The word that none of us want to hear – rest. Unexpected injury or illness can take out even the best and strongest of runners. We could end up on the sidelines of the racing season for reasons that are beyond our control and be forced to figure out what to do next and how to keep pushing forward. The thought of sitting around and not being able to get outside is like being grounded as a kid, times 10! This can be a frustrating time as we wonder how to retain our fitness and not lose all we’ve gained in our training. When an injury or illness take us out of our game for an extended time, how do we adjust our plan so we are able to come back strong when we get on the trails again? How do you deal with mental aspect of being injured, which may be more challenging than the physical recovery itself?
It may be a doctor, coach, or spouse who’s asking us to take a break and you may have to look at the greater good of what’s being forced upon you.
My experience has taught me that we can’t use the internet to diagnose ourselves and it may require a trip to a specialist. We may have to make the tough decision to give up running for a period of time due to severe injury or serious illness. This requires us to accept the idea that to continue to run is not something we are either able to do or is wise to do for our greater health, whether this means a short rest period of a few weeks or a longer time frame of several months. We can and will come back, but a time of rest is required and we must accept that.
GET A NEW PLAN
The first thing to do when sidelined is to come up with alternative options for fitness. Giving up running doesn’t mean giving up all cardio workouts, core or strength training (unless we have an illness that requires us to completely stop all activity). We can incorporate other activities like spin cycle, weights, indoor rowing, cycling, swimming, and even yoga to name a few.
Many of the fitness clubs we belong to have a variety of classes that can help add accountability into our workout. Most runners need more cross training, so look at recovery time as a way to get stronger in other areas. These other activities can help us stay focused and active while giving our injury a chance to heal.
When we know our break from running is for a certain period of time, we can stay positive by focusing on a goal further out in the future. It may be big adventure or race that is a year away, but the time will go by very quickly. Other times, healing doesn’t come in time frames easily measured, and an extended break from running may force us to look at goals more long term in nature.
My experience in running and racing has taught me that volunteering is often much more rewarding than racing. We can stay involved in our sport by volunteering at a race, either by working an aid station or helping to crew a friend in their race.
While the ultra runner doesn’t like being forced into a period of rest or even admit to injury it is usually the wise decision to fully recover.
Make the tough call and then start planning your steps through it. The goal is to stay mentally strong and physically active while recovering from injury or illness, and hopefully be stronger and wiser when you return to running.
Published January 2017