If you run long enough, chances are your running will be sidelined by an injury. Whether it’s an overuse injury, a freak accident kind of thing, or even non-running related, you are likely to have experienced an injury related setback with your running at some point (and if you haven’t, someone you know has).
Being injured and not being able to participate in the activity you love can be frustrating. Trust me, I know. I am currently getting through a strained muscle that has been plaguing me for about 5 weeks now, and has made my running painful at worst and sporadic at best. Here are a few of my tips for overcoming the injury doldrums.
Focus on what you CAN do, and use this time to become a more well rounded athlete. Ok, so you can’t run. And it’s the pits. I totally get it. My worst injury to date kept me out of running for EIGHT YEARS (!!) Yes, you read that right…years, not months. And yep, I went into a dark pit of depression for a while, and had many a pity party. But then, I pulled myself together and focused on what I *could* do. I couldn’t run, but I sure could cycle, weight train, walk, swim, box, do yoga…you get the idea, right? And by exploring different ways I could move my body, strengthen it, and balance it, when I finally was able to run, I ended up being a stronger and more balanced athlete. Sure, running a lot will make you a good runner (theory of specificity) but, I feel the strongest and least injury prone runners focus on other modalities that help compliment their running; whether it’s aggressive strength training in the off season or basic lifting, core work and yoga a few days a week during marathon or ultra-training, you are balancing out the repetitive nature of running. A strong core will help with power and fatigue as you get tired in the latter stages of a long run or race, and a properly structured strength and stretching program will lead to more power and fewer overuse injuries down the road (pun intended). ?
Don’t Dwell. Let me be very clear…when you can’t run, it sucks, BUT IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. It may feel like it, but it really isn’t. This is a good time to keep perspective. More than likely you will run again. Not being able to run can mean more than just not being able to do what you love; you suddenly are out of the loop with your running social circle, you can suffer from FOMO, and you may even have races you have to forgo. And then there is the mental turmoil some people face with worrying about losing fitness or gaining weight. Dwelling on all of these things will not make the situation any better, and these thoughts can be toxic and counter productive. It’s natural to be sad for a bit, but staying in a constant pity party for yourself isn’t healthy and certainly won’t change the situation. So try very hard to stay positive and stay busy, focusing on other things beside the “I can’t run” elephant in the room. Which brings me to…
Look Forward. But Be Patient. Think ahead to later in the season or year for events you can do. Nothing gets me out of an injury funk like event hunting on Ultra Sign Up. My credit card is proof of this. (sorry, not sorry hubby) However, temper this enthusiasm with realistic expectations and patience. Doctor said that stress fracture should be healed in 10 weeks? Don’t sign up for a race in 12. Stay positive and excited about when you will return to running, but don’t rush the process. An injury that should only take you out of running for one month can turn into three months (or longer) if you try to do too much, too soon.
Give Back. Can’t run? Now is a GREAT time to give back to your running community. Volunteer at a local race, help coach young runners in your community, or do trail maintenance if your particular injury allows. Nothing cheers me up faster than going out to volunteer at a race. I used to think being at an event (particularly one I was supposed to run) would make me sad, but quite the opposite! It always lifts my spirits. If you could bottle and sell the joy and enthusiasm at a running event you’d be rich many times over. Thankfully, volunteering is free for you, but ends up paying you back dividends in happiness all while doing good in your community. Win, win!
Be a Cheerleader – for yourself and others. Celebrate every recovery milestone like you just won your age group at a race. Be sure to share these successes on social media – let others celebrate with you! Like “hell yeah I just walked without my boot for the first time in 6 weeks, ya’ll! POW!” And don’t put yourself so far down the hole of self-absorption that you stop celebrating or acknowledging the victories of others. It’s SO easy to be jealous of those who are doing what you wish you could (but can’t) do, but I find the more I cheer on and celebrate others, to more positive and hopeful it makes me. So get out those pom-poms and cheer it up for your fellow athletes!
There are just a few ideas to help you deal with a running set back. I would never tell you that an injury is nothing to be sad about, and we all process it differently, but the fact is, the time is going to pass whether you dwell or not. So use this time to be proactive with your recovery, be proud and celebrate every success and step forward, and trust that your patience will pay off. And if you need to chat, drop me a message. Sometimes just venting to someone helps out tremendously.
How do you overcome the injury doldrums?