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For years the prevailing wisdom told us to focus our recovery efforts on the site of the injury. If your leg was broken, the focus was entirely on the leg. Today, many athletes are taking a more holistic approach, focusing on the not only the injury, but simultaneously placing as much emphasis on the mind, ensuring that their head is in the right place when their body is ready to return to activity. Professional skier Drew Petersen knows that healing your body is only half of the equation during the recovery process and sat down to share some of his go to recovery techniques. 

As a pro skier, injuries come with the territory. Tell me about some of the most serious injuries you’ve had.

Oh man, it’s definitely a laundry list. Overall, I still maintain that I’ve been very lucky over the years, never broken my back or anything that bad, something that I couldn’t come back from. I’ve had a lot of other stuff though. Five years ago, I dislocated my hip and shoulder, partially tore my ACL, and broke a few ribs and my sacrum, while hitting a jump. That was probably the worst single injury. On top of that, I’ve had 10 surgeries. I’m really not proud of that, but there has been a silver lining. Injuries, surgeries, and recoveries are always rough, but this path and these struggles have definitely helped me end up where I am, and have taught me some invaluable lessons. 

This spring, I had surgery on my hip to fix some genetic issues and things that weren’t right from surgery on it five years ago. So I’m deep in the rehab process now, and everything is going amazing with this recovery.  

How do you keep bouncing back? What are you doing with this recovery to come back? 

More than anything, I think it’s all about mindset. Even when it’s going to be a long recovery or a doctor gives me rough news, I always believe that I’m going to make it back. That can be a battle in itself to believe though. With this recovery specifically, one of my mantras is “I’m going to be better on the other side of this.” I’m going to be a better skier, a better athlete, but way more important, I believe that I’m going to be a better human being, a better son, brother, friend, all of it. That’s always been true on the other side of big recoveries, because they are always transformative stages of my life. So yeah, the simple answer is that I believe. I believe I’ll make it back and that I’ll be better.

This recovery, specifically, is going better than ever before. And I think it comes down to believing and being hyper-intentional with what I’m doing. I’m viewing this as an opportunity to reset and to get as healthy and strong as I’ve always wanted to be. I’m playing the long game this time. 

How do you keep your head up and your mental game strong when you’re injured?

I’m a big believer in the power of positivity. Seeing the bright side and being sure to recognize progress and small achievements is huge to keep on going. I try to channel that positive energy into my body, and as my body gets better, it keeps lending positive energy back to my mind too. It’s a positive-positive feedback cycle, so to speak.

But I think there’s another side to that too. Injuries and recoveries do suck, and I find that I have to be realistic with myself about that. The mental side is often really hard for me, and pretending it’s all unicorns and rainbows has been detrimental to my mental game in the past. What I’m getting at is that positivity can be as simple as knowing that it will all be okay and worthwhile on the other side, even when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.

I know journaling has become important for you. How does that factor into your recovery?

Definitely, journaling is super helpful. I have two journals that I keep every day—or at least I try to write in every day. Right now, I’m staying true to that the best I ever have actually. The first is what I call my gratitude journal, and I write down ten different things that I’m grateful for. It helps me keep that positivity, and especially during recovery, it’s helpful to take a few minutes to think about the good things happening in my life. The second is just a normal journal, where I write out my thoughts and just kind of check in with how things are going. When I’m healthy and active, that ends up being fun stories. But during recovery, it’s helpful because it offers a chance to reflect on what’s going well, what’s not, and what is in my power to improve. So overall, I think both journals help me be intentional about how I’m living. 

What are some of your tried and true methods to get back on hill as fast as possible? 

Probably the easiest thing to do for recovery, but also one of the biggest things is so simple: stop drinking. That one’s simple, but it speaks to something bigger. I think it’s all about commitment to recovery. Rest is most often what the body needs, so just embrace it. In the past, I wasn’t always the best at taking time off, but maybe that’s another reason why I needed to learn more of these lessons. I used to try to ski or run easy, or cross-train, while hurt. But if the body needs rest, all those little activities are going to delay the recovery process. And then on top of rest comes everything else that I can commit to: diet, sleep, structuring my schedule to allow sufficient time for PT, stretching, and all the good stuff. Sleep has been big with this recovery. I turn off my phone, drink some supplements—melatonin, CBD, a couple immune boosters—and read my book. I’m sleeping more than I probably every have before, and my body is appreciating it.

But more than that, what I’ve learned is recovery isn’t about healing fast and getting back on snow and back to sport as soon as I can. I’mthinking way more long-term than ever before. Recovery is about being healthy and strong for the rest of my life, so it’s worth it to put this time in—to recover right and recover fully.

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