Let's discuss, shall we?
There are times in a runner's training when they have to skip a run or two due to a busy schedule, an unexpected event, or simply because they want a break. Then there are times in a runner's training where they are forced to skip runs. They're injured.
I don't get injured often. In fact, most of my injuries are self-inflicted, such as tripping and spraining my ankle while on a trail run. Or walking into a door and breaking and dislocating my little toe. But those are different stories for different days. This time, I've torn my hamstring. Well, it's either a hamstring or adductor tear. An MRI will confirm. Sigh.
Injuries are very hard for many runners to deal with, for a number of reasons. While some runners actually look forward to the little break for a welcome rest, others completely freak out. As you can imagine, I am part of the group of runners that freak out when injured. Not only because my job is to run, but it's my therapy, time to myself, etc. I've been dealing with hamstring issues since my twin girls were born. I've had some piriformis issues as well and I just did what I knew to keep things loose, strengthened the areas and took things easily whenever possible.
Sometimes that's not enough. After dealing with these issues for some time, my hamstring kept getting worse. After my 50K last month, it was horrendous. Mainly because the race course had us climbing almost 5000 feet over 5 miles of rocky terrain. It aggravated my hamstring like you wouldn't believe. Which lead me to the doctor. And here I am.
Obviously, most injuries cause physical pain. You've pulled a hamstring, torn a ligament. It hurts. Well, that pain can be more than just physical. Pain can also be emotional. And most runners can get slightly depressed when they're dealing with an injury, especially for those that require weeks, if not months, of rest. My injury still allows me to run, thankfully. But I need to run slower, cover less mileage and avoid hills. Not an easy task for me.
Like me, many runners use their running as therapy. When they are feeling stressed and frazzled, their running serves as a way to release that stress. When they can't get on the road, they don't know how else to deal with their stress.
Another aspect that may be lost for runners with injuries is the social aspect of running. For many runners, their runs with their friends are much-anticipated social gatherings. This is the time they catch up and talk about what's going on in life. When they can't participate, injured runners often feel left out of their social circle, and for some, cut off from their social support.
Most runners can tell you that running is more than just a hobby for them. They may not be professional runners or coaches, but running is a part of who they are. And when they can't run, some runners don't know how to deal with themselves. They suddenly have all this time and can't do the one thing they love the most. It can be especially difficult for the non-runners in the injured party's life. They may not understand why their favorite runner is so depressed, irritable, or stressed out.
How to Deal
It's really important to look at your time differently while injured. While it is heartbreaking to not be able to run, you have to use this time to take care of yourself. You're injured because your body has a weakness. You have to help that weakness get strong and the only way to do that is rest. Injury is your body's way of telling you to back off. Try to figure out why you got injured in the first place and get stronger. Speaking with a sports medical professional is always your first line of defense for determining how you got injured, how you should treat it and what you can do to prevent it from happening again. I saw Dr. Runco over at the San Diego Running Institute. They are fabulous there and I highly recommend you making the trip to their office if you're suspecting your aches and pains are more than just normal running aches and pains.
Try your best to stay positive and upbeat. While it's so easy to get depressed over your injury, it's important to understand that this happens to most runners at some point during their training, and you will get back on the roads. Just because you're injured, it doesn't mean there's something inherently wrong with you or you are not a strong runner. Quite the opposite. No one runner is immune from getting hurt, regardless of experience or ability. But don't try to run through your injury. If you don't take the time to get better, it will only take longer to recover.
Find other ways to cope with stress. If other forms of exercise are out, returning to other interests that may have been ignored for some time is one way to deal with stress. Start a new book, learn how to knit, or catch up on your movie watching. Whatever you find enjoyable, take this time to reintroduce yourself to it.
Stay in touch with your running friends. Call, email, text, whatever you did to set up your runs, do it now. You know that you don't have to just see each other when you're running. Set up a time to see a movie, grab dinner, or just talk. Thankfully, I'm still able to run, albeit slowly and for not as long as I'd like. So I'm able to keep up with my friends and clients. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky and they are sidelined completely. Don't let your running friendships slide simply because you're not running. But if hearing about all your friends' running adventures is bothersome for you, ask when you get together that you stick to topics that are not running-related.
Talk about how you feel. Let the people in your life, both running and non-running, know that you are going through a hard time. They will be there to listen and be a source of support as you get through your injury. Being injured is a big deal. But you don't have to "suck it up" and pretend everything is fine. If you're feeling badly, lean on those around you.
Try to use your down time to enjoy yourself. If your injury allows it, try out a new form of exercise. Go swimming, go for a bike ride. Try yoga. Work on your strength training. This is actually quite important in preventing future injuries.
Dealing with injuries is hard for many runners. But if you accept the fact that you're injured and use the time to find out other things about yourself, it may just be a little easier to move forward.