There are few things I can say are an absolute truth with the exception of this fact: Being injured sucks. In fact, injury is kind of like purgatory for athletes, where we’re forced to watch our friends frolic in autumn leaves and flex new muscles, while we sooth our sorrows with another molasses cookie.
The reality of injury is that it follows the same five stages of mourning a loss. Generally, it’s best to go through these stages within about 24 hours of diagnosis so you can just get on with your life (and whatever new equipment it takes to get around). Unfortunately, this never happens.
Taking a proactive approach to your recovery while you wallow in self-pity can help you survive the stages. In my most recent battle of Rock versus Ammi (in which the rock won), I established a food and movement based approach to healing through each stage.
1. Denial and Isolation: In this stage, we pretend we’re not really injured, and, so no one will make obvious observations a la “Whoa, your leg looks pretty broken,”we avoid people who have even the slightest knowledge of appropriate physiological function. We tell ourselves we’re not as injured as we feel, that lots of people do sports on one leg.
What to do: Make bone broth. This wonder food made by slow cooking or boiling bones (see leftover roasted chicken) for 24 hours with a dash of vinegar and spices/vegetables of your choice is packed with glucosamine, chondroitin, gelatin, a bunch of natural anti-inflammatories, and all the wholesome goodness your body needs to reconstruct entire limbs. Rest as prescribed. Sip soup. Watch movies. Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. They will drastically stunt the healing process.
2. Anger: This is the part where we are certain the injustice of the universe has falsely targeted us with wonky ankles, big damn rocks, or randomly inflamed body parts. Calling the Karma operator is about as effective as trying to get your contact email address changed with AT&T. We curse the gods and the failures of our sissy bodies. Tip: Don’t curse whoever is nursing your broken ass back to health. They don’t take kindly to cranky athletes and may spit in your soup or forget to buy chocolate when they go to the store.
What to do: Drink more bone broth. Reduce high carb foods as your metabolism slows down. Yell at the AT&T operator. Move the OTHER parts of your body as much as you can to get the endorphin rush you’re missing.
3. Bargaining: This is where we promise to accept any alternative sport if our bodies would just cooperate. We’d take up curling and competitive knitting if it would help. Maybe even Pilates if we get desperate enough. We promise to sacrifice our house pets if our bodies will heal miraculously.
What to do: Eat a good blend of essential fatty acids to support cell respiration and nerve repair: avocados, sesame oil, butter, bacon. Take up Pilates to stimulate muscles and strengthen your body so when you are recovered, you’re ready to challenge it again.
4. Depression: This happens when we realize we’re out of cats and our injury persists. Physiologically, depression actually means you are ready to start healing. It sucks the motivation out of you and replaces it with lethargy and a wardrobe of sweat pants too comfortable to ever change. This is your body’s natural healing response – not your failure to be perky enough to get through the challenge of an injury. It slows you down so energy can be used restructuring limbs, knitting bones, building tissues.
What to do: Catch up on reading and recognize that your body is healing. Eat foods for brain health: cold water fish, berries and citrus, eggs. Splurge on some new sweat pants.
5. Acceptance: In this phase, we give into the reality that injury is only temporary and that it’s okay to loathe our crutches and ace bandages. We’re not happy, but we discover a sort of resigned patience to the process our body must go through to heal.
What to do: Set new goals for yourself that are achievable with injury, like doing your physical therapy as prescribed. (Because really, how many of us use our bands and stretch as much as we’re supposed to?). Write yourself a recovery training plan.
And keep drinking the bone broth. It’s like magic sauce for your body. //
Ammi Midstokke lives in Sandpoint, Idaho and is the owner of two birds nutrition: Twobirdsnutrition.com.