Another injury in my triathlon journey.
It was a little ironic to say the least.
Quite surreal… the way everything transpired.
I had just completed one of my best training weeks in preparation for my full distance IronMan race in July. My coach (Jan — the Flying Dutchman!) sent a message saying how impressed he was with my progress and that I had reached the highest level of fitness since I had started training with him just over a year ago.
Needless to say, I was happy. So when my recovery week came around, it was definitely well earned.
I chose to go for a run one evening, around the Marina area in Dubai. I don’t usually run here because the GPS issues means that pacing is all wrong, but since I had an hour easy jog, I thought “why not.”
“I’ll do it at sunset and watch the buildings light up and enjoy a relaxing run,” I told myself. The weather was perfect, I was happy, enjoying the views and watching the people go by. About 45 minutes into it, though, I missed a step, tripped, fell and toppled over. It was a silly fall so I didn’t think much of it. I limped, held onto the railing, smiled as people asked me if I needed help, and walked along until I got home.
It was a little swollen, “nothing much,” I consoled myself. Down to the pharmacy I went, got a compression sock, some creams, iced it, elevated it… “it’ll be fine in the morning.”
Next morning, my foot wouldn’t go into my shoe. It wasn’t fine. I knew something was wrong.
I made my way to the ER, saw a doctor, got an Xray done and waited.
It seemed to take longer than usual when, finally, a group of doctors walked in (that is never a good sign, is it?) and confirmed my fear… ‘there’s a fracture in the 5th metatarsal bone in your foot and you’ll need a cast.’
Being a stubborn girl, I refused to get a cast until I saw a specialist. He said the same thing. Again, I refused to get a cast and signed a waiver to be discharged without a cast.
Being stubborn, again, meant I wanted another opinion — so off I went to another hospital upon the recommendation of a friend, saw another doctor, and he said the same thing. There was no escaping it. So, I got the cast. And just to make it a little more interesting, to add insult to injury, my new Ventum bike, which had been 2 months in the making arrived as I was getting the cast put on my foot. I thought to myself ‘if this is another test of my patience, I am done being tested!’ I felt like this was just the last straw. I had gone through so many challenges already, I was ready to just call it quits. I cried and laughed hysterically all at the same time. I was a mess. I was heart broken… My plans had just fallen apart, my hard work had gone down the drain, my goal which I have planned for the last two years just fell apart… I felt very alone, down, defeated. I looked at my cast, looked at myself in the mirror and all I could see was another set back and I didn’t know if I had the strength to overcome it… again.
The first things I was told by everyone was:
‘Great, you can relax now’
‘Its because you do too much’
‘Its the world’s way of telling you to stop and relax’
‘This is the perfect time to stop training and take a break’
‘Perfect excuse to chill out!’
…but after sulking and feeling sorry for myself for 2 days, my heart and mind just didn’t buy it. Of course, I would have to take a break and rest and recover. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things for a while. But why should I just sit all day? When I enjoy training so much, why should I be defeated by an injury? In the larger scheme of things, it really isn’t anything I can’t handle. So, I asked the doctors, did some research, asked my coach and trainer and they all said the same thing:
“Actually, if you want it to heal better, you’re going to definitely have to do some kind of training throughout”
Why? Well, here are a few reasons why it is critical that active people continue to train/ work out even while injured (of course, within reason and limitations to avoid causing major damage):
- When you train, you release serotonin, the happy hormone that makes you feel better when you would otherwise be feeling down and depressed.
- You lose 35% of the muscle mass in your injured leg within 8 days.
- When you train, you increase the blood circulation in all your body which is needed to aid healing.
- Working out helps release estrogen levels which supports the muscles (and therefore helps limit how much muscle you lose in the immobility process).
- When you strengthen your muscles, you protect your joints — there’s going to be more pressure on the rest of your body to support with the crutches, limping, etc… you’re going to want all the muscle you can have.
And the list is actually quite long. I am not saying that we need to keep the same intensity — not at all, but people would be doing themselves a disservice if they were to just surrender to an injury. Not just because of the emotional impact this can have, but the physical one too. So, I chose to get to the gym 3–4 times a week. I was doing things like rowing, pistol squats, ab work, TRX single legged work, resistance band training and general core work and I loved it. My daughters even joined in!
My injury was minor, that’s for sure, but because of its location, it was difficult to heal… but even if you look at some examples from the athlete community, you can see some incredibly inspiring stories. Here are a few of my favorites:
Tim Don and the 2:49 Marathon —After a major crash, and a halo around his head, he announced he would run the Boston Marathon in 2:50… he ran it in 2:49
Chrissie Wellington, IronMan 4x World Champion on multiple injuries
I’m doing a lot of reading about athletes lives, and you see that it is full of set backs, injuries, issues, challenges and the world doesn’t always see that. The world just sees the end result, the finish line, the time, the number of world championships achieved. I’d urge everyone to read a few biographies of those athletes, it changes the perspective so much. You see how they come out of injuries ready to take on the world, because their injury did not defeat them. It always depends on the level of training and on having the right support network and health practitioners of course, but if there is a will, there is a way.
So, I’m still training despite what some people have said. I’m using this time to develop my upper body strength, my core strength, and eat clean (since I don’t need as much carbs while cutting down on my triathlon training) and I look forward to getting back into it and achieving my goals.
The good news is, when I went in for my follow up last week, I was nervous that I had done something to hurt myself by still being active (albeit very very limited) and because of all the comments I got about ‘taking it easy’ but the Orthopedic surgeon smiled and said that it was all perfect, that I was doing a ‘good job’ (yes, I felt like a 3rd grader when the teacher gives them a star) and that if I maintained this I could be out of the cast sooner than initially planned!
Being active is a life choice and no matter what the circumstances are, there’s always a way.
How did it all turn out? The Update.
5 weeks in a cast instead of the initially expected 8–10 weeks.
Because despite what a lot of people (lovingly) said, I listened to my doctor and continued to train within my limitations. That made the blood flow stronger in my body, and allowed my bones to heal faster.
I now have the go-ahead to swim properly, cycle (not too much resistance) and walk… in 2 weeks I’ll be able to integrate a light jog into my walk and start to rebuild.
Strength and muscle in my leg is excellent considering how bad it could have been.
Good nutrition, supplements, training and a positive mind-set can do miracles.
Thank you to everyone who has been extremely supportive during this time, I am grateful to so many people and excited about my next phase of this journey.
What did I do?
- Supplements: Glucosamine — Collagen, Glutamine, Multi-vitamin, Biotin, Omega 3 as well as my usual supplements
- Nutrition: Focused on healthy proteins and healthy fats (lots of Salmon, Avocado, Tumeric, Beetroot, Berries… think colors, think clean).
- Personal training (strength & core) 3x a week, Swimming 20–30 mins 1x a week, Cycling 30–45 mins 2x a week, Pilates 1x a week
- Mobility work for my foot daily
- Strict nutrition plan to avoid weight gain — I actually lost 3% body fat and 3kgs while increasing muscle mass.
PS. Thank you to my awesome trainer Gary Leeman at FitRepublik for my gym pics!!