One of the biggest fears runners have is being felled by an aggravation or an injury. Every runner fantasizes about running forever and never getting injured. It's a wonderful fantasy.
The reality is everybody hurts...sometimes. The best runners on the planet do. The worst runners on the planet do.
Below are the eight commandments for getting through a running related aggravation/injury.
-Grieve, but don't fixate.
It sucks. It's a bummer. It is not fair. Getting injured is all of this and more.
Cry if you need to. Scream your head off if you need to. Do what you need to do. But, don't get stuck in this space.
Don't allow yourself to fixate on these kinds of thoughts for long. They only serve to derail you if they linger too long.
Do everything you can to stay positive on the road to recovery. Reframe this period as a 'developmental opportunity'.
Being injured provides an opportunity to learn more about your body. Think of the path back to running as a glorious comeback.
You will be back. You will be wiser. You will be stronger.
Rest is great. Sometimes, rest is all you really need. But, often it takes more than just rest to get back on the road.
Take action. Virtually every aggravation/injury on the planet has a multitude of ways to be treated.
Explore any and every option available to expedite healing. When I suffered from plantar fasciitis, I plowed through a veritable buffet table of treatment modalities in an attempt move things along.
The list included acupuncture, cold laser treatment, massage, active release technique, graston, an exorcism, and more. This wasn't always fun. It was often not cheap, but I felt like I was 'doing something' to move my body in the right direction.
I was trying to give it what I thought it needed. So, explore what treatments are available.
You aren't running, so it goes without saying you now have a little extra time on your hands. Use it.
-Stay as active as you can.
Do something. Maybe you can't run, but what will your body still allow you to do? Will it allow you to ride a bike? Can you swim? Zumba? Prancercise?
You may have ZERO interest in any of the aforementioned (I usually don't), but you need to do something for a couple really good reasons. You need to preserve/maintain your fitness level as much as possible. This will help expedite the healing process. It will also help expedite your comeback. It will make it easier to segue back into running.
Additionally (and maybe more importantly), staying active will help you maintain your sanity. To be a runner and not be able to run is a mental challenge any way you slice it. Your nerves will get frayed. You will find yourself crawling the walls sometimes. You will feel like a caged animal.
The runner's high is real. For many (present company included), it is a chemical dependency. It is like breathing. The absence of this 'high' takes a toll.
Stay as active as you can to help manage the size of this toll.
-Indulge another passion.
What else are you into? Is there anything else that lights your fire? Do it.
I live and breathe running. It is how I identify. But, it is not all of me. I love movies. I really like to cook. I like to read. I even like to write sometimes.
Indulging these passions excites me, inspires me, and occupies me. You will have unoccupied time when you are sidelined.
Spend some of it on other things you love.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor did it crumble in a day. Be patient. It's easy to say it. It's very hard to do. But when it comes to healing, don't rush it. There's nothing to gain by rushing. There is almost always something significant to lose by rushing. It will more than likely set you back.
Rushing may result in exacerbating the original aggravation or injury. It may result in an injury on the other side of your body. Be impatient with he recovery process and you may pay the price for it.
Wait until your body feels 100% recovered. Then, wait a bit more. Be patient before running again.
It wasn't that long ago that Meb Keflezghi was written off. He was done. He was broken. He was too old. But, he didn't hang it up. He did not surrender.
There was no quit in him. It was a long road. It was undoubtedly a frustrating one. I imagine he had many dark nights of the soul wondering if he would ever do it again.
Let Meb's story inspire you. Have faith. This too shall pass.
It will never pass as quickly as you want. But, have faith that eventually it will. As is the case with life, it usually does.
-Ease back in gradually.
The pent up energy courses through you. It has been days, weeks, and perhaps months since you've done it. All systems are go.
At long last, the road back to the road is complete. The body is happy. The miles beckon. Ease back on the throttle. Respect what your body has been through. Give it sufficient time to remember what running feels like. It doesn't mean you are starting from ground zero. But, don't jump back into the exact same schedule you were maintaining before. It is unwise. Ease back in gradually.
Exactly what this looks like is somewhat dependent upon how experienced of a runner you are, what kind of shape you were in before you got injured, and what you have been doing while you have been injured. So, there's no easy answer. But, as I say all too often, 'listen to the messages your body sends you.' It is your true north. Let it guide you.
If the body is happy with two miles 2-3 times/week for a couple weeks, try 3 miles on one day the following week. Baby step your way through this comeback.
Running is a gift. It is promised to none one. There is no guarantee that you can do it tomorrow, next week, or next year. Embrace the gift. Appreciate it. Respect it.
I always dreamed of flying as a kid. We weren't born with the gift of flight, but running is as close as any of us will ever get to flying. Use your gift. Go out and fly.