Returning to the ride after an injury

Seven practical tips to get you back in the saddle

by Trish Drinkle

Megan Render, wearing a purple snowmobilers jacket and touque is standing in front of a snow covered bush on a sunny day.
Megan Render was unable to ride for much of the 2014-2015 season due to multiple car accidents. Photo courtesy Megan Render

Getting back in the snowmobile saddle after injury or illness can be a trying task. I remember gazing out of my hospital window at the fresh flakes falling on the streets below with extreme bitterness.

I’m not going to lie: I was quite the grumpy pants, knowing my husband and friends were out slaying fresh pow while I was hooked up to intravenous in the Creston Valley Hospital. Oh, how I wanted to be out with them.  

My shred sister—chute-climbing, boondocking guru Megan Render—was in relatively the same boat. Multiple concussions from car accidents left her unable to ride for much of the season as well. The inability to ride left both of us in a state of frustration. How did we cope? 

Wellness words of wisdom

  1. Keep everything in perspective. This is one season, one winter and simply a sport. “I knew if I didn’t give my body time to heal I wouldn’t be able to work," Megan said. "Work puts food on the table and pays the bills. I’m quite certain my boss wouldn’t appreciate if I couldn’t work because I further injured myself playing.” This holds true for many of us. While snowmobiling is a passion, focus on the big picture of life. 
  2. Do not rush healing time. Even if snow conditions are less than optimal and you have a rare fresh day, listen to your body. Megan and I both agree. When we were younger, we may have been tempted to push the limits of physical health, to throw caution to the wind and ride even though we weren’t a hundred per cent. It takes strength to say no to a sport that brings joy, excitement and stress relief, but in the end it is worth it to take the time to let your body heal completely. 
  3. Understand your injury or medical condition and know precisely what you need to heal. Be it time, physiotherapy, rest, nutrition, or medication, embrace every possible aspect of healing. You will feel empowered knowing you are getting stronger each day. “In preparation for the upcoming season I am focusing on core strength conditioning," said Megan. "I am hopeful that this type of physical training will keep me strong and healthy and prevent a recurrence of injury.”
  4. Keep expectations low when you start riding again. You won’t be bringing your A game when you re-emerge.  Start with simple terrain, and give your mind and body a chance to acclimate to strenuous activity. Gradually build up to more challenging terrain, rather than jumping into situations that call for extreme skill and precision. It takes time, patience and self-control—as well as riding companions who understand and support your journey back to health.
  5. Your mind may need time to adjust. I experienced quite a bit of anxiety initially. Being less than a hundred per cent healthy can leave you feeling quite vulnerable. If you have injured yourself while riding, it will take some time to once again feel confident in your skills. Take time to breathe and approach each ride from a one-day-at-a-time perspective. Keep an upbeat attitude and focus on the good. The laughter, the beauty in the landscape and the fresh air in your face is some of the best medicine. True, it can be humbling to be unable to perform like you have in the past. But again, in time you’ll be back to your old shredding self, busting the pow with a renewed sense of passion.  
  6. Listen to warning signs your body is giving you, both on the hills or in everyday life. If you feel something is not right, listen and deal with it immediately. The quicker you are to react, the faster you will heal. 
  7. Staying active in the snowmobile community will help you during the transition time. Reach out to your local snowmobile club and see if there are ways you can contribute. Newsletters, outreach reminders for club meetings and event planning will help you to feel a part of things whether you can ride or not. Being a part of a snowmobile family is a wonderful thing that can lift your spirits when you are feeling down and out. 

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