Stay Positive to Beat the Injury Blues – by Strength Coach Will

I am pleased this week to post a guest article from Will Ruth, also known as “Strength Coach Will.” Coach Ruth writes this week about keeping a positive “mindset”  when recovering from an injury. Enjoy!

PHOTO Tohn Keagle

Photo Credit: Tohn Keagle

Stay Positive to Beat the Injury Blues

by “Strength Coach Will” Ruth

Injury risk is an inevitable part of life and competitive sport. The first step to developing a positive mindset is accepting this risk and destigmatizing injury should it occur. Getting injured is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it is a risk that we all take as athletes and active people. In this article, I’ll explain how you can do everything you can to prevent injury and how to keep your cool should injury occur.

I do want to include a disclaimer here to say that sports are often a huge part of people’s lives, personal identity, and self-esteem, as well as a method for coping with stress, and it can be very difficult when an injury takes this away. If you or one of your athletes or teammates is struggling with depression-like symptoms, please refer to a mental health counselor or sport psychology counselor. The Applied Association of Sport Psychology is a great resource and maintains a list of certified consultants.

Control the “Controllables,” Discard What Remains

Maintaining physical readiness to train is at the forefront of every responsible athlete and coach’s mind. Even though we all accept a risk of injury training and competing in sport, injury prevention is a critical part of maintaining this readiness. Here are the core tenets of injury risk reduction that are 100% under your control:

1. Understand your sport, its injury risks, and safe training practices.

2. Learn how to prevent those injuries and then take action to do so.

3. Learn how to lift correctly to avoid compromising positions, then strength train to prevent imbalance injuries and teach correct motor patterns.

4. Stick to a regimen of warming up, cooling down, and stretching and mobility work to make sure your body is prepared for training and competition.

5. Hydrate and eat well to give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to sustain hard training and achieve excellent performance.

6. Know your body and be honest with yourself. Know when to push and when to hold back in training to avoid sickness, injury, and over training.

While freak accidents do occur, the vast majority of sports injuries can be traced back to failure to adhere to those six tenets. Think of when you’ve been injured—were you consistently practicing all six at the time?

The next thing that can really derail an injured athlete’s mindset is the ensuing shock and surprise, often followed by disappointment and sometimes depression. This is where it really becomes critical to maintain a mindset of acceptance, positivity, and improvement to focus on the activities that you are able to do while recovering from injury.

Physical discomfort and inconvenience will always remain a part of injury, and what a positive approach seeks to eliminate is mental discomfort and frustration. The mental mindset to adopt is that your sport is now recovering from injury and getting back to rowing. Successful athletes who overcome injury apply the same determination, self-motivation, and drive to their rehab protocol as they did to sport training.

Remember, you’re only focusing on things you can control and positive action that you can take. Don’t get bogged down in the “can’t do’s,” such as, “I can’t row,” “I can’t lift,” “I can’t run.” Think about what you CAN do and apply yourself fully to that. Find ways to train around your injury. Can you use the stationary bike, run, or focus on one half (upper/lower) of your body with weights? Can you use this extra time to improve mobility and flexibility on a non-injured area? PT’s or athletic trainers will be able to provide specifics on what you can do to be as productive as possible during recovery.

You’re Still Part of the Team

An injured athlete is still an athlete and a teammate, so every effort should be made to keep them engaged with the sport and team. So long as it will not negatively impact their recovery, injured rowers can still attend practice and ride the launch, be there for their teammates during erg sessions, and stay involved in the team at social occasions. Often, athletes who are allowed to isolate themselves just fade away and find it hard to return to the team even when healthy. This is also where peers and team captains are relied upon to keep their teammates feeling engaged. A text or phone call of, “hey, we really miss you at practice, will we see you at _____?” can be very meaningful for an injured teammate struggling with motivation to return. Think about how you would you want your teammates to respond if you were the one injured.

Injured athletes are often worried about being in the way at practice. Here’s a list of some things rowers can help with while they’re recovering from an injury:

  • Checking gas and loading the launch
  • Holding a camera from the launch for filming
  • Holding the spotlight if it’s dark
  • Help out by writing down times during erg sessions
  • Is your team short on coxswains? I had snapping hip syndrome and could not row. I showed up for practice anyway. I was heavy for a coxswain, but when one of the coxswains didn’t show up to practice, I was able to jump in and allow that boat to get out on the water.
  • Collecting shoes, oars, and water bottles
  • Benefit from the instruction at practice. Look at your teammates and try to see what the coach sees and it will make you a better rower when you get back in the boat.
Have a Plan to Get Back on Board

One of the hardest things for eager athletes to avoid is rushing back from injury. After days or weeks away from practice, it’s hard to not want to scratch that itch right away. However, there needs to be a plan to return to training in progressive increments. Check out this graphic for an illustration of why this is—in the study, athletes who returned to do 100% of their normal training workload after only doing 40% of that workload during rehab had a 28% chance of re-injuring during their first week back from practice.

info Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CB708wHXIAAmqrB.jpg

While an athlete with a week long sickness or slight muscular strain may be able to return relatively quickly, a fracture, broken bone, torn muscle, or serious illness will need a more gradual progression. A general rule of thumb is to start with 50% of your pre-injury volume and add 5-10% (meters or minutes) from there. For example, if you were doing five two-hour practices per week before your injury, start with five one-hour practices for the first week back. This requires the coach to not only monitor training minutes, but to have a plan to swap in another rower for your place. If an erg session was prescribed 3×18’, start with 3×9’ the first week back. Your goal is to leave each session feeling like you could have done more. This may be frustrating to some athletes, but it’s a much better path than re-injury.

One final step that can be difficult for many athletes is mentally moving on from the injury after returning to rowing. A key tip here is to focus on what you DO want to have happen, not all the possible negative outcomes. With great dedication to the rehab protocol, a gradual progression to return to practice, and a positive mindset upon return, athletes can go on to put the injury behind them and focus on performance.

will ruth infographic

Infographic Credit: Strength Coach Will Ruth

WILL RUTH

Photo Credit: Tohn Keagle – “Strength Coach” Will Ruth

Will Ruth (BS, NSCA-CSCS, USA-Weightlifting L1, US-Rowing L2) is the strength coach for the Western Washington University men’s club crew team and is the author of “Rowing Stronger: Strength Training to Maximize Rowing Performance,” the only comprehensive strength training manual just for rowers published by Rowperfect UK. Will posts new articles every Monday on his website, www.strengthcoachwill.com, where you can find more resources for physical and mental training for youth, collegiate, and masters rowers. A former rower, Will keeps his own competitive fire going with the sport of Strongman and also coaches high school lacrosse.

 

Thank you Coach Ruth! For more info on AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

WHICH ERG SCREEN ARE YOU?

 

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THE ERG SCREEN

The Concept II Rowing Machine or “Erg” has come a long way since I was in college. Since the Model “D” was introduced, owners have had the luxury of using the PM3, PM4, and now PM5 monitors. If you are new to indoor rowing, here are some of the screens we used to have to stare at:

pm1

PM1 – For the Model “B”

pm2

PM2 – For the Model “C”

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Bicycle Speedometer – For the Model “A”

 

 

 

 

 

The newer PM4 gives you access to a ton of training data, record results with a log card, as well the option to play the Fish Game (which I hate, but that is another story).

"The Fish Game...ugh"

“The Fish Game…ugh”

Usually, your coach will determine which screen you will use during a workout. It is important to them because they want to monitor and record your training data as you complete the workout.

It is your choice as well, because you want to get the most out your workout. The data will always be there in the end, therefore maybe it is time for you to explore which screen you might choose to get the best result.

PROCESS COMMUNICATION MODEL®

"Yes, you do..."

“Yes, you do…”

I have many athletes that use the indoor rowing machine that hate it.

One of the main reasons they hate it is because they have to stare at the screen every single stroke. This past month, I explored “2k Anxiety” and how to overcome it. Using the AthleteDISC profile allows you to become aware of your behavior and have the ability to change it to yield a positive result.

The Process Communication Model® digs a little deeper. It gives you further insight on your personality and why you make the choices you make.

In November, I wrote about my daughter and the Process Communication Model® . As a PCM Certified Trainer, I find Athletic Profiling has been very useful to my athletes and I because we are able to understand and control all the variables.

We can also eliminate the variables that don’t matter.

CHOOSE YOUR SCREEN

Which erg screen are you? There are 5 options on the current PM3, PM4, and PM5 models. Let’s review the six personality types and which screen the pure personality type may choose.

THE STANDARD SCREEN – Persister

"Straight shooter here..."

“Straight shooter here…”

The Persister personality type will choose the standard screen for two reasons:

#1 This is the screen that most coaches will choose. It is also the screen you will see at most indoor rowing competitions.

#2 It gives them just enough data.

Persisters insist on doing what is right. Assisting their coach and helping the team is the #1 priority. Even if they do not enjoy using this screen, they want to follow the program. Having too much data is okay, however the Persister would just rather focus on one or two pieces of information – the average split, meters, or stroke rate. Persisters would like the entire team to use the same screen.

THE DATA SCREEN – Thinker

"Where is my HR monitor strap?"

“Where is my HR monitor strap?”

The Thinker personality type needs more information. The fact that the data screen allows them to see it all in one place is even better. As a strong thinker AND persister, I could go either way. It all depends on how important the workout is to me. Allow your Thinkers to absorb all the data they need because the sixth 500 meter split is just as important as the last 500 meter split.

They will also be able to predict and provide you the mean average deviation of the team’s average 500 meters compared to the 5k you did 2 years ago on that rainy day in April…just because!

THE FORCE CURVE SCREEN – Imaginer

"Too much legs at the front end, let's try..."

“Hmm..Too much legs at the front end…”

The Imaginer personality type is okay with data. However, rowing is about how the boat and the athletes move together. Imaginers would rather focus on the rhythm and pace of their piece.

"New Age Philosophy Major"

“New Age Philosophy Major”

The force curve screen is perfect for them because they will be able to focus on what their stroke looks and feels like so they can optimize it. Meanwhile the coach STILL can see the data that is important. Imaginers understand they need to go fast, however too much information and distraction may overwhelm them. Provide your Imaginers with the “ideal” curve and give them time and space to figure out how to create it.  I have been exploring my Imaginer side for the last 3 to 4 years. I enjoy training alone now, and I enjoy dissecting every stroke. The split is not so important.

THE PACE BOAT SCREEN – Promoter

"I TOTALLY got this..."

“I TOTALLY got this…”

Why don’t more athletes or coaches use the pace boat screen? The Promoter personality type says, “I race better on the water because I’m racing another boat.”

Give them what they want. Just because you want them to focus on pacing themselves or fixing their technique will not change the fact that you want them to race and pull a personal best on their next test. Set the pace boat. Maybe not at their goal pace, but a little bit slower, so they know they can win. Promoters want to win and be the best. Get out of their way and let them do their thing.

I use the pace boat screen a lot now with my athletes. It makes it easy to set attainable goals within the session. As a current Promoter, I want results out of every training session.

Race plans should be loose, because athletes can adapt on the fly. Even if they are behind with 300 meters to go, you may witness the most epic sprint because THAT’S WHAT THEY DO!

THE WATTS SCREEN  – Rebel

"Just Because..."

“Just Because…”

Data, Racing, Force Curves…um, it all sounds good, but your Rebel personality type will just choose the Watts screen that is left because they want to be different.

Rebels will get the job done, but if you force them to do things your way or the team’s way then you might run into trouble. Offer them the Watts screen first and they may just laugh.

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“Coach, how am I going to know how fast I am pulling?” And they will choose another screen.

Having playful contact with my Rebels allows me to step outside the seriousness of training because I need to remember training is fun!

They may just surprise you. Rebels are creative you know. If you have a set race plan, give them the space to be creative. They may come up with the next new pacing strategy strictly off of Watts.

THE MAJORITY – Harmonizer

The Harmonizer personality type will choose the majority. It is important to do what the team wants and be supportive. Harmonizers will not rock the boat, and will make sure everyone is on the same page. If a Harmonizer is sitting next to a Rebel then you may have two athletes using the Watts screen because the Harmonizer doesn’t want anyone to feel left out.

"YOLO..."

“YOLO…”

I will always support that, even if it means the Harmonizer doesn’t do as well on their test.  Creating team culture is sometimes more important than the training sessions.  Harmonizers also want to be healthy and strong so doing “calorie” workouts are a great way to shake things up for them.

DOES THIS APPLY TO OTHER CARDIO MACHINES?

"What do you gravitate towards?"

“What do you gravitate towards?”

Absolutely! A treadmill or elliptical machine has all the same data, so what information to you prefer to stare at for the duration of your workout?

MORAL OF THE STORY

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Which erg screen are you?

As an athlete, you should go with your gut. Which screen do you WANT to use? Have you ever considered using it?

As a coach, are you okay with allowing athletes to choose their screen? In the end you are still getting the data you need.

Every athlete understands that on the water they do not have control of what they see and hear. However, if you want to build confidence and get the best performance out of each of your athletes then maybe it is time for you to shift the way you think?

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Are you ready Leo Young?

What do you say coach?

names_kurose

“Aki Kurose Middle School 10-min indoor relay World Record, Dec 2011”

For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and Process Communication like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

Last chance to check out the DISC2K – Philadelphia Seminar on January 9th, 2016!

Online consulting and Skype sessions also available.