September 22, 2016
By Yitka Winn
Photo at right: Sidelined by injuries can be frustrating but they can also be viewed as valuable lessons. Photo by Kris Parfitt
There’s no doubt about it—being injured stinks.
Resources abound for how to physically manage injuries, but few are devoted to their “emotional treatment.” Here are a few coping strategies to help prevent disappointment and despair from settling in the next time you find yourself sidelined from running.
Recognize the Silver Linings
Laura Houston, runner and coach at Seattle-based FeeltheRun, has struggled with her fair share of sidelining injuries over the years—ranging from stress fractures to a torn hip labrum to a torn meniscus.
Though such injuries can no doubt be heart-breaking, Houston makes a conscious effort to also view them as valuable lessons.
“I’ve become an anatomy and movement geek over the past few years,” says Houston. “Each injury teaches me more about my body and drives home the adage ‘You are how you move.’”
Additionally, injuries can be opportunities to devote more time and energy to other aspects of your life—family, friends, work, volunteering or various pursuits like reading, writing, playing music or learning a new skill.
For avid runner Ashley Nordell of Sisters, Oregon, having two young children has helped her keep perspective on a recurring adductor strain.
“It is definitely easier for me to stay busy,” she says. “Running is still important, but family and kids are way more valuable to me.”
While the importance of rest cannot be overstated when it comes to promoting recovery, keep in mind that “rest” doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing.
“Rest is a great idea, but if I spend time prone, I become antsy which means a longer recovery time,” says runner Adam Hewey of Seattle. “The answer for me is to move to keep my blood pumping, my spirits up and to work complementary muscles that aren’t currently injured.”
There are plenty of ways to let your body rest from the repetitive motion and impact of running. Take a walk or hike, ride a bike, go for a swim, or do some yoga. Houston has used her injuries as opportunities to explore new activities like Tai Chi, Chi Running and Chi Walking (in which she became a certified instructor in 2006) and Evolve Move Play, a Seattle-based company specializing in outdoor movement.
Injuries, in addition to being a personal disappointment, can create stress by interrupting someone’s primary way of connecting with certain friends. Being injured long-term can almost feel like a loss of identity. After all, going for group runs, meeting new people and feeling like a part of a community are a few of the great perks of being a runner.
If it helps you feel connected, keep abreast of your friends’ running adventures via social media, emails or by attending the social gathering before or after the run. Also, consider other ways to stay connected with your running community by volunteering at races or trail-work days. Invite friends for a bike ride, hike, potluck dinner or other gathering.
Above all, be patient.
“The hardest challenge for me with long lay-offs is just the patience it takes to recover,” says Nordell, “but I would rather take a few days off than the months that pushing through an injury might cause.”
Yitka Winn is a freelance writer, avid mountain runner and On the Run columnist for OutdoorsNW magazine. Follow her adventures at yitkawinn.com or on Instagram @yitkawinn.