How to stay sane when you’re forced to a standstill.
One of the worst things that a runner can face is being unable to run due to a running injury. How do you get through a time like this? Two months ago, while running down Devils Peak, I fell and bashed my knee against a rock. For the second time in 6 months, I was reminded that downhill trail running has some inherent high-velocity risks, and we can never foresee or prevent traumatic injuries. Putting weight on my knee was excruciating, and a sonar confirmed my worst fear – the fall had left me with a small meniscus tear. I’ve had my fair share of trail-related trauma, including a broken wrist and numerous stitches, but this was the first time I had to stop running altogether.
Injuries suck and not being able to run, was incredibly frustrating!
These are the lessons I learned during injury rehab:
- You’ll go through 5 stages of grief.
Denial – trying to deny or ignore a running injury is pointless. Go and get it checked out. Diagnosing and learning about your injury is the first step to recovery.
Anger – you’ll be angry at yourself for falling and ruining your upcoming race. Take a moment to acknowledge that you’re angry, then exhale and let that shit go.
Bargaining – you can consult as many specialists as you like, but healing is subject to nature’s rules. Be very wary of anyone promising you a quick fix.
Depression – it’s perfectly normal to wallow in self-pity for a few days but move on before you start eating buckets of ice cream while binge-watching series. Instead, practice positive thinking, a proven strategy to boost injury recovery.
Acceptance – the sooner you accept your injury and current limitations, the sooner you can begin to work on your rehabilitation.
- Keep Moving.
I learned to channel the energy I usually reserve for running into recovery. Swimming, cycling, and hiking helped me to retain some base fitness. Completing and logging workouts gave me a sense of achievement that lifted my spirits and helped me maintain my athletic identity during rehab. I also used the recovery time to work on flexibility and core strength – areas that I usually neglect. Ask your Physio which alternative exercises are safe during recovery.
- I had to set new goals.
Setting and achieving even the smallest goal during recovery kept me positive and motivated. First, I mastered the scissor pose in yoga, then I set out to swim 1km non-stop. I also adjusted my goals for upcoming races. I won’t be racing the next one, but I could still go and enjoy the race. You have to be realistic about the timeline for recovery and give yourself enough time to get fit, strong and confident again before you return to running and racing.
- Don’t isolate yourself from your running friends.
If you’re like me, a lot of your life revolves around running. Just because you can’t run, doesn’t mean you can’t still be part of the trail scene. I would hike 5km and still join my friends for coffee afterwards. Their support and encouragement got me through tough times. Surround yourself with positive people who will support you, even when you’re injured.
Read more: Returning to Running after an Injury.