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Recovery Techniques for Athletes: A Pole Vaulter's Perspective


Injuries happen to all athletes at some point in their careers, disrupting training and hindering performance when you least expect it.

The fear of backtracking and the painstaking process of starting anew can be annoying and overwhelming, and picking up any injury can quickly kill your motivation. If you're struggling to keep afloat after your injuries, then you're in luck, as I'm here to help you keep your chin up!

There lies an art in finding a balance between safeguarding physical weakness and preserving peak physical condition whilst honing pole vault technique – and morale needs to be intact all the while.

In this blog, I will share my insight on how to expedite recovery and minimise the decline in physicality. 

NOTE: This blog can apply to pole vault and all athletics events.


Male Physio Therapist Giving Sports Massage


Firstly, if your injury is more than just a “niggle”, I would absolutely advise seeing a physio or someone who can give a diagnosis.

This can be a costly procedure, although it may make the difference between worsening an injury and ending your season or rehabilitating within two weeks and going on to smash your season – that is worth more than just one £50 session. 

Your physio will likely give you a diagnosis, a plan of action, a pain management level, and some rehab exercises. Afterwards, you will be well informed about what you should or shouldn't be doing at training. Consequently, you can use this knowledge to speed up recovery and plan ways to maintain peak physical condition without deteriorating.

However, if your injury is just a niggle, you may want to judge it yourself and train in a way which avoids further aggravation, until it self-corrects. If you are unsure, it is wiser to play it safe – the last thing you want is a sudden hamstring tear because you were ignoring a persistent cramp.

Often, however, niggles are just minor inconveniences which you can tell are not threatening to your upcoming competitions. In this instance, your primary goal should be to avoid worsening them.

Athlete Experiencing Knee Pains


Establishing a level of pain which is deemed manageable is always essential. 

Doing this could be strictly advised by your doctor/physio or figured out by yourself and your coach. If your physio instructs you to train but not to do any exercises which exceed a 3/10 pain rating – then do so. Following this, you can select which exercises to incorporate into training at your current stage of recovery and then review this every week. 

Doing so means you can safely progress and increase your training intensity without the risk of a severe setback caused by incremental advances. For example, if bounding was out of the question at the beginning of your injuries, but after three weeks you can double leg hop with less than a 3/10 pain rating, you may introduce low-level bounding into the next week of the programme. 


It's important to note that everyone will have their own established pain level, depending on the injury. Some bone or joint-related problems might need to be kept below a 1/10 pain, whilst other injuries could be acceptable to reach up to even a 5/10.

Sometimes, small amounts of pain are okay to train through - as long as a physio has advised this and you feel comfortable in your training. If not, judge the pain management yourself and absolutely air on the side of caution. There's nothing worse than running through pain for four weeks to see no improvement and then understanding all you needed was a week or two of no loading to give your injury a chance to heal. 

Ultimately, your judgement is paramount as you are the one who can feel your body and tell if something is wrong. Physios are amazing, but not always miracle workers. The diagnosis and recommendations they give you are not always 100% accurate - so listen to your body.


Physiotherapist Treating Male Athlete Patient


How do you maintain physical shape whilst you are injured? Well, there are a few things you will want to consider, first and foremost...

  • You don't want to become slow and have to start from square one again.
  • You don't want to lose all your muscular strength because you've stopped training.
  • You don't want to forget how to pole vault because you've stopped practising.

At the same time, you don't want to take any risks which might slow you down from recovering!

Integrated rehab is a great way to speed up the recovery process without it being as monotonous as usual. It is also an effective way of mixing your rehab with general fitness training. For instance, an injured athlete who cannot yet return to running will have to find other means of keeping their cardiovascular system working. 

A circuit containing general strength and rehab exercises will seamlessly aid recovery and contribute to fitness. Furthermore, you can add this circuit to multiple parts of a program. Integrating rehabilitation into other training sessions can also speed up recovery. On top of this, having loaded rehab exercises mixed with the programmed weights session will take the athlete's bulletproofing to the next level.

Female Athlete on Cross Trainer


Engaging in alternative forms of exercise that avoid stressing the injured area can be immensely beneficial, while non-impact training is favourable for boosting fitness levels (without causing reinjury). 

Using the cross-trainer, watt-bike, aqua jogging, or Alter-G (or low-G treadmill) is imperative to completing running training while injured – which is imperative for a pole vaulter (as speed is crucial). 

If an injury prevents an athlete from completing a running session, simply missing out on it should not be an option. 

For example, if the track session was supposed to be two sets of 6x150m with 3 mins between reps, you can substitute this with two sets of 6x17 seconds on a watt-bike, and 3 mins rest. This is just one comparison, but you can use creativity to cater to the injury type and its limitations (for example, doing a cross-trainer session to replace a long running session as it is less quad-dominant than the bike, or sprinting on a curved treadmill because the impact on flat ground is unmanageable).

Granted, some of these machines may be difficult to access (such as the Alter-G). However, you can be creative and find a way to replicate the initially proposed session with a subsidiary, which is absolutely crucial to keeping physical condition intact. 

"It is so easy to miss a session because my injury won't permit it." This is the mindset of somebody who does not want it bad enough. If you want to succeed and come out of the other end of your injury in the best condition possible, you must find ways to replace the compromised training sessions. Yes, the benefits of a non-impact session (or injury-management equivalent) may not provide all the advantages of what the original session would have – but it's either that or 0% of the benefits!


Female Athlete Thinking in the Gym


Mental imagery can also prove effective in maintaining your pole-vaulting technique, even during physical inactivity. 

Consider visualising each step of your vault, from the take-off to the clearance over the bar. This mental rehearsal helps maintain neural connections and fine-tunes muscle memory, hopefully making your eventual return to the pit less “rusty” and keeping the action of pole vault fresh in your head.

When transitioning from rehabilitation to active pole vault training, it is vital to be cautious and employ strategic tapering. Gradually reintroduce pole vault-specific exercises under the watchful eye of your coach or physio's advice. By implementing this gradual approach, you will mitigate the risk of reinjury while allowing your body to readjust to the technical nuances.


Happy Female Athlete


Holistically, your attitude defines your recovery. If you truly believe you will never be able to pole vault again, what use is there in trying? You need to believe in your body's ability and have faith that you can recover. Once you can do this, you will overcome your negative thoughts and continue to grow as an athlete. Otherwise, you will always hold yourself back and subconsciously put less effort into your rehab exercises, rest, nutrition, medication and so on.

To establish a good mindset for your recovery, you first need to ask yourself how important the sport is to you. If you conclude that athletics isn't the number one facet of your life - that is okay - but it is still critical to recognise if it is a priority because this will determine your effort level and enthusiasm for recovery. If the sport falls somewhere with your main life goals – great. You have reminded yourself of its value, and you will hopefully respect the recovery journey and keep your head focused on the future as you do so. 

If instead, you conclude it is not overly important to you but still have a great deal of fun doing the sport, you can confide in the fact that you do not have the pressure of being a professional athlete, and you can stay relaxed and stress-free during your time out from competing. Keeping your head held high will always benefit you regardless of your passion or objectives. If that means you need to remind yourself of your long-term aims, or watch back videos of you jumping PBs to boost your morale, then go ahead and do it. Do whatever it takes to boost your confidence!

Pole Vaulter in the Sun


Discipline is also a massive factor. If you decide you are passionate and want to do everything you can to recover optimally, discipline will warrant this.

You have to be able to complete the training and the rehab regardless of how you feel emotionally. Additionally, your attitude will always fluctuate – some days you'll be determined to maximise your recovery and go the extra mile, and other days you'll feel like giving up or doing the bare minimum. Enjoy the boredom, pain, and monotony anyway – even if you don't feel like doing it. Once you have trained yourself to complete your tasks regardless of your feelings towards something, you'll be on the best road to return. As de-motivating as the injury life is, feel fortunate that you have the chance to make a comeback in the first place.

The first few days or weeks are pertinent to setting habits. Instilling discipline into your recovery journey right from the beginning is pivotal. It may seem easy to do your stretches and exercises, but it is also easy not to do. Once you form a strict routine, which you follow without failure, you've conquered that initial discipline.

Owen Heard exercising in gym


From a personal standpoint, I, unfortunately, incurred a foot injury caused by rolling my ankle. After four months, I still couldn't jog on it. Initially, I was disheartened and questioned if I'd return to jumping, but I quickly realised that this attitude wouldn't help me recover. I stopped wasting my energy on these thoughts and just accepted the injury for what it was. I smiled through the recovery process, and although it took much longer to recover than initially proposed, I used the opportunity to train as much as possible in areas I wouldn't have done so during my regular programme. 

I also tried to work on what weaknesses I could whilst I was away from running and vaulting. Though the journey was somewhat of a setback, I still kept on great physical form, and my return to vaulting was much better than what it would have been, had I not maintained a confident mindset.


Hopefully, this blog was insightful, and you can take something away from it which might help next time you're faced with the challenge of injuries!


Owen Heard Pole Vaulter Neuff Athletic Blog

Owen has been pole vaulting for many years, and you may recall seeing him compete in the Men's Pole Vault Final in last year's Commonwealth Games for Team England.

He is also a hurdler and a Team Pacer athlete, making him incredibly knowledgeable and skilled at what he does, especially as he's only 21 years old!

Instagram: @owen_heard


Pacer Vault Poles

At the moment, we stock Pacer One and FXV poles, both of which are superior choices for vaulting and are loved by athletes worldwide, including Owen!

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