Overcoming Fear During Injury

For me, it was a fear of the elliptical. Yes, it sounds terribly silly. Why would I be afraid of a bunch of plastic that plays TV shows, and makes me feel like I’m walking in space? This fear, however, is symbolic of the mental struggle we have with “doing less” when injured. 

The fear:

Sometimes when you find yourself injured, the toughest part is swallowing your pride. It’s hard to return to square one, and exercising caution can be a challenge. You see your friends at the next group ride or run, and everyone announces how far or how hard they rode or ran. This sets the bar high, making you hesitant to report anything other than the substantial workouts you did. Even worse, it may make you want to give up altogether and actually do less rehab when rebuilding after an injury is most crucial. You might feel inferior or even ashamed when you’re unable to accomplish everything you’d hoped to.

But, there is a secret to overcoming these discouraging feelings! Read on.

Everyone will have a different level of activity when injured, and a different goal. For me, my injury (recovering from hip arthroscopy) prevented me from using my hip flexors, or from enduring any impact in the weeks after surgery. Enter the elliptical. I’m not sure what my beef is with the elliptical, but I have never liked it. I also have never stopped to reflect on: why?

‘But an elliptical isn’t for me!‘ I thought. ‘It’s for people who hate cycling and running, and I won’t get on it!

Let’s assess the problem here. There’s a stigma I have attached to the elliptical that says it is a machine for those who go to the gym– for those who don’t have a “sport.” I’ll admit, this type of thinking is part of the reason we struggle when overcoming injury, and needs to be done away with. I should not have been so quick to judge this interesting machine. There are many advantages to using an elliptical when recovering from injury, if you have access to a gym. Here are the steps I used to overcome my fear of the elliptical. These tips can be applied to anyone struggling with “doing less” after or during an injury.


Overcoming the fear:


1. Accept that it’s actually an achievement to do less than you want.

The idea of doing less may not excite you, and it may even make you feel bad about not being able to cycle or run. Depending on your limitations, or injury, you may not be able to do as much as you want to.


But that’s OK. Accept this, and remember that holding back will actually help you recover faster. This is an amazing achievement in and of itself. Remind yourself that just because this isn’t the exercise of choice doesn’t mean it isn’t a step in the right direction.

2. Remove your negative judgments.

Why might you feel what you’re doing isn’t good enough? Is it because you base your self worth or image on what you are usually able to do? These are uncomfortable questions to ask ourselves.  The reality is that many people aren’t able to do what you do, and many people can do what you can’t. It’s all relative. Right now, while you’re injured, the elliptical (or insert other less than ideal activity) may be just what you need, and it is something that’s actually helping you. So, remove the negative judgments you may have about what constitutes the right, wrong or best thing to do.


3. Remind yourself of the benefits.

Holding back, and slowly adding to your workouts after injury is an extremely beneficial strategy for training. Learn from it! For me, the elliptical actually provided a great low impact workout. You can get great cardio and build muscle­– all without straining the hip flexors and without the negative consequences of impact. It really is designed well, allowing you to have a great workout without all of the drawbacks of running or cycling.


4. Remind yourself that this is temporary.

You may fall in love with your reduced workouts, who knows? But more than likely, you will be more eager and motivated than ever to get back to your bike, or whatever activity you’ve been missing. Inch forward and have patience. Before you know it, you will be up and at it again. Be grateful this is a temporary set-back.


5. Hop on, and initiate positive talk.

I hopped on the elliptical, and the rest was history. Just kidding- I forced myself to engage in positive self talk repeatedly. Keep the positive talk going, and envision where you want to be. Positive talk can be great for boosting motivation and keeping you feeling strong. Focus on your goals for the future, and remind yourself that it may be a long road to get there, but every step counts.


If you practice all of these, you’ll be on your way to overcoming your fear.

Happy recovery!

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