All athletes experience injuries from time to time. But the thought of being injured, and taking time out from our sport, often evokes a hell of a lot of frustration, self-doubt, and anxiety. So, besides the obvious physical pain of injury, we are often left feeling heartbroken and a little bit empty too, torn away from our love affair by shin splints.
There are plenty of incredibly useful articles out there about how to recover physically from sports injuries; from stretching to strengthening techniques, or ice and elevated resting. Many of these have helped me restore my injured legs and come back to the game stronger than ever.
But, there is little out there that offers support with the emotional side of injury and recovery. I often get asked how I cope with the times when my heart is telling me yes, but my legs are telling me NO! – and in all honesty, I struggle. A stream of negative thoughts permeate my conscience and it can be tricky not to let these criticisms and fears take over. Will I get slower? Will I lose the tone in my muscles? Will I fall out of love with running? All of which are, of course, utter nonsense in the long run!
These past few years I’ve discovered some real saving graces through trial and error, and I would love to use this post as an opportunity to share some wisdom with you.
ONE: Firstly, I cannot stress enough how important it is to lay a strong foundation of self-love. See resting as a form of looking after yourself, as opposed to being lazy. By resting in the present, you are investing in your future as an athlete.
TWO: Set positive affirmations. It may seem cheesy but our bodies do so much for us and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of how incredible we are! Don’t be afraid to say it aloud! A great way to set these affirmations is to focus on things outside of running. Try writing down all the things you’re awesome at, besides racing.
THREE: Remember that the amount of running you do does NOT define you! You are so much more than how many kg’s you can deadlift, or how many miles you run a week.
FOUR: Use the time out to discover some of your other talents. Maybe you’re a secret pianist but you just never knew because you spend all your time at the gym.
FIVE: Yoga! Practising daily will help you both mentally and physically. Whilst stretching and strengthening tired or injured muscles, you’ll also find that yoga helps to keep you calm – even if it’s just because it helps you feel like you’re still moving everyday. There are plenty of specialised yoga videos for us runners on Youtube. Some of my favourites are with Charlie Morgan and Erin Motz who focus on hips and hamstrings.
Sadly we all know that there are no magic fixes, and often doctor’s orders of complete rest are exactly what we need. But I hope this post can help your mental recovery from injury!