I would love to be sat here right now writing about my successful return from injury, but that is not the case for me. I am currently sat with my foot elevated for two days following a cortisone injection. My diagnosis was two stress fractures, which resulted in four MRIs, two CT scans, one Spect CT scan, six weeks non weight bearing in a air cast boot, three more stints on crutches totalling five weeks and counting. To say that I am frustrated doesn’t begin to cover it. I have done everything by the book to get this injury to settle. Copious amounts of research and many visits to the consultant with conversations of surgery if the bone does not heal on its own. We decided to give it one last try after the results from the Spect CT scan showed that the stress fracture had begun to settle. Good news. Injection…. now we wait and hopefully begin to build. As athletes everything we know is to break down barriers and push through the pain to see where our limits are what our body is capable of. We ask the body physically and mentally to find the strength to give us what we so desperately train for day in day out. Progression in fitness, strength and endurance. In hindsight, I ask myself what was the cause of my injury and how I can avoid it in the future? My answer is to train smarter. I jumped back into training way to quickly after a big race. Big mistake resulting in a big lesson learned. Learning how to live with an injury is a funny one. You go through so many emotions and you learn a lot about yourself. For me personally I feel that it has made me a better person as painful as my journey has been and still is. It has increased my awareness and empathy towards others and taught me more about mental health and how it is easy for it to creep up on you without you realising. Keeping a clear head throughout this injury has been my focus. It is important to look after your mental wellbeing by surrounding yourself with family and friends. I am very lucky to have a great bunch around me who are incredibly supportive. I have also taken a step back from the pressure of training, it is so easy to think about how everyone else is training while you are not. Focusing on what I can do rather than what I can’t is key. I also remind myself that reducing training is not a weakness. It takes strength and courage to believe your fitness and strength will come back. You have to believe that when you get back to training what you have had to endure can only make you stronger. Could your competitors keep their head as well as you did? Do not underestimate the added mental strength an injury can bring. Injuries are sometimes inevitable even if you train by the book. Triathlon training repetitively stresses muscles, tendons, and the tissues around joints and bones. This continuous stress produces repetitive microtrauma. This normally occurs when you are either overtrained, deficient in nutrition or have caused trauma to an area and not given it enough time to recover. Overuse injuries result from the body’s inability to keep up with repair of the damage created by repetitive microtrauma. The body’s tissue eventually breaks down – resulting in pain, inflammation, and weakness. Ignoring the pain and inflammation and continuing to train will lead to further microtrauma and disruption of the tendon, muscle or bone. The worst case scenario is an injury that could result in weeks or months away from your triathlon training and competition like myself. If you need advice or need to manage your injury, I highly recommend that you utilise expert advice. Don’t hang around, get your injury seen to! Here is a simple guide on how to avoid injuries: Coach or a personal trainer. If you don’t know how to start a training program or progress to that next level safely, a personal trainer or coach is the perfect option. They can give you safety tips and progressions to either get you started or accomplish your goal without getting injured and avoid overtraining. Warm up. It is never a good idea to work muscles that are cold. Make sure you are warming up your body to increase your body’s core temperature, blood flow to the working muscles, and also to mentally prepare yourself for the session ahead. Cross Train. Your body will thank you when you change up your routine by engaging in different activities. As a triathlete there are three disciplines to help build fitness. If you are not a triathlete this will not only help you avoid hitting a plateau with your workouts, it will give your muscles a much needed break from the same routine day in and day out. Be smart about your training. The body is constantly changing and adapting and what used to work for us may no longer be the case. Being smart with your training and sometimes changing the way you do things maybe the answer. Be realistic about your training. ‘Too much, too soon’ can be the number one reason why injuries occur. I suggest gradually increasing the time and the intensity of your sessions to prevent those niggling injuries. Wear proper training gear. If you have to think about how long ago you purchased a new pair of trainers, then it is definitely time to change them up. Going to a specialised shop for expert advice on what trainers you should be wearing is the first step because they can gauge what shoe fits best with your arch, gait and body weight. So many injuries come from wearing worn out trainers without any support. Your poor feet! Eat a balanced diet and hydrate. What you eat and drink is just as important as your training. Not only will carbohydrates give you energy for your sessions, they will replenish glycogen stores for your recovery and for the next session. Protein after your workout is just as important as this will help repair muscles you just broke down. I personally use the following: Whey Protein Powder – after strength and conditioning sessions Rego Rapid Recovery – after long sessions in the pool/bike/run Go Electrolyte Powder – during sessions for energy and replenish salts lost Hydro Tablets – I use these all the time, for training or sipping throughout the day Add strength training and core work to your weekly training. Having a strong fit body is a great way to keep the injuries away. If your muscles are balanced with a strong core then your body will not wear down or have to compensate for being weak or tight. Listen to your body with rest and recovery. Your body will give you the signals you need to know when it’s time to rest. If that knee is feeling a little achy, your soreness lasts for more than the recommended 24 to 48 hours, or you are just tired, then it is time to look over your training structure. Rest and recovery might be what your body is looking for. Make sure you take those rest days. Written By Simone Mitchell Simone is a Science in Sport ambassador.