We caught up with our Community Ambassador and professional boxer, Stacey Copeland to find out about her road to recovery after her recent injury. Stacey is a very inspirational athlete who has worked extremely hard to encourage people to become more active and she is a fantastic role model for women in sport and for future generations.
Since I’ve recently had surgery on my hand, I decided to write this blog about the things I’ve found useful when dealing with the misery of injuries!
Injuries are talked about a great deal, and whether it’s as serious as a broken bone which needs surgery or if it’s a nuisance niggle, injuries concern everybody from elite athletes to people who do little exercise. In addition, there are plenty of ways to get help with an injury, many shops sell products to alleviate pain or assist with recovery, and then there are specialists such as physios, chiropractors, sports therapists ….the list goes on! There are even a gazillion videos on YouTube with demonstrations of how to do rehab exercises for various injuries.
Yet often, the injury doesn’t only affect us physically, indeed the impact mentally can be even worse.
I signed on with my first Premier League team at the age of 15, I’m now 37, so I’ve been competing at a high level in sport for over 20 years. This has meant I’ve sustained a lot of injuries… 7 surgeries, 12 broken bones, 4 lots of stitches, plus the usual concussions, ligament damage, muscle pulls, bumps and bruises! As an elite athlete, sport is such an enormous part of your life that almost every decision is made around it, your career/working life, family life, holidays, day to day activities…everything is geared towards training and performing at your best. So when injury interrupts this routine, this way of life, and this part of you, it can feel like your identity has been taken away. This can leave athletes feeling lost, without a sense of purpose, and with an inner emptiness without having those big goals to constantly pursue.
For those who don’t compete at the elite level but for whom physical activity is a significant part of their life, injury can also have a major impact. We know that endorphins do wonders for our mental wellbeing and that the routine of regular exercise and the feeling that exercise gives us has huge benefits on our overall wellbeing. So again, when this is taken away it can leave us feeling frustrated, unhappy, and not our best self. This is also something experienced by athletes who are injured to a point where they can’t do much training at all during a period of injury.
So, how do we deal with this? There are no ointments, bandages, ice packs or painkillers to heal the mental side effects of injury. So instead, we have to find other ways to try and combat the inevitable cloud that will descend if we allow it.
Adapt training – although it’s never the same if you can’t train as usual, it is definitely helpful to find other ways to train your body. For example, I have recently had surgery on my hand, which means I can’t box for 3 months – far too long to do nothing, I’d go insane! So, I bought a really good sling and I’m doing everything I can in the gym one-handed (bike, stepper, punching the bag, rope work, all sorts!) Even with the worst of injuries there will be something you can do, core work, muscle contractions, anything you can do to help keep your mind in a more positive place.
Recording training – I write down every single training session I do including what the session has entailed plus max HR, average HR, and calories burned etc. Whilst injured I continue to write everything down, including rehab, so it just might be that some days I may only be able to do a few sets of leg lifts on an injured leg, but that’s fine, I’ll record it and see the progress as things gradually improve. That way I feel I am still building towards something and being pro-active about my injury…‘Controlling the controllables’ as we often say in sport.
Routine – try to stick to the routine you had before the injury. So if you run every morning, that’s when you should still do your new ‘adapted’ training session so as not to feel that lack of direction and purpose setting in. If you attend a gym or team sport, try to attend at the same times, even though being in that environment when injured can be frustrating, it can also remind you of what you are part of and where you want to be once again.
Goals – in the midst of injury it can feel very overwhelming to imagine getting back to your best. If you can’t even move without being in pain and can’t perform even the most basic of functions, your mind wonders how on earth you can get your body back to where it was. This is where it’s important to break down your goals, make sure they are bite sized, day by day, week by week, whichever works. Just having the overall goal of ‘coming back’ will sometimes feel too great, so smaller goals will be more manageable and you will feel motivated as you reach each goal along the way to recovery.
Know your why – whether this is written down and stuck on the wall or just firmly etched in your mind, it’s important to know why you want to fully recover from your injury. Rehab can be tough, hours of monotonous repetition, pain, and the results never feel as satisfying as training or competing does. But if you know why you are going through it, where you want to get to, then this can help you endure almost any ‘how’ that it takes to get you there and ensure that you remain motivated to get through even the darkest days of injury.
Do good stuff! – Outside of sport it can be good to do things you enjoy that you otherwise might not be able to do when you’re in training, so take the opportunity to enjoy those activities whilst you can. If what you enjoy most is sport then use your passion to help others, help out with coaching perhaps or volunteering to support in other ways. Helping others is a really positive way to feel better within yourself and bring about that sense of purpose which can often be missed during injury.
I am off to punch a bag with one very tired arm now and then rehab the other arm to within an inch of its life! What’s my why? Because I want to pave the way in my sport and become a World Champion next year.
Until then…hope to see you all at the Jingle Bell Jog this Sunday!
We believe that sport is for everyone and our goal is to create the world’s largest active lifestyle community. Stacey is part of our team of ambassadors who through hard work and dedication to her sport has been inspiring others to participate. Not only is she a talented athlete, Stacey is a fantastic role model for all ages and a perfect example of what can be achieved through sport.