Due to the repetitive nature of running, injuries seem to be inevitable. As I was completing the last ten meters or so of my run on Saturday, I rolled my ankle. I was immediately flooded with frustration and it was a downward spiral from there. The initial frustration came from knowing that I would have to miss a few runs that week, I later wondered if I would be able to race on the weekend and I continued down this slippery slope and even wondered if I would need surgery. In the end, my ankle was not a serious injury and I only needed a few days off. My mini freak out was not at all necessary. I will not bore you with my list of running injuries over the years (it could fill this whole article). However, when I rolled my ankle, all the emotions that accompany being injured came flooding back.
What is so difficult about being injured for me, and many other runners I have talked to, is the fact that you are losing one of your favourite parts of your day: your run. To work back up from my unnecessary downward spiral, I thought of one of my professors. He taught us that athletes always have a choice. We may not have a choice about becoming injured, but we do have a choice concerning how we deal with being injured.
When you’re injured, you may find that all of the sudden everyone is a doctor. People have endless advice and endless stories about their own injuries. These “doctors” will tell you, maybe it’s your shoes (it might be) or maybe you should stretch more (maybe you should) or offer the card of a local miracle worker massage therapist. Without a doubt, someone will tell you “maybe it’s a blessing in disguise”. These words are so hard to hear when all you want to do is go back to a time when you weren’t injured. However, being injured can be a blessing in a disguise if you CHOOSE to make it one.
Getting in the pool is a great start to maintaining fitness. While you’re in the pool, take the opportunity to fine tune your imagery or visualization skills. Pool workouts can be extremely mundane, to take your mind away from the boredom try to visualize yourself running with a relaxed intensity. Picture your feet cycling quickly underneath you, your arms freely moving and your core strong. You can even take yourself out of the pool and into your favourite running route, wherever that may be. Read more on how to effectively aqua-jog.
There is no reason why you can’t continue to set goals while you’re injured. These goals can range from how many times a day you want to ice your injury, to how many times you will commit to physio-therapy, to how many strength or pool workouts you will complete in a week. While thinking about your goals, take some time to sketch out your ideal training requirements. Improving as a runner involves much more than clocking the mileage. It may involve mobility exercises, resistance or strength training, cross training, massage, stretching, yoga or core work. The list goes on. Take the opportunity when you’re injured to work on areas that you otherwise wouldn’t work on. Once you’re back on track (pun intended) and running, you now have your ideal training requirements as a reference. The more you respect the hard work and hard recovery needed to be the best runner you can be, the better.
Lastly, respect the qualities that you have as a runner that no injury can take away from you. Your work ethic, perseverance or even the qualities that make you a good running buddy to your running partner are still in tact. When something so important to you is taken away, it doesn’t make YOU any less important.
About the Author: Jennifer is a student member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association. She works one on one with athletes of all levels and is pursuing her dream career as a Performance Enhancement Consultant. Despite her 5’2” stature, she is also a closet meathead who can be found on cloud nine eating a steak post PB power clean.