Being patient with your body and allowing time to heal is difficult, but absolutely necessary if your goal is to run for a long time. I struggle with taking time off just to rest and recover; an injury is just as difficult for me. Usually, I continue running on it-telling myself I can run through it. And many times running through minor injuries is fine. It’s the not so minor ones that you can’t run through. Even some minor ones, get worse if you try to run through them. Knowing the difference, is the difference between an experienced and novice runner.
Injury and time off is unfortunately part of the running experience. Alternatives to running are just not the same. You don’t get that runners high. You don’t get that peace and sense of freedom. The longer it takes to heal the more agitated you become. It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic and defeatist attitude. You become an expert at positive self talk or you fall into a depression. The longer you are in the recovery mode, the farther off running feels.
You definitely go through the seven stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
Shock and denial are lumped together most of the time, “It’s not that bad,” “I can’t believe this has happened.” “It’s nothing to worry about,” “I can still run, it’s fine.” “It’s the shoes, I’ll just get a new pair.”
Anger is directed at pretty much everyone including other runners and yourself. You beat yourself up about not taking time off right when it happened. You decide you could have prevented it and were just stupid.
Bargaining-” Dear God, I’ll take time off right away next time, if I can just have my running back now.” “I’ll volunteer more and donate money, if I can just get back out there.” “I’ll do anything to get back out there!!” Anything, but take the time to heal that is. You begin doing research about the fastest way to heal. You spend hours looking at new training programs, super foods, stretches, miracle vitamins, and strength training.
Depression comes in the form of the defeatist. “I’ll never run again.” “this is going to take years to heal.” “It will always hurt to run.” “I can’t be happy without my running.” “I can’t live without my running (you think this is going to far until you’ve been there).”
Testing-“I’ve taken a few days off, I can go back.” “I know it still hurts a little, but a little run won’t hurt it.” “Just an easy three miles.”
Acceptance- “this sucks, but my goal is to run until I die, so I guess I’ll spend six months doing physical therapy and then I’ll take the time to get back to running in the right way because if I don’t, I’ll be back where I was when this started.”
When you’re ready to start your epic return to running make sure it’s slow. Review my return from injury training program found above under the 5k and 10k training program link.
It’s a shame that we can’t start with acceptance. Maybe that should be our goal for our next injury because if we’re honest with ourselves, the next injury will come.