Jek Bradley reveals her top tips for staying sane when injured.

Jek is part of our in-house dream team aiming to take on the Virgin Active London Triathlon this July with the support of Team Carbon – official bike supplier, Tenn Outdoors – official kit supplier, Saucony, Polar, Zone 3 and Limar. To find out more about Team Triathlon Plus click here.

Team Triathlon Plus in their team wetsuits

2013 has been a year of ups and downs so far for me in terms of training; while I’ve been going hell-for-leather on the bike and in the pool, plantar fasciitis has (frustratingly) kept me out of the running game since November.

Rewind four weeks and things were looking pretty promising; I no longer had pain in my foot and was fairly optimistic that it wouldn’t be too long before running was back on my training agenda.

I thought it was sensible, however, to get the all clear from Sacha – my physio – before I dusted off my trainers and started pounding the pavements again. So during a relatively pain-free deep-tissue massage of my foot I casually mentioned that I’d been struggling to sit down for the last couple of days. I wasn’t in excruciating pain – it just felt as if someone was constantly nipping my left buttock and occasionally the back of my left knee. It didn’t feel like anything too serious, but was still enough to stop me riding my bike.

The worried expression on her face didn’t particularly fill me with confidence though and after forcing me to do a variety of yoga-like stretches, flexibility tests and postural exercises, her verdict was in. And it wasn’t good . . .

You’ve got a bulging disc in your lower spine,” she explained. “It’s causing your sciatic nerve to be trapped, which is why you can’t sit down and also why your foot is taking so long to heal. If it doesn’t free in the next few weeks then you might need to consider an operation.” Great.

I left her treatment room in tears with a myriad of fears racing through my head; Will I EVER be able to run again? Will I lose all the hard work I’ve put in on the bike this year? Will I ever be as good as I was? Will I make the start line of London? What if I’m just not built to train? Can you still eat if you can’t exercise? What if I NEVER get the chance to do an Ironman?

Of course, these all sound ridiculous and hyperbolic—let’s be realistic, it’s not as if I’ve lost a limb.  But being sidelined through injury – however big or small – is tough and can turn any sane triathlete into a blubbering mess, as their whole world is turned upside down.

Despite this being my first proper injury – meaning that it can’t just be fixed with a few days rest and some enthusiastic foam-rolling action – I’ve quickly learned that wallowing in self-pity and scoffing on pizza doesn’t help, and the key to avoiding being sectioned under the Mental Health Act is to find a new focus and steer clear of the following pitfalls:

1.  Don’t drown your sorrows with alcohol – the post-binge euphoria won’t last long and reality will soon take its place, meaning that not only will you have your injury to deal with, you’ll also have a banging headache.

2.  Don’t raid the biscuit tin. In fact try not to buy treats at all. Granted, they might offer you some comfort in the short term but once you’re back training you don’t want to be trying to get fit AND be losing 10lbs of unnecessary chocolate weight.

3.  Avoid negative unsympathetic friends who carry the attitude of, “well that’s what you get for cycling 200 miles at the weekend!”

4.  Avoid public places when the sun comes out – seeing part-time fun runners will be no good for your mental state.

5.  Don’t treat painkillers like you would water. Take them very sparingly – they just mask the pain and prolong the injury. Patience is the name of the injury-game.

It’s fair to say that, I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with not being able to ride my bike or go for a run. But, as time has passed I’ve managed to put things into perspective – an injury isn’t the end of the world and in a few weeks from now the pain should be a distant memory. At the end of the day, it’s just my body’s way of saying it’s had enough and that I need to ease off the gas. It’s just unfortunate that it’s happened right on the cusp of the start of the season. On a positive note, however, Sacha has said that I can start cross-training next week and Nordic Track have kindly loaned me one of their trainers for the next three months. It’s going to be tough training inside when my friends are enjoying the sun, but if it does what it says on the tin and helps me regain fitness without putting strain on my back, then I’ll be a very happy bunny. Only time will tell.

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