Work out long enough, and it WILL happen. You’ll twist your ankle, tear your rotator cuff, strain a muscle. Even injuries completely unrelated to your fitness habit – your carpal tunnel, the curb you stepped off wrong, the elbow you bumped loading your suitcase into the overhead compartment – can cause pain that limits your movement and leaves you temporarily set back or sidelined from the gym, running path or studio.
I’ve written before about how much these types of injuries get in your head. There’s a whole swirl of emotions that strike once reality sets in – grief, numbness, anger, fear, anxiety. Without a fitness fix, we’re robbed of one of our main forms of stress relief, making it even harder to cope.
On top of that, we pile shame and guilt – who are we to be upset about a minor injury when there’s so many terrible things happening in the world? (My answer to this is that – just like there’s enough success to go around – there’s enough suffering to go around. Touching your own sadness often gives you more, not less, empathy for others. More on that here.)
All too often – torn from the tribe of yogis, runners, CrossFitters – we’re forced to fight all this alone. Friends and family with different lifestyles, or who are currently healthy, might not relate. And though your physical therapist can do wonders for your muscles and joints, he or she shouldn’t also serve as your sole source of emotional support.
The more I’ve written about – and personally experienced – these challenges, the more I’ve realized the lack of resources available for injured athletes at all levels. The same problem struck mental skills expert Carrie Jackson Cheadle, author of On Top of Your Game: Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance, who I’ve interviewed multiple times on this topic.
Carrie works one-on-one with athletes to help them overcome all sorts of mental obstacles and runs an in-person support group for injured athletes in California. Now, we’re working together to bring the ideas and solutions she shares there with a bigger, wider audience.
One of our first projects is a Facebook group, The Injured Athletes Club, that aims to provide the camaraderie of a team, running group or fitness class for those currently or chronically injured. As Carrie puts it: “Whether you are currently dealing with an injury, or you’ve been an injured athlete and you know how challenging that road back can be – we want you in the club. Get ready to give high-fives, get group hugs, and share resources to help pave a smoother path on your road to recovery and beyond.”
Carrie will answer questions posted in the group and weigh in with her clinical expertise along the way. Eventually, we’ll have live Q&As and more. The response we’ve already seen has been incredible, with athletes from many different sports all over the world sharing their powerful stories of struggle, frustration and ultimately, triumph.
If you’re hurt now – or even just curious about how mental skills can help you overcome obstacles – I hope you’ll consider becoming a member (all you have to do is click “Join”). And stay tuned for more resources on mastering your recovery so you can come back stronger from any setback.