As many of you know, I threw my back out last Saturday and have been unable to run for 7 days and counting. I am going a little insane, but thought it would be a good idea to do some research on how to cope with running injuries. I found a lot of useful information to share with you, my fellow runners.
Let’s face it, you are going to get hurt (eventually) and I am going to get hurt again. It is the reality of running. The two most important things is how to learn to cope when you ARE injured and gosh darnit, appreciate it when you CAN run.
In order to deal with this pain and frustration, and move on to recovery, it is important to adopt a grieving strategy. It may sound familiar, it’s what you’d go through if you lost a job or a pet. And if you’ve been injured before, you’ve probably stumbled through it unknowingly. The key is taking a purposeful approach. If you can recognize each stage of mourning, and work actively to move through each one, you’ll heal faster. And that means you’ll be back on your feet sooner.
The Stage: Denial. (aka. Ignorance is Bliss… yes, yes it is)
I am absolutely guilty of this- running through an injury because I just “can’t” go against my training schedule, or I am too neurotic to take a day off. Yes, I admit it… I am neurotic.
The Answer: Get over yourself.
Taking a few days off, is NOT going to ruin your training (I am saying this to myself and to you). At the first sign of a potential injury, be smart and back off. A few days on the couch is better than months of physical therapy.
The Stage: Anger. (aka. It’s Not Fair! Because, well… it ISN’T!)
Not being able to run a goal race as fast as you had hoped, or at all (raising my hand), can be disappointing, even devastating. I know this all too well. When I threw my back out, I was so pissed at my body and at the fact that my plans were shot. I am the kind of person who sets a goal and then achieves it. I don’t like messin’ with my goals, man!
The Answer: Move on!
A positive outlook, as hard as that may be to summon, may be your greatest weapon. Research reports that athletes who use positive self-talk and set goals for their rehab experience “exceptional recovery.” So be angry for a few days, then look forward.
The Stage: Bargaining. (aka. Just Let Me Exercise… puhlllleease!)
When injured athletes finally confront their injury, they sometimes become too gung-ho about cross training. It very easy to aggravate the existing injury by doing other exercises.
The Answer: Take a Chill Pill, Dude.
Taking action to fix your problem is good, but don’t go overboard. Not giving your injury enough time to heal is only going to cause MORE problems in the long run. We don’t want that now do we? (Shaking my head) No, we don’t.
The Stage: Depression. (aka. What’s the Point?)
I am going to be honest here, the last week of not running has sucked. Big time. I totally miss the endorphin rush that running gives me, and I have been pretty grumpy. I don’t feel like a runner and that sucks.
The Answer: Find a new past time.
Fill your new found downtime with other activities that help fill the void of running. I filled my time with watching new episodes of How I Met Your Mother and Parks and Rec, but the smart thing would be to do something productive. Try to stay connected to the running community: Cycle alongside friends on their long runs; invite your running buddies to a yoga class you’ve started taking; volunteer at a race.
The Stage: Acceptance. (aka. Thank you Lord! I am feeling better!)
This is when you are properly sticking with your rehab plan and you’re seeing progress. You’ve accepted the injury, and also that you’ll eventually be back on your feet. Coming to this mindset is critical to recovery. Research shows a direct relationship between stress and injury. Anxiety can cause muscle tension and suppress immune function, which can delay how quickly you get better. In this stage, you have a peaceful mindset that encourages healing.
The Answer: Keep It Up!
Fortunately for me, I am at this stage today. My back is feeling better! Yippee! But, does that mean that I am going to run tomorrow… NO! I don’t want to hurt myself again like a big dummy. I am going to rest until Monday and then go out for a short run.
I hope you have learned a little from this lesson, I definitely did! The faster you move through these stages, the happier you will be. Being depressed and grumpy like I have been all week is not going to make your injury heal faster, it is only going to make you miserable. Try to focus on the good times and what you will do once you once you are healed. Get a new running plan together or try to find some new strengthening moves to prevent the injury from popping up again in the future.