We all have times when for some reason, usually an injury, when we can’t run. I am in that situation at present so I thought it only appropriate to give some tips on how to survive and come back better than ever.
We run and exercise for different reasons some use it as a way to stay in shape, lose some weight, clear the mind or help cope with the stresses of modern living. No matter why you run, there is nothing more frustrating, than pulling up short with an injury that requires you to stop the exercise you love and give your body time to repair and heal itself.
If the injury is minor and you are only down for a week then you should be able to get right back into training without losing any ground, but after a week you start to lose your fitness. The fear of losing ground in your training can have you starting running again before you are ready putting you at risk of re-injuring and in some cases, putting you out for weeks, or even months.
As runners our psyche is to keep going to push harder, push through the pain, hoping it will get better, so we are our own worst enemy! Here are some tips that may help you overcome the urge to start back before you should and also help with the tendency to get emotionally down and withdrawn if the injury sees you out for more than a couple of weeks.
While you are unable to run cross-training is a great way to help maintain your fitness but these activities should not cause pain or further aggravate the injury. Biking and swimming are good cardio-vascular exercises without the impact. Deep-water running is as close to running as you will get without the impact, but if that isn’t your thing, then doing a cycle class at the gym or dusting the bike off and going for a ride in the fresh air may appeal to you more. Having a structured training plan helps keep your psyche positive. It gives you a schedule or programs this way you maintain order in your day so there isn’t a big gap where running use to be.
2. The emotional impact
This, to me, is the hardest thing to deal with as you become aware of how much a part, running plays in your life. If, like me, it is part of your daily routine it is very hard to change and find something else to take its place during the time you are unable to run. I feel more stressed, as running is my stress release. It helps to be aware of what is going on so you can better deal with the emotions. The feelings you experience are the same as you would experience with any loss in your life. Allow yourself the time to be up-set this is normal but don’t remain there but take responsibility for your injury so you feel more in control of what is happening to you this way you can take positive steps to get back into the game. Having a positive attitude, helps in the healing and recovery process, as feelings of negativity can release chemicals that lower your immune system and slow your rehabilitation. It can also impair your ability to reason, so you try and start back before the injury has completely healed, putting you at risk of re-injuring. Be patient it is such a short time in the bigger picture.
3. Get Involved
When you are injured you have a tendency to withdraw from the people and the sport you love, isolating yourself, and re-enforcing the negative aspect of injury. Instead, get involved with local events as a volunteer. All events require people to help on the day to set-up, record times, marshal around the course, hand out starter packs and so many other tasks. You are not only helping others but yourself, as it is a great mood booster to be around other likeminded people. It gives you a whole new perspective on what it takes to put on an event so you will appreciate it more when you are back running.
4. Set New Goals
Set new goals that are realistic, this way you are moving forward with purpose. Don’t try and do anything you are not up to. Work with your health professional, this way you know you will not be doing anything that may put you back and slow down your rehabilitation or worse still cause you to re-injury. It makes total sense to set goals around your injury and rehabilitation as this is just a continuum of your sport and exercise program.
5. Understand Your Injury
Learn as much about your injury, what caused it, how to prevent it in the future, what is the treatments available. Take an active part in the process, this way you feel more in control of something that you would normally feel you had no control over. It will help to reduce anxiety and stress levels. It will also help you to ask the right questions of your health professionals.
I always ask the following questions.
What is the diagnosis and prognosis or expected outcome?
How long will I be out from running?
What exercises can I safely do?
What are the treatments/tests?
What should I expect during rehab?
When should I see improvement?
What signs should I be looking for that the treatment isn’t working?
When should I contact them?
What should I do to reduce my risk of injuring again?
If your health professional can’t give you the answers you seek, then ask for a referral to someone who can.
Use your mind! There is growing scientific evidence that visualizing the desired outcome can speed up the healing process. This can be done by visualizing yourself healed and back enjoying your running again! Imagine it as if it had already happened. What are you doing? How are you feeling? What are others saying? Make it as real as you possibly can. Feel the excitement, the joy, as you get ready for your run in the knowledge that your injury is completely healed.
7. Get support
Try not to isolate yourself! This is a common response when you are injured. I know I really have to push myself to get out there and be around likeminded people but when I do I feel so much better. Get in touch with friends that don’t share your passion for your sport but are still very positive fun people to be around! Meet them for coffee or go to a movie or spend time with the family doing some activity that keeps you moving but doesn’t aggravate the injury like swimming or going for a bike ride.
8. Do something different
Try something new a project or something you have often said to yourself you would like to try but hasn’t had the time. Most of us have lots of things on the go! For me, I am learning how to build a website using WordPress and also researching and writing an Ebook about common running injuries. This gives me the knowledge I need on my injury but also gives me interest while I am unable to run. Putting your focus onto something you can do rather than something you can’t help’ keep that positive attitude so very important in your recovery.
With the right knowledge, support, and attitude an injury can be overcome without going into total despair. By setting realistic goals and keeping a positive outlook you will overcome any injury large or small with confidence.
Remember: You may not be in control of what has happened to you but you are in control of your attitude. Be pro-active, not reactive.