Treating Injury as a Growth Experience

Finally getting back out on the bike. Yay!

Finally getting back out on the bike. Yay!

Since I always try to be as honest as possible, let me lay it out for you — I have not been in a great place mentally or physically for the past month. As usual this means a derth of blog posts because I feel pretty disingenuous writing about positivity and growth mindsets and all that jazz while I’m curled up in the fetal position on the floor explaining to Macky why my life is ruined. Update — my life is not ruined. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m fine. My knee *will be* fine. Eventually. I’m starting to ride again and do some interval work on the bike, which has helped my sanity and gotten me to the point where I can write this post. Phew. And I’m going to race this weekend, lack of fitness be damned.

If there’s one thing I hate in life, it’s cliches, and good god, injured athletes are full of them. And, excepting the obvious and dreaded “making lemonade,” there is really no worse cliche than “this injury has been a great opportunity to focus on what really matters” or whatever. Like seriously, whenever I see someone post a variation of this on the internet (and since I’m mainly friends with people who huck themselves off cliffs for fun, this is a fairly frequent occurrence) I’m like “oh honey, we all know you’re crying yourself to sleep and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in bed, it’s okay.”

Because, as an athlete, injuries suck. Even the relatively-unsucky-in-the-whole-scheme-of-things ones, like mine. There is really no getting around the fact that I would be better off right now without tendonitis in my knee. There’s really no need to sugarcoat that reality.

The buddy system applies to stret

The buddy system applies to stretching, too.

Of course, there is also no getting around the fact that, at the moment, I don’t have a choice. I’m stuck with this body and this knee and there are better and worse ways of dealing with those facts. It’s a setback, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely devoid of opportunities to become a better athlete (and human being), especially considering the alternative is moping around (at which I am basically already a pro).

Here are a few ways I’ve been treating my injury as a growth experience (I prefer this term to “opportunity” as it feels less “forced cheerful”):

1. Building better physical foundations. Turns out my foundations as an athlete are a little dodgy. I imagine this isn’t too unusual, especially for people like me who kind of fell into being a pro athlete. I used to just ride bikes for fun — I still ride bikes for fun, of course — but the hours I’ve been putting it have allowed small problems to become, well, much bigger problems. Luckily, I had to the opportunity to see the guys at REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance in Boulder for a bike fit and a fancy pants movement analysis, which brought these small biomechanical issues to light. I’ve been working hard over the past few weeks to correct these foundational issues, and it has been working (slower than I like, of course, but that’s life). As impatient as I am, I do think this injury has forced me to deal with some issues, and that will make me stronger in the long run.

2. Working on bike skills (without my bike). Yes, it’s possible. Thanks to some tips and guidance from Lee McCormack of Lee Likes Bikes, I’ve been able to work on my descending position even when I’ve been off the bike. And, surprise, surprise, proper descending position unloads your knees and activates your glutes — in other words, the exact same process I’ve been trying to develop with Revo. It’s amazing when things come together and make sense. Also, when I have been able to ride, even if just for a short period, I was able to work on honing that position and my cornering skills and maximizing what I get out of a 30 minute road spin. Maybe I would have been better served practicing my cornering on a trail, but then again, maybe not. Sometimes taking away all the other variables and focusing on one or two places where you can improve is key.

3. Becoming more resilient. Yeah, okay, I haven’t done a great job with this one. Frankly this injury hit me pretty hard — not because it’s really that bad, but because it acted up at a really inconvenient time, and because it triggered some of my deeper fears and insecurities… like “what if I can never get it together enough to find out my potential” or “what if this never goes away.” Unfortunately, the reality of mountain biking is that injuries happen. I will, almost assuredly, be injured again, and the past month has forced me to realize that, no, I’m not really equipped to handle that. I need to have some better avenues for dealing with frustration, and I need to keep working on having a long term perspective where my racing is concerned. All of this is a work in progress — but better some progress and increased awareness than none.

In other news, I’m racing again this weekend in Angel Fire. I’ve definitely lost a certain amount of fitness and stamina over the past 6 weeks, and that’s a bummer but I’m extremely grateful to be getting back out there, so I have that going for me. Oh and I’m going to have more fun than anybody else. So there’s that.

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

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2 thoughts on “Treating Injury as a Growth Experience

  1. Hooray!! Can’t wait to see you on the bike. Thanks for making me laugh overtime I read one of your blogs.

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