Injuries are a significant emotional and mental challenge. Having to put your training plans aside and miss your goal races, or simply being unable to participate in your favorite activity is a nightmare for many runners. If you’re currently sidelined with an injury, follow this advice to help you handle the emotional side effects of time off until you can get back out on the roads and trails again.
Focus on what you can do
As much as possible, avoid doing any activities that aggravate your injury. This will only slow down the recovery process and delay your return to running. Instead, focus on the activities that you can do, and do them consistently. If you can cycle, get into a cycling routine. If you can swim, consider getting a temporary membership at the local pool. Not only will this give you something to do while you can’t run, but it will build your fitness in different ways, which could actually help you become a better runner once you’re able to return to training.
If you’re not sure which activities will be safe for your injury, talk to a physiotherapist or other sports medicine expert who can help you devise a cross-training plan. As always, listen to your body and if your injured area doesn’t feel good after a certain activity, scratch that one off the list.
Do a variety of activities
To take the first point a little further, as much as your injury allows, try incorporating a variety of cross-training activities into your weekly schedule to keep your training interesting and fun. Heading to the gym to cycle for an hour every day on the stationary bike can quickly get boring, but cycling one day, using the elliptical the next and hopping on the rowing machine the day after that will keep things fresh and challenge you in different ways .
Make rehab exercises your new obsession
If you’re dealing with an injury, you’ve hopefully already gone to a physiotherapist and been given some exercises to help heal it. Since you’re not spending hours of your week out running, dedicate at least a portion of that time to doing those exercises. Schedule them into your day the same way you would have scheduled a run to ensure you’re doing them consistently, which will speed up the healing process so you can return to running faster.
Find joy in other activities
Running can be a pretty time-consuming hobby, so when you’re injured, use some of the extra time you have on your hands to lean a little more heavily into another hobby that you may have been neglecting. Play an instrument. Make some art. Build something. Garden. Whatever you’re into, an injury provides an opportunity for you to re-engage with some of your non-running hobbies, and to remind you that you’re more than just a runner.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
One of the hardest parts about a running injury is that it’s difficult to know when you’ll be able to return to training. Some injuries take a couple of weeks to heal, others can take months. Be patient, and don’t put pressure on yourself to return by a certain date, or to stay as fit as possible while you’re on the sidelines. You will get back to running at some point, and while it may take a bit of time, you will return to the level of fitness you once had. Rushing this process will only cause you to insult yourself all over again.
On a similar note, don’t put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to your cross-training, either. If you can’t force yourself to stay on the stationary bike for an entire hour, try just doing 30 or 45 minutes. Do what you can do to stay active so the transition back to running is easier, but forget about perfection.