Giant Ambassador and GB Triathlete Ben Dijkstra is no stranger to injury - he's suffered a number of unfortunate setbacks over the years. Despite this, he's bounced back stronger each time as he seeks to make the step to the elites. Here, he gives us his top tips for dealing with an injury and managing the recovery period.
Dealing With An Injury
For an injury of any severity, it is essential to flag the issue and realise that something could be wrong. Whether it's something small, such as a bit of localised tightness, or something worse like a strain, if your body is attempting to tell you something it's worth acknowledging.
From personal experience, it's the hardest part of being an athlete as all I want to do is keep training but sometimes your body simply can’t take it. I’m reluctant using the “I’ word (injured) as it is never something I want to hear, but coming to this realisation sooner rather than later can often speed up the recovery process.
Once the injury has been flagged and assessed, it’s crucial to understand the severity. There is little point in treating something as severe as a stress fracture with similar caution to a sore foot, so the rehab process needs to be set out accordingly. It's important for complete transparency and clarity during this process.
One of the blessings is that it can provide a mental break from certain areas in your training. With a positive mindset, it can open up new opportunities and you can sometimes target other specific areas to work on. For me, I have strengthened my swim and bike when I have been unable to run.
This was a personal focus of mine, but not everything has to be centred on triathlon. Recently I have enjoyed photography as a small hobby, so this has been a nice escape to occupy my mind while I haven’t been able to run recently.
Lastly, I would say keep focusing on your long-term goal, whether it's a particular event or personal best. This will keep you in the right mindset which will have you counting down the days until your next competition.
Recovering from an injury
Recovering from an injury is an important part of the rehabilitation program and needs to be approached with caution. This is probably the last thing an athlete would like to hear, but from my own experience of rushing a recovery, I ended up out of action for much longer than I initially expected.
If you are fortunate enough to have a medical team around you, then I would certainly advise listening to their professional advice.
If professional help is not an option, then make sure you listen to your body with every progression. it should be a slow and gradual increase back to full training. I've found myself to be quite hypersensitive when returning to running and worrying if I can actually feel any symptoms or not, but this has helped me address small issues in my body and react accordingly.
Good nutrition and proper recovery are essential - this will undoubtedly aid the process by ensuring you get the correct nutrients. Also, getting plenty of sleep is important and will allow your body to repair itself faster.
Friends and family always want to see you happy and able to deliver your best in races, but they should be there to support you in difficult times as well. Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off them, whether it concerns training or anything else.
As long as you are staying positive and looking after your body, then the recovery period will fly by.