Training can be difficult, but gaining an injury and not being able to run at all is worse. It is very common for an injured runner to become impatient and irritable, but, as frustrating as an injury setback can be, it can make you a better athlete in the long term. Being an injured runner myself at the moment I have experimented with a few things in order to keep myself sane!
1. Focus on what you CAN do
It's very easy to fall into the “I can't do this, I can't do that” routine. Try to focus on what you can do. If you are able to cross train / swim / cycle then do it. Not only will this maintain your cardiovascular fitness, but you will feel better for it. It's also important to use this to be able to put your life into perspective. Although not being able to run may seem like the end of the world, there are worse people off in the world. As easy as it's said than done (believe me, I know!), try not to dwell too much.
2. Inspire yourself with a good book / article / story
During your time off read an inspiring book or article, watch YouTube videos of comebacks that have happened. This will remind you that you are not alone in the world of injuries and that eventually you will be fighting fit again!
3. Keep a journal
This can really help you psychologically. Not so much as a “Dear diary” journal but more something to vent to when you're feeling down. If you ever feel angry or frustrated just write down your emotions, it doesn't have to make sense and you don't necessarily have to read it back, use it as a coping method. It works, I tried it myself!
4. Eat well
Now I have to admit, being injured myself I have fallen into the trap of eating more rubbish in the past few months than I normally do! It is normal for you to eat large quantities when you are exercising regularly, but when that stops you may find you will gain a few extra pounds. This doesn't mean you have to cut down drastically what you are eating as the body needs the nutrition to repair itself. But it is worth reducing the intake of your sin foods (jaffa cakes are a habit of mine). This will help you stay as lean as possible which will help with self-confidence. Any few extra pounds will come off rather quickly when you start running again.
5. Use your time off wisely or take up something new entirely
Use the time that you would normally take running to try something different. There may be something that you've always wanted to try but have never had the chance to. I myself am currently using my time off to catch up with friends, with the rest of my time being spent either reading books I've never had the chance to read or completing an online course that I signed up to. The world really is your oyster!
6. Work on your weaknesses
Your time off from running is a perfect opportunity to work on your weaknesses, whether that be your flexibility, core strength or upper body. Work on the areas that are often neglected from your running so when you do return you will find yourself to be a stronger runner.
7. Set goals for when you return
These can either be long or short term goals, but just make sure they are realistic to avoid disappointment or over-training! Choose a goal that will focus and motivate you to come back stronger. It could even be a weekly goal for you to see your own progress build. Best to keep a diary of this progress.
8. Focus on today
You may have had to pull out of a race that you had planned, which can be disappointing. Try to take each day as it comes and try to avoid thinking about how you should be running a race in the future or your how your plans have now changed. As important as it is to set goals for the future, it's impossible to give your body a deadline for when you will be ready to run again, so don't rush it. It's also important to remember that the older you get, the longer it takes for your body to heal and so if a recurring injury took 4 weeks to heal before, it doesn't mean it will take the same amount the next time. By not setting deadlines on your recovery you will feel less agitated and frustrated and will avoid running before you're ready.
As frustrating as it is to not run, just remember that not only will you learn more about your body but you will also become more appreciative when you do finally put on your running shoes again!
“So let us not worry about the future. Let us only do the right thing today, at this moment, here and now. Try to aspire now, today, and let the future take care of itself.”
— Sri Chinmoy