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A few weeks ago I woke up in Girona, my European base, and commenced my usual morning ritual —the social media check — before getting out of bed. You are, after all, only safe to get out of bed when you have scrolled all the way back to the last post you saw before you went to bed. Who knows what sort of social chaos would ensue if you weren’t to see Kim Kardashian’s latest series of selfies, missed that perfect quote you could screen shot to beautifully capture your current mood, or failed to comment ‘relationship goals’ on your BBFs photo with her boyfriend?
Anthony Heyward, passionate cyclist, vegetarian, 80s rock music and coffee lover, wanted to know what tools I used to stay motivated and upbeat when ill or injured.
I tweeted back instantly, answering goal setting and maintaining a balance are both very important, but the reality was, until two weeks ago, I had navigated my career relatively injury and illness free barring a hip niggle in 2013 and the usual winter cold. Unlike when I was asked for tips on hill climbing for non-climbers, I wasn’t speaking from personal experience.
I remember thinking: “That could be an interesting topic to tackle for my next blog.” Less than two weeks later I found myself in the emergency ward of Georges-Pompidou Hospital in Paris awaiting surgery and contemplating Anthony’s exact question again, but this time for myself.
I had survived the carnage that was La Course and helped my teammate Jolien d’Hoore to second despite crashing in the fourth lap and puncturing in the penultimate lap, but later that night I cut my hand on a piece of broken glass, severing three tendons and doing nerve and artery damage to my left hand.
After the initial pain and shock wore off, I came to the realisation that my season was over. It would be six to eight weeks until I could ride on the road again, and there was only seven weeks left of the season. I realise it’s only bike racing, but I was distraught as I saw my goals for the rest of the season slip away from me.
What do I do now?
It’s not just professional athletes who get injured and are faced with this question, as Anthony’s tweet shows.
Just yesterday Mum read me an email from a member of her riding group. Her friend wouldn’t be able to ride with the girls this weekend or any weekend in the near future. In an act of competitiveness, she had bet her family she would beat them home if she ran. She would have too, if she hadn’t tripped on a gutter and broken her hand.
Regardless of which riding category you fit into — ‘pro’, ‘club’, ‘coffee’ — there are a few tools anyone and everyone can use if they’re ever confronted with the injury or illness induced question of ‘what now?’
1. Goal set: give yourself a recovery time frame and small achievable goals along the way.
Injuries can make you feel like a cyclist in winter while everyone else around you is enjoying summer, which can make it hard to find motivation to get back to where you once were. So establish a timeline early on with your doctor or whoever is helping you in the recovery process. Whether it’s two weeks or two months, your head needs to know there’s an end goal.
2. Don’t become consumed with, and by, your injury.
It would be too easy to throw a pity party for yourself. I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for the first week but after I’d set my timeline I knew I had to try and remain positive and balanced about things. Try not to let your injury or illness dictate everything. Keep your mind off it by hanging out with family and friends. I’ve renamed myself Chloe the Claw. Laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it?
3. Try to find a routine.
I like routine. It gives me structure and I feel good when I get crap done. Avoid the black hole of injury by trying to establish a routine early in the recovery process.
4. Don’t suffer alone.
While this somewhat alludes to the idea of talking to people about how you’re feeling, I’m more channeling my competitive Floyd Mayweather side than my empathetic Oprah Winfrey.
Earlier this year my friend Bori hit a kangaroo as he flew down Red Hill in Canberra and broke his shoulder. He was confined to the indoor trainer for three months, which is enough to drain even the most enthusiastic of motivation. Fortunately, after a few trainer sessions on his balcony, he discovered a neighbour who had broken his collarbone was on the same trainer program. Bori’s competitive instinct kicked in and he always made sure he did a good 15 minutes more than his across the balcony neighbour.
Since being home I’ve conned at least four people into walking with me. While they may have thought it was to catch up, it was definitely because I didn’t want to exercise in the harsh Canberra winter and battle my injury alone.
Let’s be clear: I am not an expert. I have no medical qualifications. But sometimes it’s nice to know someone else has been there and done there (or, in my case, is there and is doing that). This is how I’m tackling my recovery. What tips can you add from your recovery?
Chloe Hosking is a professional cyclist riding for Wiggle Honda. The Australian found cycling as a pre-teen and spent her early years on the bike riding around Canberra with her dad. Chloe took an untraditional path to Europe, self-funding trips to ride with composite teams and club teams at international races. She hopes that her success inspires other Australian women to recognize the multiple pathways to European racing.