For National Recovery Month, Olympian Alix Klineman shares with KT Tape how mental health and physical health are equal challenges after injury.
"These days, my life looks quite a bit different than it did this time last year. By last fall, my tank (so to speak) was running on empty. It had been a long season highlighted with a successful Olympic campaign, but by the fall I was physically and mentally exhausted and trying to compete on an injured shoulder. It wasn’t easy to come home to fans expecting to see Olympic-level performances over and over, and so I’m really proud that April and I had the mental toughness to not only get through the season, but to perform up to our standards. But when off-season rolled around, I knew I had a lot of recovering to do. Initially, I held out hope that surgery could be avoided and I followed a strict rehab plan for 2 months. When the pain persisted, I made the call to get surgery and fix the rotator cuff tear that had been giving me grief for the last 5 months."
Injuries can make us feel worried and unsteady.
"I didn’t take the decision to get surgery lightly. After all, I had had shoulder surgery previously, and let me tell you, that recovery was rough. It was my first ever surgery, and nobody tells you the persisting pain that comes with a freshly repaired tendon. Not to mention the time it takes for it to strengthen and be able to operate normally again. And in my case, I had a team anxiously awaiting my return, which didn’t afford me any extra time to complete my recovery. The result was lingering pain for 5-6 years after my operation. And so you can imagine my disappointment, and fear, when I realized that once again I would have to undergo shoulder surgery. The thought, “how long would it take this time?” played in my head on repeat."
Everyone's recovery process is different.
"Because of this previous experience, I made the early decision to take this entire year off from competing. I didn’t want to cut short my recovery again and deal with the same enduring pain if I could avoid it. I wanted to give my shoulder the ideal timeline to recover so that when it was time to play again, I wouldn’t have any regrets. To my surprise, this recovery has been so much easier and smoother, at least physically speaking, than after my last surgery. Granted, different tissues were being repaired, but still. Seeing both the work and the patience pay off and result in a successful recovery has been the most gratifying experience. Stepping onto the court again to discover my shoulder can move just like before, but without the pain, has been such a relief."
Make mental health a priority during recovery.
"The hardest part of this rehab period has undoubtedly been how this new pace of life affected me mentally. I never realized just how good getting outside and moving every day was for my mental health. It was just part of my daily routine, and I never knew anything different. And so the first couple months after surgery I had “cabin fever” for sure. I was restless, anxious, and generally less happy. The lack of routine definitely took a toll on me.
I learned during this time just how much I thrive off of a full schedule and accomplishing something every day. And without my packed days and dedicated time for physical exertion, I wasn’t quite myself. I had to find ways to be busy and active. Walks on the beach became my new favorite form of exercise, partially because it was all I was cleared to do. It’s funny, because I used to take getting to work out for a living for granted. I often fixated on how tired I was, how nice it would be to skip a workout and sleep in.
But now? Now I go to the beach, so grateful I get to do something I love while getting a workout in at the same time, and head back home energized, fulfilled, and happy from the hard work I just put in. Understanding the balance and correlation between physical and mental health has been the biggest lesson for me during this time, and just the perspective I needed to get back out on the court."
If you're struggling with an injury or soreness, learn more about how KT Tape can help. Our products help Olympians and weekend warriors alike enjoy active lifestyles with fewer physical limitations.