Well, make the most of it. We don’t spend enough time strengthening our core or doing hip flex exercises when we’re healthy and training full gas, this is THE time to do these strengthening and stretching!
My advice: if you’re looking after the bad foot, make sure your good foot copies it. For example, I rested both on the heel while on the ground doing sit ups etc.
Mix up the exercises. For example, exercise at home in the morning and short one legged walk with crutches in the afternoon. Getting some fresh air everyday is extremely important for your mental health as well.
Time yourself and log these as exercises. Every little step matters. After 3 weeks, I hopped an 1h 15mins each way to my local supermarket, didn’t need anything just a reason to get out. Day by day I was faster as the foot started healing and I could move more freely.
You’ll find something that you can do and it will bring joy into your life, more than ever before.
Life slows down suddenly and nothing better than surrounding yourself with people who can bring you out of the injury misery and make your laugh!
9. Avoid these
Cigarettes. Alcohol. Hurting the injured foot. Negative people. Day time TV binge watching. Doing too much too soon.
10. Your brain
Last but not least, the mental side of things.
I personally found the first 5 days very tough. I kept asking myself the questions; why this, why now, why me. I would burst into tears randomly, usually when I was doing home exercises.
If you’re reading this with an injury, you know what I’m talking about. STAY STRONG! It’s OK to feel weak, upset and angry, As hard as it was sometimes, I wanted to focus on the things I COULD do, not on the things I wasn’t able to.
What really helped me is to celebrate all the little improvements and milestones. Have you just walked down the stairs the first time without crutches? Or managed a few meters without any support between your bedroom and the bathroom? Oh that bad foot is FINALLY on the ground?!? AMAZING!!
And YOU should be proud of every little step you make towards recovery.
You’ll be able to do more and more every day. If you have setbacks, that’s OK. In a couple of days, that will be in the past. Focus on what’s ahead and where you want to be.
YOU CAN AND WILL GET THROUGH THE INJURY.
© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth