How to Stay Sane While Injured
First, let me tell you what this article is not about. It is not about cross training techniques to do while injured. It’s not about nutrition to help speed recovery. While all those things are important, there is another important aspect of recovery as well.
Just a few months ago, I got injured. Peroneal tendonitis caused by – or at least triggered by – a nasty spill while out on a trail run. 4 weeks no running. And then, I would have to start back to 1/3 of the amount of mileage I was doing. I have my first ultra coming up, so this was far from what I wanted to happen. Needless to say, I was pretty heartbroken.
I knew I wouldn’t be ready for the ultra and would have a big ole DNS (did not start). I knew I wouldn’t run for a month either, which is much more than just exercise. It is my “therapy”. I was proactive about recovery though. I iced my foot consistently and did my strengthening exercises. I ate super healthy and ate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods. But there was one factor that I couldn’t get over – the mental aspect.
I felt like I had failed. I was so excited and felt so confident about my training for my first ultra, but like running sometimes does, I was kicked to the sidelines.
But what would I do for that month while I was injured? Besides heal, there was literally nothing I could do, and for a good week, I couldn’t even walk much either.
But I survived. Here are some ways I stayed sane during my running hiatus.
You’re thinking, “She’s a writer. So duh.” And while that’s true, I believe that many people can benefit from writing. You don’t need to be “good” at it. Get a journal or a sheet of paper and get all that crap on the page. I keep a journal, have for a long time. I wrote down my anger, my frustration, my disappointment. And though I wasn’t feeling right as rain, it did make me feel better. When the anger or sadness welled up in me, I wrote it all down.
Read about other runner’s dealing with injuries.
You are an athlete. Athletes get hurt from time to time. Read about how other athletes, elite and non-elite, deal with injury. They go through the same emotions as you do. Some of them might even be going through the exact same medical issue you are. We are all human and one good thing about the Internet is we can bond and connect over similar topics. Use it.
Yup. Let it all out. I had my cries. I cried almost everyday for a week. And then it was less and less. Mourn this injury. Get it out. If you’re mad, scream. You are allowed to. You are allowed to feel whatever it is you are feeling. The more you torture yourself by saying “This is silly. I shouldn’t be so upset,” you are doing yourself an injustice. You are allowed to feel any emotions that arise. As long as you are not hurting anyone else or yourself, then emote all you want. At some point, you’ll stop crying. Or yelling. And it will be just a memory.
Occupy your time.
After the initial slump, get busy. Read a book. Clean out your closet. Depending on your injury, take a walk. Visit local parks or other places you’ve been meaning to get to. Why not take up boxing? Why not even try *gasp* sleeping in! How about those friends you’ve been meaning to hang with? Or even use the phone to call a person? Write emails to distant relatives. Take up French or knitting. Just keep busy.
Talk to someone.
It doesn’t have to be a fellow runner. Talk to your significant other. A friend. If you are dealing with an on going injury, perhaps even a counselor or therapist might help. Just like writing, sometimes getting it out there helps most of all.
Take a break from all things running related.
I read a lot of running magazines, bloggers and watched running videos frequently. And hell, I’m an editor at RunnerClick. But sometimes, you need to take a break. Obviously, I couldn’t take a break from my job, but I could control what I did look at during my off time. It was a little painful to watch others or read about others accomplishing amazing goals while I sat on the coach, taped up with an ice pack on, elevating my foot with several pillows. And while it was not an “out of sight, out of mind” situation, it did help. Once I was on the mend, I caught up on everything and took it all in with a fresh attitude.
Perhaps you want to look at running things, or can’t help yourself. One way to be proactive is to plan your reentry back into running. If you know you can start running again soon, perhaps talk to your doctor, a coach or even research online training plans that will have you (slowly) get back into a running routine. Figure out a strength training plan that will keep you strong and prevent future injuries. Perhaps make a list of possible races that you might want to do after recovery (but do not sign up for anything until you are healed). For most, running is a life long sport. There is time to heal and time to run. Give yourself something to look forward to. A fresh start.
I’m healed and back to training. I’m signed up for another ultra a few months out. All I can say to those who are injured (and yes I know it’s easier said than done), is to stay positive. Be proactive. Let out your anger and sadness out and then be gentle on yourself. You will get back to running one day and it will feel more glorious than ever.