The Mental Side of Injury Recovery


Posted by Coach Jamie Brown

Not too long ago I found myself in a situation that I had not been in for more than 20 years. I developed an infection in the worst possible spot for an amputee that prevented me from wearing my prosthetic leg. While this specific injury might be unique to amputees, it got me thinking as an athlete and a coach and how to help athletes deal with injury and setbacks.

It’s not easy to handle! How did we even get here? And where do we go from here?

Generally, injuries happen in one of two ways when it comes to triathlon training.

  1. Traumatic injury -  This is an immediate unforeseen incident that can happen without any notice. An example would be a bike crash or twisted ankle. 
  2. Slow progressive injury - This is a nagging sore spot that grows into something more significant over time. Examples include a stress fracture or shoulder tendonitis. 

These situations don’t discriminate between elite or age-group athletes. We are all susceptible. 

Regardless of how we got to this point what are some productive ways to deal with an injury.

  1. Recognize that it's perfectly normal to be upset. I see a lot of athletes (myself included) trying to be a tough guy. Being this way does not change the situation and only slows the recovery process. Don’t be afraid to talk to others about your feelings.
  2. Accept what is. Injury opens the door to think about “what could have been.” You see this in all sports -- if only we didn’t have this happen or “if this.” Well, it did happen. Look for other opportunities to help in the sport in other ways. 
  3. Make new short term goals. When we get injured or taken away from our sport it can feel like doomsday. Sit down with coach and adjust your goals to get your mind focused on accomplishing something else.
  4. Continue to work out! It might not be what your used to. But you can modify or focus your training in other areas if possible. You can mentally rehearse training days and events. Practice working on your weaknesses. Keeping your mind fresh will help your transition back into exercise once your cleared.
  5. Seek out your training partners and teammates. Don’t disengage from the group, team, or community. Injured or not, we work together to accomplish our goals.
  6. Be patient! Its important not to rush this. You need allow your body to recover fully and coming back early usually results in a cycle of injuries due to compensation.

Injuries happen. How you choose to manage the mental side of the recovery is up to you!


Coach Jamie Brown is based in Bend, Oregon and is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach as well as certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine for CPT, PES and CES. Jamie currently races in the Elite ITU Paratriathlon Series and is a two-time National Champion, two-time XTERRA World Championship qualifier and has 10 years of Personal Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach experience. Jamie was also a collegiate pitcher for for Orange Coast College and Chapman University. Contact Coach Jamie at

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