Complacency and Injury

I take a lot of pride in how I take care of the details and can usually walk away from any week of training knowing that I did absolutely everything I could to get better and faster.  It doesn’t always happen, but to a large extent, I structure my training and life outside of training around getting the most out of myself.  I don’t see it as sacrificing the other things in life because I love what I do – and there is usually a good amount of time for those other things as well.  Having been on the team for a while and finding myself in the role of the veteran, I’m suddenly the one setting the example for others; pushing them to train harder and take a more professional approach to the sport.  I don’t mind this role but it can also add some unnecessary frustration or stress to my life.

But even within that structure, I can get lazy.  And I think I have.  In the first few weeks of returning to training full time back in January, I wasn’t 100% sure that my back was going to hold up.  I herniated my L5-S1 disc 6 months before Beijing and the stiffness and pain persisted through the next two years.  So, as I worked my way back onto the team and into training I was extremely careful and stuck to a routine of yoga and stretching that seemed to keep my body, and specifically my back, happy.  Through the spring and summer, my focus on this routine gradually eased off but I would still go through the motions and tell myself that I was doing what I needed to do.  My back felt stronger and stronger, and I think I got a bit over-confident.  Then, at the end of last week while carrying the boat up from the dock (not even a rowing motion!) I felt something grab in my lower back and the muscles around it seized.   I tried to shrug it off and stretched it out a bit in the boat bay, but as I got home and started to make breakfast, it sunk in that this all felt too similar to February of 2008 when I herniated the disc the first time.  It then becomes a mental game of convincing myself that it isn’t the same - that I can’t let myself fall into the trap of paying too much attention to every little ache or pain and convincing myself that I’m injured again.  My lower back just feels like it is rusty; as if everything isn’t moving or sliding smoothly and the joints are cranky. 

I think a lot of injuries can be linked to stress.  Obviously not all of them, but in my experience, when I am unhappy or overly stressed out the body has to spend too much of its energy sorting through all of that crap which leaves it susceptible to breaking down in other areas.  I think it is rare for someone who loves the training, the environment, and life outside of training to develop serious overuse injuries.  Once you fall into the trap of seeing yourself as injured and you start to compensate and mentally guard that part of your body, it gets harder to fully recover because you become incredibly sensitive to any feeling or sensation in that area.  Tweaks or annoying little pains that would have been easily ignored before now become stressful and worrisome and a possible sign that you haven’t fully recovered.

These last few days have been a reminder for me to not become complacent.  I took my back feeling great for granted and I now see that I can’t do that.  I already feel ready to train again but it has been enough of a scare to kick all of my pre-hab and proactive exercises into full gear.  Daily exercises and routines have been added to and re-written and I am determined to let go of all of the frustrating things that I can’t control.  

Other than that, training has been going really well – I stayed in good shape during our ‘time off’ and have been attacking all of the different workouts that we have had the past two weeks.  This latest flare up doesn’t change any of that and a few days on the bike wont hurt me at all and might actually give me the mental break that I need.  We all need to be reminded every once in a while and luckily this is early enough in the season to not really effect my training. 

We went for a group-ride yesterday and it was one of those sessions that reminds me why I do this.  It was a beautiful sunny fall day with a slight chill in the air.  Kevin took us on a route up into West Saanich on narrow, winding roads – lots of hills and very few cars.  It felt incredible to be outside on a beautiful day in some amazing scenery, working hard with a great group of guys.  There is nowhere else I would rather have been. 


Tannis Peterson