No one wants to be injured, ever. Most of us wouldn’t even wish a full blown injury onto our worst enemies. Injuries are miserable + they throw a big ol’ wrench into our plans. Most injuries we create + acquire on the trails are physical they usually cause a fair bit of mental strife as well. In all honesty, I’m writing this right now as a way to distract [+ empathize] with my own “uh, is that an injury!?” ache that is lingering in my shin longer than I’d like.
In all the years I’ve spent meddling in the running community the most common complaint about being injured isn’t about the actual physical pain or the lack of exercise while injured. Instead people are stressed about the time it takes to recover.
“I don’t have time for this!”
If we are unfortunate enough to become injured time is the one thing we do have. Time is the one thing that can truly heal our injuries + we need to take full advantage of the time we do have.
“No, seriously, I don’t have time to skip training.”
“My race is in two weeks! I can’t fully recover.”
“We already booked our hotel + flights, we can’t change the dates.”
“I do NOT have time.”
Unless you’re actually running for your life…there will be another race, another backpacking trip, another adventure. Right now, the one on the horizon seems like the only thing that matters, but if you keep pushing through the nagging injury the one even you’re chasing may be your last. Take time to recover!
Doctors, physical therapists + coaches will chant those words to us over + over again. At the end of the “pep talk” we’re still feeling like we’re missing out, losing money + letting ourselves down. That isn’t un-true + all of those things are the reason injures truly suck. However, there is more to an injury than what you’re missing out on.
I’ve found a way to survive injuries without completely losing my mind or further breaking my body…it involves finding the positive side of injuries + creating a really valuable way to use the time I’m sidelined from my goals.
Yes, there is a positive side to injuries.
No, I’m not delusional…hear me out.
Prevent Future Injuries
I swear, every time I become injured I learn a little something new about “what not to do” next time. Of course, I don’t always act on this knowledge the way I should [I’m still terrible about stretching + strength training] but at the very least, when something feels awry in the future I know exactly what I need to work on. This lets me keep aches from becoming injuries.
More specifically, when you’re dealing with a new-to-you injury do a little detective work! How did the injury happen? What did we change about our training to create such a negative affect on our body? What steps can we take to avoid this in the future? Over training? Too fast, too soon?
Those answers aren’t exactly easy to come by but they’re worth thinking about, if only to help you prevent another injury that will leave you lonely on the couch, again. And the answers to those questions will ebb + flow as your learn more + experiment more during your recovery.
Learn More About Your Body
We’ve all had a handful of injuries, I’m sure. From bumps + bruises to strained muscles + angry tendons. While our main focus while recovering from an injury is to just move past it as fast as possible we should really take a deep breath + slow down a bit. Check in with your doctor, find a supportive physical therapist, befriend a deep tissue masseuse…even ask Doctor Google for a bit of advice [just take it all as a grain of salt, Doctor Google is an alarmist!]
This is your chance to learn more about tendonitis or strained muscles. Focus on the nugget of your body that is injured at the moment, but spend a little time soaking up general information. Learn about trigger points. Find out which muscles need to be strengthened to better support your tendons. Incorporate more stretching into your routine. Become a more aware runner + hiker…so next time you feel the weird niggle + can react before it has your on the couch with a pint of ice cream.
You’ll also learn what parts of your bodies are your “problem areas”. No, not problem areas like Cosmo writes about…more scientific problem areas. Personally, my tendons are a mess — specifically the tendons in my feet. It’s like they’re volunteering to just blow up while my muscles manage to keep their act together. Over time I’ve become very familiar with the weird niggles + tightness that shows up *before* I get injured + know exactly what I need to do to prevent a full blown injury. It’s not fun information to gather, as it requires multiple injuries, but it is incredibly valuable information to have.
Discover Truly Fun Cross Training
This might be judgmental, but I’m fairly certain the only athlete out there that actually excels at cross training is a triathlete. Every other genre of “get outside” usually has us so focused on our favorite way to play that we forget other muscles benefit from use as well. Or…we say we “just don’t have time to cross training”. Well, hello there injury + all the time in the world!
The cross training you do doesn’t need to be full blown, max HR intensity + you don’t need to be awesome at what you’re doing. You just need to do. Get outside, get fresh air, get the blood moving. Discover something new + let your heart love it while your body tries to mend itself.
This also helps you avoid legitimate burn out — spend your time injured getting somewhat familiar with SUP’ing or climbing or cycling or yoga or whatever tickles your fancy. Make new friends who are willing to take you out exploring — bribe them with ice cream + donuts if needed. The next time you’re staring at your trail shoes thinking “ugh, I just don’t want to” call up one of those new friends + plan a different sort of adventure. Your brain needs the cross training just as much as your body, I promise.
Of course, you’ll be tempted to get back in those trail shoes sooner than you should when you’re faced with an injury. That’s okay. Feel crappy for a while, that’s okay, but remember…it’s the downs that make the ups incredible. Be smart, let yourself fully recover + take a little time to find news ways to play outside!
Injuries suck, but they’re actually incredible opportunities to learn + grow as a runner, hiker + adventurer! Just give yourself the time to get everything you can out of your latest mishap.
For a little more insight on finding opportunities in injuries, check out this post by Gina — Opportunity, a Word Disguised as Injury.