How to get through an injury and come out mentally & physically stronger

You’re training for a race or an expedition. Things are going well; fitness where it should be, finally got your diet dialled in, managing to juggle work and training and got all your kit ready. You’re ticking off the days on your calendar and starting to get that pre-event buzz and excitement. And you fall off the stairs. At home. Not even drunk to take the edge off the pain. Well, that’s what happened to me. In a split second, my life changes completely. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, mainly running related while training for the 7 summits, thankfully I managed to avoid breaking bones in recent years. 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. I watched many Youtube videos too, at the end, it’s up to you how you get through and out on the other side. To help anyone who’s just been injured, I put together my TOP 10 list of things that helped me and I learnt during the past 6 weeks.

1. Don’t leave the A&E until you feel confident you have all the information

If you end up at the A&E and getting an X-ray, try to ask for a copy. They told me they would forward it to my GP, if you’re not private, good luck getting your hands on it! I was in a bit of a state when I heard I had broken my 5th metatarsal (I even fainted!) and I really should have asked more questions about the healing process, rehab, etc.

I ended up going back to the hospital after 2 weeks because my foot was swollen and gone purple, only to be shouted at by the doctor for not using the foot. Nobody told me, and in my head, I wanted to protect that foot and the broken bone. ASK for advice at the A&E, friends who’ve been through the same, physio etc. 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 wear padded cycling gloves!

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 I found it tricky, 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 hell NO to staying in my room all the time!

3. Eating: 

I don’t eat breakfast but I did prepare lunch and ate in the kitchen every day. Even a simple salad took me a while to prepare. I used plastic plates and cups; lighter, easier to wash & carry them (and kinda makes you feel you’re on a camping trip haha) 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. My flatmate kindly offered to bring my tray over but I’m a stubborn patient and wanted to figure things out myself. If I couldn’t carry a plate to another room, I ate where I was.

4. Icing & elevating: 

Ice the foot before bedtime and get rid of the bag of ice. Learnt it the hard way after the first night 😀 Bags of peas are great. 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.

  • mix collagen powder into food or drink every day (*more on supplements below)
  • exercise daily. You won’t be able to do the same gym stuff as before but adapt and do as much as you can. You’d be surprised just how many things you can still do without putting the feet down
  • good foot & bad foot. Elevate both. Massage both. Same exercise on both.
  • make sure you have an ice pack in the freezer at all times

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! Yass, one day closer to riding your bike / running! 🙂

6. Supplements

Since I received 0 tips from the doctor at the A&E, I researched the web for supplements to support the bone healing. Thanks to Amazon Prime (when I still lived in the UK), I had everything delivered within 24 hours.

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 strengtheningyour 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.

I have no idea how any of the above made any difference at all BUT at least I felt like I did everything I could. Also, they won’t break the bank. I’d say splash out on a decent collagen powder, last for at least 4-6 weeks.

7. Exercise

You can’t ride your bike, or go for a run. Swimming is out. 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!

(* at the time of recovering, the UK was still in lockdown)

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 SOO important.

Time yourself and log these as exercises. Do we ever record a walk to the shop when we’re healthy? Of course we don’t. Now these will count for activity. 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.

After 4 weeks I went out for a very short and easy ride on my hardtail, pace set by my non cyclist friend. We had a laugh and I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face, just from pootling around! The next day I went out by myself and did more, the day after a little bit more again. Walking was still hurting, but I could ride my bike. Maybe your thing is swimming. You’ll find something that you can do and it will bring joy into your life, more than ever before.

8. People

Between expeditions or when I’m training for a big event, I sadly don’t have much time to spend with friends or family. Well, now I did /do! My fam lives all over Europe so we used video chat and some of my lovely friends would come up where I live and join my afternoon walk. 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!

I’d like to say a MASSIVE THANKS to my friends who helped me through the 6 weeks. You know who you are <3

9. Avoid these

Cigarettes. Alcohol. Hurting the injured foot. Negative people. Shit day time TV. Doing too much too soon.

10. Your brain

Last but not least, the mental side of things.

I found the first 5 days very tough. I kept asking myself the questions; why this, why now, why why why. I would burst into tears randomly, usually when I was doing home exercises. I didn’t even want to see my bikes, and my brand spanking new trail running shoes I had delivered on day 3 went straight to my flatmate’s room.

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.

I actually really enjoyed coming up with combination of exercises that I’m sure I’ll be doing in the future.

What really helped me is to celebrate all the little improvements and milestones. Actually, this is something my flatmate taught me who’s been caring for his mom for many years. 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 th ground?!? AMAZING!!

And YOU should be proud of every little step you make towards recovery.You’re flipping awesome!

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.



© copyright 2021 by Alexandra Nemeth