3 Things I Learned from my First Injury
I now know first-hand that being an injured runner sucks. There’s no way around it. When you can’t do what you love, it can rock your whole world and make you feel all sorts of out of whack. Especially living in Minnesota, I wait nine months before I can run outside without multiple layers of clothing on, so receiving the news in June that I had a stress reaction in my second metatarsal and wouldn’t be able to run for all of July and through most of August was disappointing, to say the least. But just like with anything else, there are positives that can be taken from the situation. Here are some of the biggest things I learned from my first running injury:
1. The words you tell yourself and others matter.
It’s important to tell your injury story in an empowering way. Of course, it’s okay to acknowledge disappointment about it, but there’s always a positive perspective that can (and should!) be acknowledged, too.
For me, I could have easily said, “Ugh, the timing of this injury couldn’t be worse. No running for 6-8 weeks is a huge setback and is happening right when I’m trying to talk to professional coaches and find a sponsor. The first thing they will see is me hobbling around in a boot.”
Instead, what I said over and over and over about my injury was, “Obviously I’m bummed about it, but after five years of consistent training with no more than a couple weeks break throughout college, my whole body is probably healing and benefitting from this extended break. It’s also a good time to take a mental break and reset, too, before making the transition to post-collegiate running.”
After saying this to so many people so many times, I truly believe it. I believe my body is prepping for all the work ahead and is going to come back even stronger than before. Your mind and body are connected, so do yourself a favor and talk about your injury in a positive way.
2. Grinding out cross-training is not always the right answer.
I did a lot of research on cross-training right after I got the news that my injury would prevent me from running for weeks. The research is all over the place. Some people and studies claim that cross-training really does nothing at all for runners. Others say that cross-training can maintain running fitness for up to 6 weeks, and still others say that done right, cross-training can be as effective as running for just about any length of time. Hmm.
After my first few aqua-jogging sessions, I thought ahead to the many hours I might spend in the tiny pool that I had access to in my athletic training room. I thought about the four almost back-to-back trips I had planned for the end of July and early August, and before I knew it, cross-training became the most stressful part of my summer.
I quickly made the decision that I was not going to try to replicate my 60-70 weekly running mileage on a bike or in a pool. Not because I am lazy or because it was impossible, but because I wanted to focus my summer on healing – both my mind and my body. I still got quality workouts in several times a week. But now, instead of feeling mind-numbingly drained from hours spent aqua-jogging in pools and on stationary bikes, I feel reenergized and ready for what is ahead – and I have not completely withered away into an unfit sloth-like creature like I feared I would.
3. Celebrate the little wins.
I recently started running on an Alter-G treadmill again after over eight weeks off of running. It was only for 20 minutes and at 60% of my bodyweight, which felt like a tease of a run for someone like me. While I’m still very far from where I want to be, slow progress is still progress, and not every day brings progress at all. It can be a great cross-training day, or making a bone-healing recipe from Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s Run Fast. Eat Slow. cookbook, or even finding a pair of shoes that don’t hurt the injury when walking.
To reflect on all the wins along the way, I like to write it all down in my Believe training journal, or sometimes even share it with others on social media. Do what you need to do to celebrate every tiny bit of it!