By Nathalie Garcia, Bewolfish psychologist specialized in sports psychology and coaching with experience in high-performance sports psychology, former athlete.
Returning to full performance after suffering an injury that has required a long recovery period may not be as easy as we would expect. It is precisely for this reason that we are going to talk about the main aspects that may appear in these circumstances and how to approach them to be back in top shape in the shortest possible time.
In the first place, we must keep in mind that rushing will not help us at such moments. Probably, during the time that we have been inactive, without competing or/and performing recovery training, we have had the feeling that rivals, and even teammates, have been improving while we have been “wasting time”, or even worse, we have retrogressed. With this in mind, we can easily fall into the trap of trying to compensate in a few days the months of break. There is no need to mention that overtraining can cause injuries, so it is evident that we must follow the training loads that our coaches and trainers recommend us, as well as follow the indications of our physiotherapists. In addition, we must set realistic performance goals that are appropriate with our physical condition at the time, otherwise, we may end up frustrated and with a lack of confidence and motivation that would take us away from good results for a time even greater than the one the own injury requires.
With this, to combat the rush we must follow a few simple steps and start working on our return from the moment we suffer the injury. This includes: setting the recovery times, readjusting our objectives, working on our expectations and, if possible, taking advantage of the time we are injured to improve other aspects that we normally do not have as much time to exercise.
Secondly, due to the fear of getting injured again, we sometimes change, even minimally, the technical movement required by the part of the body that was injured. Many times this change in the gesture is totally unconscious and, if nobody asks for it or makes us notice, we can realize when it is too late and thus overexercise some muscle area, injure ourselves again or become ineffective in the execution. Sometimes, what we change is not the technical gesture itself, but that we stop doing something because it is how we got injured or because we deduce that it could also cause us pain. In either of the two cases mentioned it is evident that our performance will be conditioned by these variations.
In any case, to avoid these changes, voluntary or involuntary, psychology must go hand in hand with other professionals to focus on aspects that favor the appropriate technical/tactical gesture that improves the performance of the athlete. In addition, if we know which exact elements are real warning signals of a possible complication in recovery, we can stop thinking about it and focus on the execution without any concern. All this with strategies that help us lead our emotions so that they do not get in the way of good performance either.
Finally, we often try to go through the process of an injury completely alone, without relying on the people from our sport and/or social environment. Receiving help from experts who can give us some advice and counting on close people will allow us, among other things, to reduce stress, take into account factors that we may be ignoring and/or be aware of how we are dealing with the situation.
Remember, if we do not rush, we handle our doubts, and trust the people who can help us, we will be able to be back to our highest level as soon as possible.
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