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Forgetting about your PBs and slow return are better than mourning after your PBs and comfort eating… my tips to comeback from an injury

Physical injuries, mental barriers, recovery, therapies and frustrations associated with inability to be where you want to be or could be, all contribute to setbacks which every professional and amateur athlete experience on their road to the top of their physical performance.

Injuries are and will be a significant part of that road and often are not easily avoidable neither recognised by athlete especially if your goal is to succeed and get to the best possible results as soon as possible. Sometimes drive and determination overshadow little signs which could have helped you avoid injuries in the first place.

There are plenty of articles on the internet which suggest the best ways of avoiding injury. In fact most of those articles are very good tips, however they are talking about how to prevent injuries by not over training and ensuring right nutrition intake and balances in life overall.

From my very recent experience of a sport’s injury and consequent operation which lead to inability to train and caused a setback, I struggled to find any material (other than related to doctor’s or therapist specific advice) on how to turn setback into comeback. I guess no athlete or coach or fitness gurus and experts like to highlight to the new world of fitness enthusiasts that there are indeed the “down times” in physical performance and especially CrossFit might be a little bit to blame (not a criticism of anyone specifically in CrossFit rather an observation).

We all seem to focus on our PBs and on our 1RMs and all motivational quotes out there go as far as “don’t give up” / “failure is just temporary” etc…

You know them, you see them floating around and they are everywhere. We seem to be obsessed with these new messages, memes, quotes, images which in my opinion don’t cater for injuries resulted from perhaps pushing yourself too hard and instead of endorsing progress and consistency they support over training and peak performances in unrealistic time frames.

Is the injury a failure?

Are you giving up when you have to take time to recover and completely stop any physical exercise?

Are you a quitter if you can’t exercise?

Surely not!!!!!

But there is a very limited support available for those who injured themselves unless you are a top professional athlete OR you know where to look for the crucial element of your comeback – the right mind-set and support.

Too many of my colleagues and other fitness buddies, even crossfitters are injured or have been injured. Majority of them never return to the sport activity which caused the injury and always talk about the activity in a very dismissive manner.

I am not surprised! It caused them a pain; put them out of training and destroyed something they enjoyed and human beings don’t like to come back to situations which hurt them in the first place.

Here is my approach to turning setback and injury into comeback and consistent measurable progress.

Note: I’ve created these tips and outlined the approach only with the help of professionals from the surgeon to physio through fellow athletes and two coaches (Rich Kite and my father Stefan Korpa).

1. Recognition is the key – the moment you in your mind recognise that you are indeed injured and need to take a time off (not a setback) from any physical activity is the moment you start your recovery and saving yourself a lot of time wasted in the “denial stage”

2. Seek professional help – it might cost you to get this sorted, but getting yourself a medical help and advice is probably the best next action. Get scans, get in front of the consultant and don’t under-estimate even small-ish injury as they indeed result into larger and more complicated injuries if not rectified early on.

3. Take up the proposed treatment – in my case it was in form of an operation and as drastic as it sounded there was no other way to cease the pain and commence healing process. In some cases the treatment might be drugs or other therapies. I guess it is your own choice and views you  might have or your coach might have on the proposed treatment. In all situations, do consider taking up the best one for your injury. Avoiding this step and hoping it will go is probably not very realistic view.

4. Listen to your body after all we are all individual – post any treatment and operation you will get a very standardised advice about how the recovery looks like or might look like. You will get a time frames of various progressions and improvements. I’ve learnt that these are very generic guide lines and don’t cater for individual’s health; nutrition etc. Don’t blame the health care systems for this; the specialist surgeon can’t spend another few hours or days consulting with you individually the best way to progress. You need to listen to your body and watch out for the signs of progression. These will vary from person to person, the age group, your nutrition intake and your mental attitude toward recovery. As an example my injury and operation:

I was told to keep the cast on for 4-6 weeks. In addition I was told that stitches will fall out in 14 days post operation. Estimated time to return to any physical activity was 8-12 weeks. Advice given was to commence physio therapy after 4 weeks.

Reality:

I kept the cast on for 3 weeks and final week I keep removing it on and off – it was only after sending emails and pictures to my surgeon who suggested I am progressing and should start getting used to using my right hand without the awkward cast.

Stitches had to be removed after 25 days as they did not fall out. I returned to very light but still physical activity after 5 weeks post operation on the recommendation of the physio whom I sought after 4 weeks which was about the time stitches were removed.

5. Keep challenging yourself elsewhere – often withdrawing from challenging physical activities causes a mental set back and frustrations. Your brain and your body are used to the adrenaline and performance and suddenly you are not getting the same stimulus. Find something else to do which can challenge you. You know the approximate time frame for recovery, so try to excel in some other area of your life; I took up time to learn about nutrition and focused more time and effort at work and as a result I opened up 2 international offices. These new mental challenges substitute the lack of physical challenges and kept me happy and too busy to think about set back.

6. Slow return and forgetting about your PBs are better than over-eating and mourning after your PBs – very harsh reality but I experienced this first hand. At the beginning I kept thinking about where I was and how I am unable to be there now. I wanted to be where I was 3 months ago at the healthy physical performance with good potentials for better. That kept me miserable and every time i sought motivation those PBs were on my mind. It was a lot of “what if” kind of thinking. If you are like me; driven and determined, this is the point when you MUST STOP these kind of thoughts! You must forget about “the good old days” and focus on slow return and start from the scratch. Literally!

I’ve taken a lot of advice from my coaches and friends who luckily kept telling me all about this mind-set.

I have forgotten about my PBs (not literally, but I am not fixated on them) and thanks to my coach and physio who accommodated me a lot I started to train with only empty bar. Despite my own frustrations they kept me on the same very basic levels for a few weeks and did not give in to my persuasive personality. In hindsight it’s the best they did for me.

7. Work on the form and technique and get the basics right – now is the time to return to your goal of being the best of your own self. It is the perfect time to work on your technique and form. Even if you have to repeat the moves which caused an injury in the first place, this is  the time to get your form spot on. A lot of light weights, repetitive work, technique training instead of loading up and reaching new PBs and 1RMs etc. Working on the parts of your body which shouldn’t be affected by the injury is another way of setting yourself up for success!

8. It’s a marathon not a sprint – final tip for anyone who wants to see themselves in the best physical condition they can be and wants to perform in the said sport and activity. It’s incredibly important to realise that whatever you want to achieve it is very unlikely that it will happen overnight. Set yourself for success and not for failure and avoid mistakes I’ve made.

“I am a girl and I lift heavy”

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Emotional roller coaster of crossfit and weight loss

Past few days were very emotional for me. The ups and downs of building career in the financial world while devoting all of my free time to weightlifting, crossfit and weight loss have just started to show their true colours. It’s not easy and I almost want to give up.

The most frustrating of the past few days was making a decision not to compete at the European Inferno in Cardiff. My first ever competition in Crossfit and I had to pull out of it 2 weeks before it’s taking place due to my wrist injury.

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How did I arrive to this decision?

Through tears, through number of conversations with my training partner and team buddy for the said competition, through lots of resistance from my side, through a few physio sessions and hard training sessions checking my current abilities and most importantly through a lot of physical pain in my wrist.

Why did I decide to pull out?

It was probably the most sensible decision made in the past few years. I am not a person who enjoys sitting on the side lines and assuming a spectator spot especially if I trained hard to compete in the competition I will end up attending as a supporter and not athlete. The excitement of competing drove my training and influenced my programming, so this was not the easiest of decisions to make.

It was a moment of sanity influenced by professional fellow athletes who like me, once were injured (if not more than once) and knew that I am not fit to compete and would only injure myself more in the process and that would cause a long-term injury with inability to train AT ALL for at least 6 months.

Benefits of that sober moment when you DO THE RIGHT THING despite this being the MOST PAINFUL decision:

1. Avoiding further damage to my wrist and potentially preventing more injuries

2. Allowing current injury to heal properly

3. Refocusing for another competition (October 2014 – Inov8 Trials in Manchester) with my training and programming

4. Learning to listen to my body’s signals

5. Becoming a spectator at the fantastic event which will allow me to breathe in even more motivation for my future competitions

As my emotions were running high and consumption of sugars on a day of making a decision was significantly higher than usual, the positives of all bad situations appeared on the horizon and I decided to look up, wipe my tears and follow the ray of light shining from the end of the tunnel.

The good news which arrived included my first ever photo shoot for Women’s Health magazine and a good training session in crossfit with mastering of my 1st strict pull up ever!

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Onwards and upwards with setbacks being new comebacks.

I am a girl and I lift heavy

Crossfit Games – late night watching and snacking

So the time has come. The Crossfit Games 2014 are upon us! Sadly due to time difference those unfortunate who did not obtain tickets to watch it LIVE will have to put up with a live stream on their computers or ESPN.  The stream starts 5pm GMT and ends around 3am in the morning.

Those who can stay up will have to be glued on their screens till early hours. So, what are the benefits of watching amazing athletes  and the fittest on earth?

They are inspirational! I wouldn’t want to miss Rich Fronning, Annie Thorisdottir, Denae Brown and inspirational Elisabeth Akinwale and many more amazing athletes.

They are strong!

They go beyond what many crossfit athletes dream of and aspire to!

Besides all the athletes, the WODs are something to look at and learn from whether you are the athlete or a coach. This year’s WODs are not a surprise but a combination of long distance running and swimming with our good old classics which can’t be missed in any Crossfit WOD – burpees and thrusters!

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But, what are you going to do with your own training routine during next 4-5 days? Are you going to stick to your morning training after spending a night glued on the screen being envious and excited to watch the impossible becoming possible?

Are you going to give into late night snacking? What will you snack on?

There are ways to combine your own routine with this exceptional TV coverage.

1. move your trainings to more suitable times (i.e. evenings if you are going to stay up late)

2. visit the website games.crossfit.com for schedules and WODs and select those that you will definitely want to watch

3. go to sleep if you are having a long day ahead – there is ARCHIVE which you can watch online after the events

4. Don’t snack too late and if you really can’t stop or hold yourself have something light or sip on a cup of green tea! Personally, I will have nearly empty jar of cashew nut butter hidden for the worst cravings.

5. Don’t forget to drink lots of water

Enjoy the Games and keep lifting!

 

I am a girl and I lift heavy x

Whole30 certified! What next?

My last day of Whole30 was spent in sunny Spain where I am on a business trip. To my surprise it was going well for me until my colleague decided to have a McDonald’s for lunch. Cruel! Especially when you have to sit opposite him watching (and smelling) his finger licking food. Luckily I resisted and put my sunnies on, ignored the smell of fried gluten and watched passerbys enjoying their milkshakes in a 30 degree heat.

So despite temptations I completed 30 days of an elimination diet which most of whole30 fans believe is a lifestyle change and the very beginning of a healthy clean eating for life!

I’ve learnt that 30 days of controlled clean eating is not an impossible challenge. I am very happy and proud of myself as I didn’t believe I could do it. Now I’ve done it, completed, finished I feel accomplished but also in the same time I feel as if I’ve reached some sort of a target and I am not too sure what next.

The challenge was accepted 30 days ago and 30 days later there seem to be no celebration with trash and binge eating as I thought would be in order when I was embarking on this long journey. I feel like I could continue. In fact I want to continue. So, should I start another 30 days?

No

The next stage, which is not reached by many is to start reintroducing the foods which were eliminated initially. Reintroduction must be done in a timely manner i.e. One day with dairy and two days without. Only reintroduce one food at a time. The purpose behind this (as my training partner Kim, who has now fully reintroduced everything, noted to me) is to observe your body’s reaction to foods which were eliminated. It might take up to two days to see how you get on with dairy or gluten free grains. So, this stage might take another 10 days or more before returning to “normal”. What’s normal though?

To me, the normal is gluten free life. Post Whole30 it is also dairy free life.

What I’ve missed on Whole30 and what will be returning to my food diary:
– protein shakes – I never drink more than three a week, but they are my fall back nutrients needed after training when I am lazy and tired to cook – they are good when needing a speedy recovery. I carefully choose my protein shakes and try to buy good quality ones and pay a bit more as it’s worth it
– gluten free grains – breakfast granola is something I miss when I train in the
morning. Easily prepared and quickly consumed offering great start to my day
– coconut yoghurt (contains a small portion of tapioca starch)
– occasional treat – when you train hard to achieve something in the gym or even at work – treat is a really good way to recognise these efforts. Whole 30 taught me to not do this but I disagree and don’t want to carry on without recognising and celebrating successes (I hope this doesn’t read that I won’t continue being disciplined and).

What will NOT be returning to my food diary:
– refined sugar (in many ways sugar is nasty). I have avoided fizzy drinks for long time now but occasionally sneaked in brown sugar to my coffee or tea. I also have a sweet tooth for chocolate, but with the whole30 I learnt to appreciate natural sweet flavours – ie sweet potato really is sweet, berries are sweet too, ginger is sweet and spicy… Before whole30 I couldn’t think of any of these being sweet enough for me.
– rice – being gluten free with celiac d. means that rice is used to substitute gluten. I used to eat rice cakes believing they are the healthiest thing in the world – they are not. So, I am leaving rice out as much as I can for as long as I can.
– alcohol (!) – a big shout! Especially from somebody with a big social network and job which requires meeting clients for lunches, dinners and drinks. I’ve decided that it has to stay out of my day to day life and the only allowed consumption is on holidays.
– many other foods and preservatives such as soya, maize, colourings etc etc the list of individual ingredients goes on and on… I only listed a few major groups

What have I learnt?
– discipline
– focus
– cooking the new way
– preparation and planning
– timing meals and planning portions according to body’s output

Whole30 in figures:
This is the bit where many go wrong. They ask me how much have I lost? It was not a diet to start with, I didn’t intend to lose anything.

I am still a size 8 as I was when I started and I prefer it as it is expensive to drop sizes because you have to replenish your wardrobe again.

The only major difference is my tummy is not bloated and is flat.
My face and skin have a healthy glow and complexion.
I go to sleep and wake up in the same time without having to take any sleeping support.
I am only tired or fatigued because I upped my training levels during the whole30 and that might not be advisable but I still did it.

It was well worth it and the whole30 comes highly recommended by me. I am not enforcing anyone to do it I am just referring to it as a very good mental and physical test for anyone of any age or size.

Good luck!

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