We’ve all seen the cartoons about runners who keep running when injured. A couple of years ago I had no understanding of why anyone in their right mind would keep running when they had a perfectly good excuse to stop. Any excuse would’ve been a good one for me!
In my short running career I’ve been told if the pain is sharp, stop running. If it’s an ache it will likely go away as the body is just getting used to accepting running, especially in the early days of training. Most runs I feel something. Sometimes I’m tight. Muscles are heavy and sore. Aches on my right side always scare me. They almost always completely disappear as I get into a run. Sometimes 3k. Other times 8k. I always recognize the moment on a run; it’s like my body has finally accepted “Hey, she is not going to stop so we may as well pack it in for today and try again next time she gets this dumb idea”. It is always a joyful time in my runs when that switch flips and getting to the moment quickly is a focus.
I have had times that ache didn’t go away but I kept running anyway, stupidly, there have been times when I’ve continued to run for 100’s of kilometers. It’s funny how your tolerance for pain increases as the likelihood of being forced to stop running becomes a likelihood. It’s not a good thing though, there are times we just need to let the body be injured. The problem is how do we not BE injured as a side affect?
I have several running friends who are struggling with nagging and potentially serious injuries right now. They are a month or so into serious training for their races, excited, motivated, then told they should take a break. Often runners are cross training and prep’ing for months before their formal training program begins. Being told to take a break really sucks. It just does. I am writing this post for them.
This post is not just about runners. It applies to anyone facing an obstacle or challenge or hiccup in their life. It’s more my thoughts on dealing with the negative that can enter your life and take over your being. It’s about not even looking at challenges as obstacles but rather opportunities to strengthen where you’re weak and add balance to your life. Attitude is everything and we all must train ourselves to become very good at flipping that switch when a negative is presented. There really is no time for negative. Life is just too short to be anything less than positive, surround yourself with it, insist on it!
Those following my blog know I have experienced several major running injuries in my short 3 year ‘career’. I’m no pillar of success in managing injuries. I am, however, very positively minded and that has shown me the way to dealing with injuries effectively. If even one person can have a positive take away from this post, then it’s worth the effort to write it.
Early in life I had a lot of injuries. I was a figure skater, skier and all round ‘Tomboy’ who got a bit of reputation for not having much fear. Many broken wrists, both thumbs, all my fingers, stitch marks up my legs from the back of my skate lodging into my shin as it wrapped around my leg during jumps, head injuries involving stitches, many sprains, clear divet in my skull that has me hoping that I never need to shave my head. I’ve also experienced a painful dislocation and relocation.
The most serious of my childhood injuries though was skating over my own hand and cutting through 3 tendons. Keep in mind a figure skate is concave so the skate actually cut each tendon twice and shorted my tendons. I was very lucky, they were able to repair my tendons and I had full use of that hand after many months of painful physiotherapy to stretch the tendons.The day after surgery, with a big cast, I was on the ice. “You’ve got to get back on the horse”. It’s not like I was jumping or spinning or anything, my Coach and parents just didn’t want me to take time to develop a fear of my skates or the ice. It also made me happy! Just 24 hours earlier I had asked my parents if I was going to die based on the spurting blood and commotion and here I was, a day later, back pursuing something I loved with my friends around me. Kudos to them for instilling in a 12 year old that all was not lost. You’ve got to grab onto the positive!
My 1st running injury was a stress fracture of my tibia plateau while training for my very 1st full marathon. Ouch! I knew I had a serious injury the end of February. I kept up with my training through most of March then ran a 30k race on it the end of March. My logic was, I don’t have the scan results yet. That’s all fine and good as long as you understand the potential ramifications of that decision. Prior to the MRI results, I got 4 doctor opinions about me continuing to run. One doctor tried to scare the heck out of me “you might never walk again”?!! Jeff teased that I kept going to doctors until I got the answer I wanted which, I hoped, would be “it’s no big deal, you can continue to run”. Well, I didn’t get that response and I continued running anyway. I ran my 1st 30k! Hurray! BUT, I wasn’t able to run my goal race 2 months later. If I had stopped running in February I ‘might’ have been able to do my goal race. Live and learn.
Now injured with a wonderful group of friends still training for their marathons, I decided to become a great cheerleader. I met them for their pub nights, at times I would drive along their running routes when I knew they’d be running to cheer them on, I high fived them on social media, I even attended their races. Then I swallowed my pride and attended their Brag Night, the night that was also suppose to be my brag night. Rule #1 – you aren’t allowed to quit on your friends just because you’re injured! That injury taught me a valuable lesson. There’s a decision to be made and the sooner you get out of a selfish place, the better off you’ll be. Stick with your commitments, it’s not all about you! It also taught me the challenges of being a cheerleader to distance runners, getting from point to point when the roads are closed, waiting in the cold, yelling and cheering for hours, predicting pace and location, supporting them when they are being all negative, stubborn and sweaty. I’m more thankful and respectful now. I think I’m also easier to cheerlead now due to this experience.
As soon as I stopped running, I started swimming. I also did more yoga. I even had time to attend different yoga classes in the area which helped me meet more enlightened people. I did upper body weights. I rode a bike without tension. I spent hours running in a pool with a running belt and learning how dorky that feels. My son joined me. I tried to learn how to meditate … and failed. Distraction and progress. I still made progress in other areas where I was weak. Progress, never Perfection!
My 2nd major running injury happened the following winter, I experienced micro tears in my IT band. Oucher! It hurt more than the stress fracture just so you know. I completely stopped running for 4 months. As soon as I realized I was not going to be able to run my goal race, I planned an adventure. We would climb Mt Baker in August. With 3.5 months to train I started with a weight training program, swimming and spin class. Then after a month or so added long hikes, initially with no weighted backpack then worked up to the 50lb’er we would have to climb with. I became a better swimmer, I built important back, core and upper body muscles, I started to not detest spin class so much. I then went off and flipping summitted a mountain! My very 1st glacier climb, Mt Baker. Bonus. I turned a big negative and my 1st race DNF (did not finish) into a positive. That injury completely made my year!
Then, unbeknownst to me, I experienced a tear in my ACL which was discovered in a follow up MRI for my IT band injury. This injury appeared fresh in the images so (since I hadn’t been running for 4 months), was likely the result of my 1st glacier a week earlier. The up was no problem, the down though was hellish through several feet deep of mushy snow. Most descents are hellish. Luckily I love the sport of climbing so much that my mind quickly forgets the torture of descent, to the point that I didn’t even know I was injured. No ouch! How I dealt with this injury was to immediately acquire a titanium brace and sign up for a half marathon in October 🙂
Having come through several challenges in my adult life that I didn’t expect, I have learned to compartmentalize. Life always seems to just work out. Not meaning that you ignore what needs to be done, but just deal with it as it comes in a matter of fact manner. Whether you become a stress bucket or you deal with it systematically, life moves forward. You can make it less painful by just dealing with the facts then over blowing the situation and having that affect other facets of your life. Don’t take your work home. Don’t take personal problems to work. A sore leg is just a sore leg. It does not have to affect other parts of your body or your head unless you let it! Do not give it more power than you should. Take the high road. Don’t let an injury kill your joy.
Attitude is everything! People think of running as physical but runners understand it is much more a mental exercise than physical. Honestly, you cannot run a marathon unless you are mentally and emotionally invested. If one system breaks down, ie: physical, you don’t have to stop training all together. Focus on your mental game. When you’re injured you really need to take a break and take stock. Taking a break does not mean you have to give up! I have seen injured runners gain weight, get depressed, drop out of their social scenes and shut off social media so they don’t have to witness other peoples joy. It is such a shame. Friends are not just when you can run? I wonder if they notice what they are doing? Come up with a new plan, a temporary plan, a long term plan, come up with an immediate plan. Injuries can create very depressive traits. You are used to filling your body with endorphins on a regular basis. You now need to find other ways to create that feeling of happiness.
- Resonate positivity, make yourself! Fake it until make it!
- Smile! 🙂 I truly believe Smiles Can Change the World! Think about it, they really can.
- Volunteer, raise money, help out others, train people.
- Treat an injury like an injury but don’t let it take over both your mind and your body!
- Become the world’s best cheerleader!
- Find sources of positive inspiration on social media, remove all the negative. I have gained so much motivation from instagram, twitter and facebook … because I choose it to be that way. I don’t want to fill my head with sarcasm, politics and the negative. The delete and unfollow buttons are there for a reason.
- Live Positive & Play it Forward
- Learn a new skill or sport.
- Read more. Positive stuff of course.
- Walk! It is the best full body exercise. You can walk for miles, appreciate nature.
- Quality time with your family. Take one of your cheerleaders on a fun date!
Every single day google ‘motivational quotes’. Whether injured or not this a normal daily event in my life. Surround yourself with the positive!
Remember, an injury can help you realize how much you love what you’ve been doing. I found out I love running due to an injury.
Those who are injured or think they might be, what did you want to hear? Did you want me to confirm it’s okay to have a pity party? Have a warm beet juice instead and quickly resolve how to move forward with the positive. The sooner you focus on the positive, the sooner you and everyone and everything around can move on with a joyful life. It really is that simple.
Take a bath. Ponder the positive and get back at it. Focus on what you CAN do. Give yourself a swift kick in the butt and move on with life. Don’t BE injured.
Let’s hope I don’t have to take my own advice this season! But, if I do, guaranteed I will be moving my goal race to the status of ‘Unfinished Business’ real quick!