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If you’re someone who’s ever been sidelined by an injury, you will agree with us when we go ahead and say that it totally sucks. And if you can’t relate, chances are you’re not a runner since many years – because no matter how smart we train, the majority of us sweat-loving people will sustain at least one during our athletic career (and that goes for all runners, no matter the level).
There are many parts to the mental challenge of a running (or any sports) injury, and in this post, we’ll cover the most common ones + list of whole bunch of helpful tips to stay sane throughout it all.
First, you might struggle as you lose grip of your everyday life and your athletic self. If you’ve been running for a while, it’s very common to feel incomplete and not like yourself when it disappears out of your routine. As a runner, you’re also used to the physiological and emotional benefits that come with running – the endorphins, the stress release, the fresh air – that you might suffer the lack of those as well. This applies particularly in the early stages when you might just be resting and seeing where things are heading (as opposed to later on, when you might be able to cross train).
You might also lose your sense of direction in your running. A routine on pause can soon leave you wondering if you’re ever going to get back to where you left off and feeling as if those dreams and goals of yours are slipping out of your grip. In addition, if you, for example, used to run with friends or as part of a running group and now have to abstain, you could both be affected by the reduced social engagement in your normal week, but also feel excluded.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to combat these mental challenges and make sure you’ll return to running feeling balanced inside out. Please read on:
To begin with, take a look inwards. Do you think you’re someone benefiting from staying away from all things running or immersing themselves as much as possible? Questions to ponder include if it would make you happy to volunteer at a race or if that would just rub your injury in your face, or if it would inspire you to listen to running related podcasts or if it would just stress you out? For some, it’ll be far better to stay away and for others it’ll be better to remain an active member of the community – be honest with yourself to find your answer.
Moving on to cross training, this wonderful tool for endless reasons. Cross training – in other words, training and exercising in other ways than your main sport – will help keep your overall body going strong AND give you that sense of an active lifestyle, all the physiological and emotional benefits of physical activity and perhaps also fill that potential hole of community or social context. Make sure you select a social sport or activity if that’s you.
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Take advantage of newfound free time
Our third tip might sound a bit off, but we also encourage you to take advantage of your newfound free time. Yes, being injured still sucks, but you can make it count by catching up on things at home that you’ve been neglecting, devoting time to self-care or nurturing your relationships, to name a few things that tend to not fit in when you run a lot. Devoted runners are often determined, driven individuals who work well when life comes with direction and intention – so make sure yours continue to have a sprinkle of that.
Furthermore, while rehab diligence will be important, know that taking a step back and allowing for an overall slightly slower pace in life will do most of us good too. All days don’t have to come with the perfect cross training routine at the gym, but can include reading that pile of books that’s been staring at you, doing yard work or simply hanging out with friends. Humans are complex beings, after all, and there are many parts to nurture. A perfect example of this is when trail runner and ski mountaineer superstar Emelie Forsberg (read our interview with Emelie here) tore her ACL – a ligament in the knee – some years back, and basically said she chopped wood and worked on their farm and didn’t think too much about training in its traditional sense until she was actually ready to get back on the horse again.
Don’t lose track of your athletic identity
And last but not least, perhaps the most important thing of all: don’t stop thinking of yourself as a runner or athlete. Really do everything in your power to not lose track of your athletic identity. Thinking of yourself as a runner and athlete will make it easier to steer clear of negative self-talk, perform your necessary rehab work and prioritize seeing doctors, therapists and other experts if needed. You’ll also stay dedicated to your goals and dreams, remain motivated and stay in touch with the community, and overall empower yourself with the athletic identity itself. Trust us on that one.
Whether you’re injured currently, have suffered one in the past, dread sustaining something down the road (or trail) or just love reading running content, we’re cheering you on and believing in you, especially when you need it the most. Run safe!
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