Injuries suck. There’s no doubt about it.
You recently rolled your ankle landing from a jump at ballet. You’ve had the injury assessed by your physiotherapist and they’ve set you a bunch of exercises to do at home. You conscientiously follow the physiotherapist’s advice for a couple of weeks, your symptoms settle and you return to your pre-injury activities. So you discontinue your physio homework. Three months later . . . you roll your ankle again, running to catch the tram to school, but this time more severely. Ouch!
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Health practitioners are great at what they do. But a truly great practitioner will empower you to self-manage your injury with specific strategies you can incorporate into your everyday life in order to reduce your symptoms, restore and retrain optimal function and reduce the chance of further damage occurring. Once the acute injury has been managed, maintaining motivation to persevere with those strategies can be really tricky, especially when you are no longer experiencing the negative effects of the injury.
Goal setting can help instil inspiration and foster diligence as you embark on a rehabilitative or fitness journey. Establishing small milestones for now, developing aims for next month and aspirations for beyond is a powerful tool in combatting complacency and providing incentive to persist. SMART goals are particularly effective:
In conjunction with your physiotherapist, target a precise area for improvement and be clear about how and why you are going to achieve it.
Define clear and quantifiable outcomes, which become indicators of progress. Seek tangible evidence of completion so you know you are on track.
Make sure goals are achievable; achievable goals encourage action, unachievable goals de-motivate. Set achievable goals that stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, ensuring you possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal.
Use goals to measure outcomes, not actions. How will you know if you have reached your desired outcome?
Establish a timeframe that creates a progressive and practical sense of urgency. Specify goals that produce tension between the current reality and the end vision of the goal. Without such tension, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome
To give you some examples, SMART goals for the dancer’s second ankle injury as described earlier might be:
Short term goal:
Reduce the pain, swelling and joint stiffness to regain normal functional movement, enabling pain-free walking without crutches and restore ease of activities of daily living within the first 1-2 weeks. The ‘knee to wall’ lunge measurement should be within 2cm of the other leg.
Medium term goal:
Implement an individualised home exercise program aiming for symmetrical range of movement, strength, stability and proprioception between the ankles in order to return to netball training by the end of week 4. Must be able to execute 25 consecutive single leg calf raises pain free prior to commencing allegro, and balance on that leg with eyes closed for 60 seconds prior to commencing pirouettes.
Long term goal:
Maintain the return to dance protocol consistently 3 to 4 times per week for 3 months.
Set SMART goals to achieve your desired results, and reward yourself appropriately when you succeed!