In the second part of this blog series on “motivation” we will discuss finding motivation during recovery and in returning to running after injury or a long hiatus (see part I on the elements of motivation). Not surprising, there is a huge field of study on the “psychology of sports injuries“. There is no way around the issue, injuries are awful. According to the NCAA and Sports Science Institute, “injuries can hinder performance and negatively impact . . . athletes’ mental health and well-being, including: threats to self-esteem, social isolation and motivational demands associated with rehabilitation. Therefore, injury is one of the most arduous physical and psychological tests confronting . . . athletes.”
Sound familiar? The scope may be different for us amateur athletes (i.e. no shoe contracts or college scholarships at stake) but the similarity of the human experience in injury is largely the same. LeBron James and myself are likely to react in a very similar way to being injured and sidelined from the sport we love. So if injuries are such an “arduous” experience, how do we athletes come back from injury and stay motivate?
We science the heck out of our recovery!
Science tells us that “greater self‐efficacy is the ability to perform prescribed rehabilitation modalities, stronger beliefs in the treatment efficacy, and higher value attached to rehabilitation, were all related to compliant behaviour.” Say what? If we believe we can succeed (self-efficacy) and we believe in the value of the treatment/therapy, we will be good little recovery runners and do our work without pushing too far, too fast.
Now is the critical point. We need to find the motivation to recover and the self-belief that we will recover. To achieve this goal, we will utilize the strategies of motivation from my first blog post: Autonomy, Value, and Competence.
Autonomy – we control the outcome. In order for us to feel “in control of an injury” we need to understand the in’s and out’s of our injury. What is the injury, how did we get it (i.e. overuse, muscle imbalances, bad form, etc) and we need to understand how we can prevent the injury in the future. We also need to have a clear idea of what recovery looks like – how long it will take, what are the steps of recovery, and what does success look like at each step. We need milestones for performance during recovery.
Value – recovery is singularly important to us and our running tribe. Value is perhaps the easiest for us to find. We want to be better and back in the race. To boost value, we need to tap into our social network. Our network of family and our running tribe become our recovery team. They help us see the value of little accomplishments and keep us connected to our running even when we are sidelined. I have good friends that have been injured but quickly became the hero of the long run when they showed up to provide mobile aid stations during hot training runs. The injured runner values their return to sport and their community values them and their recovery.
Competence – we will recover and be better than before our injury. We must approach our recovery with “tenacious attention“. The athlete must make their singular focus to do all the million little things correctly that will lead to recovery. With this laser focus, there is no room to doubt the possibility of recovery. The runner must stay in the moment. The worst thing a runner can do is reminisce about who they were as a runner. That is not the runner we are at the moment and it is an unfair comparison. The runner must focus on every fine detail of a task and push their bodies precisely to facilitate recovery without crossing the line. Every precise execution is the opportunity to build competence and prepare for the great return.