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How Elite Athletes Deal With Injury – Recovery & Maintaining Fitness

by Alexandra Parren
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Getting injured can be hugely frustrating when you're training for a specific race or goal. We spoke to a few of our Sundried elite athlete ambassadors as well as personal trainers and sports coaches to find out what they do when they're injured and how they recover while maintaining fitness and not going stir crazy!

Lilli Peters – Duathlete

I’m injured at the moment but luckily it’s only stopped me running; I can still cycle. I am starting to go a bit mad as running is my therapy, but I am being very mindful of what my body is telling me and have resisted the urge to get my running shoes and make a bolt for the door.

I’ve added more cycling into my routine (with the help of some great bib shorts from Sundried!) so that is keeping my mind off not being able to run. I’ve also added some aqua jogging into the mix on the instruction of my Coach (Rob at RaceRapid). There's nothing like aqua jogging to make you look ridiculous, but it’s helping me think about the mechanics of running. I just wish the kids stopped jumping into the pool right over me/throwing things in my general direction! 

I think the key with injury is to listen to your body and assess what you can and can’t do. I steer clear of Strava/social media if I am really struggling with not being able to train how I want to; I think it’s very easy to rush your recovery if you think that you’re falling behind your peers! The biggest tip is to know that it’s temporary, and you’ll be back bigger and better soon enough.

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Emma Vincent – Personal Trainer & Endurance Runner

At the start of the year, I had a niggle in my leg but couldn’t find the cause. I regularly have sports massages and even my therapist couldn’t find the reason; we put it down to over training. I carried on running as I was training for a marathon but would ice my leg and stretch/foam roll regularly. 

I then had an MRI which showed I had fractured my pelvis in two places! I was on complete rest for 2 months before starting strength training again and I have also taken up boxing as it’s a brilliant workout but low impact on my pelvis.

Always listen to your body and don’t try to be the hero, I found that out the hard way! 

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Mark Griffin – Elite Triathlon Coach

First port of call for me is my trusted Osteopath. She's put me together so many times over the years so it's 100% trust. I follow her advice on rehab and timings etc. My advice is always this: if your sport is important to you, seek professional advice and then follow that professional advice. 

Nancy Priston – Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor

I’ve spent the last 18 months trying dealing with multiple stress fractures and chipped bones in my foot from a motorbike accident. I’m a fitness instructor so I can’t rest completely, it’s my livelihood, so I made sure I found a really great physio who understood my situation and was knowledgeable on what I do. She was able to help me continue teaching everything as usual but with modifications. I was in a fracture boot for months but able to do all my usual classes, just modified.

It’s vital to take the advice of a medical professional and try to find someone who has a real understanding of the type of activity you’re used to doing so they can help you find suitable alternatives. It’s also vital to actually take their advice – if they say to stop doing something then do!

I felt 100% confident that the combined knowledge of me and my physio meant we could manage it without causing further damage. It’s about patience – injuries take time to recover from so you have to give it that time. There’s so much you can do even when you’re injured, there are always alternatives so use the time to try new moves/activities too! 

Alvaro Martin – Team GB Age Group Triathlete

In my case, whenever I've had an injury it was related to just one sport, so I usually work harder on the other two to improve as much as I can so the loss of fitness is minimal when I'm 100% back. Also, do some cross training or try new things (this is how I discovered yoga a few years ago).

The most important thing I do is check with my physio and my coach to see what they think could help me to recover faster. Also, the other key thing is taking more care of what you eat, because there are some foods that help you to heal faster and being careful with your nutrition will stop you gaining too much weight while you're not training as much as normal. 

John Wood – Triathlete & Triathlon Coach

Do different things. Very rarely do injuries mean you can't do anything at all. If you injure a leg, do arm workouts or weight assisted leg work (like aqua jogging). If you injure an arm, do leg work. Use the time from being immersed in the sport/training that you would otherwise do to focus on particular process goals, to help you come back stronger 

Alice Tourell North – Team GB Age Group Triathlete

I’ve had numerous injuries which mostly stem from neurological issues associated with my hypermobility. My advice would be to find yourself a physio or sport therapist who fully understands your sport and the mechanism of your injuries and then work with them and a Strength & Conditioning coach to devise a comprehensive “prehab” strength programme to make sure your body is functioning as efficiently as possible!

A long term programme that is integrated into your usual training schedule is your best bet on staying injury free. After years of weight lifting, my S&C sessions now look very different. They are very movement-specific and work within my own personal parameters to make sure my body works as well as it can. This means I have to do ridiculously limited range in things like squats which makes me look like an idiot but also means I can run fast with no knee pain!

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Michael Lewis-Copeland – Endurance Runner

I broke my leg and spent 8 weeks in a moon boot. Not being able to run, I bought some high parallettes and worked on upper body strength, which was an area I had neglected for years. This worked out perfectly as 11 weeks after the injury, I started attending the gym and started using an exercise bike to build up my cardiovascular fitness and incorporated weight training to again boost my upper body.

Swimming is also a great option but I swim like a rock! I found it important to replace my running obsession with a different healthy obsession; it is too easy to sit and fester. Every cloud has a silver lining and hopefully I am back at running end of September and will be better prepared through all the alternative work I have been doing.

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