The concept of injury recovery can seem depressing to all athletes, whether injured or not. I can remember the sports medicine room at my university and the collection of injured athletes from all different sports. We were the “broken” and some of the healthy athletes avoided the room all together in fear of injury being contagious. However, we all know that injury is a part of sport and the recovery process can be a very informative experience in understanding yourself better as an athlete. Though sometimes unpleasant, injury allows a great deal of time for reflection. In injury your body provides a clear message that the pace of your life and sport needs to slow down and begin to heal.
Recovery can be a very frustrating process because athletes quickly go from being very active to doing nothing. However, it is recommended to think of recovery as an active process rather than a passive one. One of the most effective ways to become active in the process of recovery is to engage in the process of goal setting. Goal setting is a part of athletes’ and coaches’ every-day training and should be included in the training regimen for injured athletes as well.
Following Smith’s (1994) SMART Goals create goals that follow guidelines to set you up for success. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time-based. So, an example of a smart goal would be to complete rehabilitation exercises every day for two weeks. This goal is specific because the exercises would be specifically assigned, measurable because the exercises are numbered or timed, it is action oriented, realistic, and time-based.
Remember these three things when using goal setting in injury recovery:
- Write it down. Write your goals down in a journal or a calendar. This can help you keep track of your progress and represent your commitment to yourself.
- Be flexible. Allow yourself to return to a goal to re-evaluate how realistic it is for you.
- Find support. Goal setting is a much more effective and fun process when you know that you have additional support to give you encouragement or just listen when you need to talk about your experience.