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Charliiy Berry journal: how to get through injury

Rider journals 2021: Charliiy Berry #01/February

Charliiy Berry is one of nine riders keeping a journal for The British Continental in 2021. Charliiy rides for the new Pro-Noctis – Redchilli Bikes – Heidi Kjeldsen team and is a full-time physiotherapist. In her first installment, Charliiy reveals her tips for getting through injury, something she has become well-accustomed to of late…

I’m learning my lesson: it’s definitely not more efficient to open doors while on the rollers

It seems like everyone else was out and about in December and January, getting the base miles in. I was hoping to be writing about something a little more interesting, updating you with some cool adventures of doing the same. That was the original plan, at least, until I broke a small bone in my wrist – called a scaphoid – a week before Christmas. It’s a common injury after a ‘FOOSH’ (fall on outstretched hand), a natural reaction when you fall. You may think it’s such a small bone, it can’t be that important, but as a physio and a cyclist, I am fairly reliant on pain-free use of my hands and wrists!

I like to think I’m being efficient. When you’re training, working, doing the horses and trying to keep all your other ‘plates spinning’, you have to be. I’m learning my lesson: it’s definitely not more efficient to open doors while on the rollers… I should work on being more ‘present’ and stop trying to do all the things at once. It seems like a real buzz word at the moment. Something I like the idea of, but struggle to manage. 

I guess part of being a good athlete, especially a cyclist, is adapting to a situation. So what to do now…? I’m fairly well practiced at bouncing back after injury. Last year I ended up in a pile-up at the Rás, the typical touch of wheels elsewhere in the group sending everyone flying. I had a long list of injuries including: fractured ribs front and back; fractured scapula; fractured head of radius; hairline fracture to ASIS (top of your pelvis); mild concussion; mild internal bleeding; bruising to organs-; ligament damage to finger; wrist-damage to tendons of the rotator cuff; the tiniest bit of road rash; bulging discs in the neck; and irritation to the nerve into my left arm causing loss of sensation.

So I got my dinner tray back out, configured a really fancy turbo set up which meant that I wasn’t bearing weight through my wrist. I even added a light-up tree for extra motivation and team photos from the Tour Series, my favourite racing.

Photo: Charliiy Berry

As a physio and regular doer of stupid things, you become accustomed to managing such mishaps. So I have put together some of my top tips for getting through injury:

  • Find your ‘why’ and use it. Why do you do cycle? This may have a few layers to it. For me it does, at least. I like to be outside being one of them. I can’t do that now, so instead, I go for walks, spend time in my garden or with my horses. It’s not quite the same, granted, but it’s enough to keep me going. You can also use your why when motivation gets low. When you’re injured, motivation comes in waves. When the going gets tough it’s important to have a reason to keep going. 
  • From a physio: do your physio and if you don’t have a physio, get one (other therapist types are available!). I am incredibly lucky to work in a clinic that supports me at work and on the bike. A physio is a great asset to have as part of your support team. 
  • Give yourself purpose. Find a new hobby, depending on your injury this could be something like walking or it may need to be more stationary. If you have a physio and you want to remain active ask for advice on what you can do and should avoid. 
  • Make a plan, set goals, short and long term. I spoke to my coach, Peter, and Rick our team manager changing our plans for the next few weeks. I also made a plan with our team sports psychologist Steve. 
  • Don’t forget the basics of recovery; sleep, nutrition and de-stressing. I have an app that helps me with guided mindfulness sessions which I have found really useful during this period. 
  • Remain social. If you would normally go on a club run on the weekend and you know you’ll be off the bike for a while, arrange to still go in a different way or use the time to see friends and family you wouldn’t normally get to see. When you have an injury it’s so easy to isolate yourself and even more so in recent times with lockdowns. 
  • Learn about your injury. I am forever explaining injuries to my patients, knowledge is power. It gives you back some of the control you lose with an injury. 
  • Now is not the time to focus on losing weight. I repeat, NOT THE BLOODY TIME! Healing requires energy. It’s a common misconception that I have seen a lot of.  
  • Remain focused on what you can do and not what you’re missing out on. This may mean deleting things like Strava! One of the best things about my job is helping people realise the things they can do. It’s not always how or what they imagined but it opens so many options. 
  • Get support. We all have a support team, everyone’s is shaped a bit differently. It doesn’t matter who is in yours, just use it!
  • Honour your feelings. I felt angry, stupid, that I had been so sensible elsewhere yet done something so stupid. I felt as though I had let others down. A lot of the feelings I had post-injury on both recent occasions weren’t nice feelings. However, I think sometimes you just have to sit with them. It’s the first step to moving through them. 
  • Lastly – and not required for everyone – look into the boring adult details of insurance and sick pay. The last thing you need to add to the stress of an injury is worrying about how to pay your bills. 

Hopefully, you won’t be needing the above anytime soon! Abi ended with some impressive goals for 2021. I guess mine has to start with staying on the bike! Like many, I have been a little fed up with the constant stream of curve balls the past year seems to have provided. I like to think I am a fairly positive person, or maybe I’m just stubborn and refuse to give up. Here’s to hoping that 2021 gets better, and that riding with friends and racing returns. Maybe we’ll even get a little sunshine! 

Featured photo: Bob MacGregor

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Rider journals 2021: introducing Charliiy Berry

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