10 Tips for Healing as a Crazy (me, not you) Gluten Free Injured Athlete

If you are on the GFF Facebook or Twitter, you may have heard me complaining.

Last week I twisted my ankle and fell, giving myself a grade two ankle sprain.  I heard and felt the dreaded “pop” as I fell.  Luckily, I landed softly in the hedge.  Jeff was home to help me up, so I headed back inside, rinsed off my travel coffee mug, grabbed an ice pack, and off to work I went.

Not quite a week later and I feel much better.  Swelling is minimal, range of motion is almost equal to the other side, and the feeling of instability is subsiding.

I have learned through my experience with multiple knee surgeries, that it is much preferable to let an injury heal properly, and then return to activity.  Rushing it is not worth it.  Future injuries are much more likely if the original was not allowed to heal.  However, I am also an athlete, and so when injured get a bit cranky.

Tips for the Injured Gluten Free Athlete

My friend Kim (aka Bootsie) at Gluten Free is Life has been dealing with a stress fracture in her foot for several months now, and she is dealing phenomenally well with the change in her routine.  After the first round of anger, disappointment, and frustration, she is channeling her efforts in a new physical manner.  (I am very happy to report that she is resistance training.  I am a lover of the iron myself, but Kim is more of an endurance athlete.  This is a change for her, and one she is embracing beautifully.)

Given both my own and Kim’s recent experiences with being injured, and my past of having extensive injuries, I decided it was high time I wrote a few tips to help keep yourself sane, and speed along your healing when injured.

The 5 Physical Tips:

  • In an acute injury, RICE.

  • Rest-self explanatory
  • Ice-10-20 minutes at a time, make sure to have 1 layer of cloth between your skin and the ice/ice pack.
  • Compression-if needed and swelling is apparent, you can wrap the affected part with an elastic wrap. Don’t pull too tight, you don’t want to cut off your circulation.
  • Elevation-this is where you get your affected body part up above the level of your torso.  Think-prop your leg up on a bunch of pillow with the remote control or a book.  “Honey-can you get me some tea?  I have my leg elevated with ice on it.”
  • Gently move the affected part within a pain free range of motion as much and as often as possible.  Rule of thumb in general: is it hurts, don’t do it.
  • Be sure to maximize your nutrition.  Eat high quality, bang for caloric buck food. This is not the time to try to lose fat.  Do not restrict calories.  You need calories to help rebuild and repair.  Shoot to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight on a daily basis.  Stay well hydrated
  • Sleep.  Lots.
  • Consider supplementation. Ideally you are getting a ton of great nutrition from your food, but these are a few that I have found helpful.  They are not necessary by any stretch, but they may help.  Many athletes will take advantage of any edge to potentially get back to sport quicker.  Of course, please always check with your medical professional.  So, in no particular order:
  • L-glutamine-a conditionally essential amino acid.

L-Glutamine is especially interesting to celiacs, as it appears to be heavily absorbed in the gut and aid in gut health.  It’s been anecdotally used in the strength community for recovery for a long time, but the research does not back that up.  Research does show it is absorbed primarily in the gut-which for us is a good thing, as healthy gut=more nutrients absorbed=optimal healing.  I wrote about L-glutamine as a supplement for gut health here.

  • Good food. I know I said it already, but it really is that important.

The 5 Mental Tips

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

It’s OK to recognize, accept, and then move through each one of these phases.

  • Take charge of your return to wellness. Plan it out.  Give yourself control.  What CAN you do?  Focus on the activities you can do, and set goals for yourself based on those activities.  No negative connotations.  This is not bad, it’s just different.  Your injury may have been out of your control, but you can certainly control your path back to sport.  Make concrete plans and a blueprint for your recovery.
  • Be positive. This sounds silly, but visualize your return to doing what you love.  I also imagine a tiny little construction crew inside my body, repairing, spackling, repainting all the busted up bits.  Visualize sending healing light and the nutrients from your food to the injured area.  I know, it sounds trippy, but I’ve found it helpful.  Laugh if you wish, I completely understand.  Don’t get me wrong, you have to also take the appropriate action to make yourself well.  All the visualization in the world won’t make a bit of difference if you are passed out on the couch with an empty package of sugar laden gluten free donuts and a 5th of vodka.
  • Set yourself up for success. Be realistic when setting your timeframes for progress and return to sport.  Guidelines given by your doctor, therapist or other health professional are given for a reason.  It truly does take time for healing to occur, and regardless of how much we maximize our healing, we can only speed it up so much.  To some extent, time must pass.

In a perfect world, we would never get injured.

Chances are good that at one point in your life, you will be forced to take a step back.  When that happens, arm yourself with these tips to keep your sanity, and the sanity of those around you.

If you’re new to GFF, please make sure to check out Gluten Free and Fit 101.  And the ebook is finally done!  Check out “7 Tips for Living a Healthy Gluten Free Life (without making yourself nuts in the process.)” Feedback has been awesome, and for that I thank you.

In the words of Helen Keller: ““Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Share your injury tips in the comments!

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  1. Kim says:

    Excellent article!!! Thank you for including my story here as well. This is fitting, as I go to the dr tomorrow to see how my foot is doing and where to go from here. Hopefully I won’t be revisiting any of those stages of grief!


  2. Erin says:

    Hey Kim!
    You have been a shining example of the sane way to handle injury :)
    Good luck at the doc!

  3. Chris says:

    Erin – as someone that is training for an event, I appreciate all the detail you have presented here. Just this week I have started to experience some knee pain (from overuse I believe) and am glad to have a well-defined process for addressing any future injury issues.

    I have a question for you–do you have a particular (gluten free) multi-vitamin that you recommend? Or, if that is something you cover in your e-book just point me there.

    Thanks again for all you do and I hope you are back to full strength in no time.

  4. Erin says:

    Hey Chris!
    Take care of that knee now-ice, foam roll, stretch, active mobility work.
    As far as a multi, in general I really like NOW Foods products. They very clearly label their products with any potential allergens and follow GMP (good manufacturing principles) to avoid cross contamination. They have a couple varieties of multi, and they’re always well priced. Iherb.com has some good prices. Also, I did a review of Rockwell Nutrition, who’s multi I am currently using.
    Thanks for the good wishes-I am back to about 92% capacity ;)

  5. [...] wrote a great article about how to handle being an injured, gluten-free athlete. Excellent read. Unfortunately she and I [...]

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