How to Deal With the Emotional Impact of Running Injuries

running injuries

Aside from causing some physical pain, a running injury can also take a big emotional toll on runners. When you’re recovering from an injury, you become much more aware of how running is a big, important part of your life. You may feel unhappy, frustrated, and more anxious, since running was an outlet for your stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you can make the most of your recovery and put yourself in a good position to get back to running when the time is right. Follow these strategies to deal with the emotions of a running injury:

1.Try not to adopt a “woe-is-me” attitude.

A positive, optimistic outlook can help speed up your recovery. It helps to surround yourself with uplifting people. If someone has negative energy and doesn’t understand why you’re so bummed about your injury, now might be a good time to limit your exposure to that person. Talk to running friends who can sympathize with your situation.

2. Stay active.

Keeping active can also help you deal with the emotional struggles of a running injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about recommendations for safe cross-training activities during your recovery. Some good choices are usually low-impact activities such as yoga, swimming, or deep water running. The physical activity will help prevent feelings of stress, sadness, and anger. And you’ll feel better knowing that you’re still burning lots of calories and maintaining some of your fitness.

3. Keep up your routine.

Although you can’t run, you should still try to stick to your running habit rituals as much as possible. If you’re typically a morning runner, go for a walk or do strength-training in the morning. Keeping up your habit of going to the gym or being active outside will also help ease the transition back to your running routine.

4. Strength-train.

Many runners I coach say they finally find time to strength-train more when they’re injured, even though it’s something they know should be doing all the time. Strength-training can be done safely with most types of injuries and it most likely will help with your recovery. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about recommendations for the best exercises for your injury. Once you’re recovered, you can continue your now-established strength training habit to help make yourself more injury-resistant.

5. Find other outlets.

Now’s the time to find other relaxing activities that may help manage your stress (including the stress of dealing with an injury!). Binge-watch some shows, read some books or magazines, do a craft project –- anything that will keep your mind occupied and not thinking about sources of stress in your life. It’s also a great time to focus on non-running aspects of your life. You have more time to do the things you say you’ll do when you’re not busy training for a race. Get together with some nonrunning friends for coffee or dinner, or go out to watch a movie or a play. Doing something different that you don’t always have time for will help you appreciate the time off from running.

6. Be patient.

Make sure you’re being realistic in your goals and expectations and not rush the recovery process.  I’ve seen many runners start running again when their injury isn’t quite healed and they end up re-injuring themselves. Be smart and patient and you’ll soon be back up and running. Keep telling yourself that your injury is only temporary and it will pass.

7. See the positive.

The silver lining of any injury is that it does give you a better appreciation for running. You’ll be much less likely to take running for granted. You’ll strengthen your resolve to maintain your running habit. And you’ll pay more attention to injury prevention steps that can help you avoid another injury.

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