Why a runner recovering from illness or injury needs patience
I’ve not been able to run at all this week. This is extremely annoying. After slogging my way thorough the valley-of-not-being-arsed to run, I finally regained my mojo. And immediately get injured and have to force-stop myself from running.
Necessary because the key to getting back into my running is not to run. Let’s explore why patience is the key to recovery from illness or injury.
My Achilles Heel: My ankle…
Many years ago, I was walking up the steps into the student union in Dundee, Scotland. Suddenly, I landed on my right foot on a funny angle – the sole of foot was at almost a 90 degree angle to my leg. I still don’t know how I did that. The steps were dry, it wasn’t icy and I hadn’t had a sup of drink. Yet.
Which makes me a bigger twit I guess as I’ve got absolutely no excuse.
Anyway, the next morning, I woke up screaming in agony. My right foot was in agony. Long story short, I got my ass down to A&E – thank God it was a Sunday/Monday, not a Saturday as I’d still be there – and got sorted. While I thought I may have broken something, it was just really bad tendon damage.
Since then,a couple of times a year, my damn ankle re-enacts that infamous night. It happens so often, I long ago invested in a folding walking stick. I’ve got a nifty little folding number that lives most of the year in my wardrobe. I do toy with the idea of buying a sword-stick but that’s probably a bad idea.
The frustration from wanting to run and not being able to
Like a least-favourite relative, my dodgy ankle and I have come to an arrangement. Once a year, it visits and I put up with it. What this means is I have to stop running, put my ankle brace on, dig out the walking stick and be very, very, very patient.
Wanting to run and having to stop yourself is very, very, very frustrating. It’s one of the few hobbies I have that makes me a better person every time I do it. Every time I run, I get a little bit fitter, a little bit stronger, a little bit more like my best self. Knowing that I am my best self when I run, it’s a heck of a psychic load to force myself not to run. To be a little less than the all I can be
It’s doubly frustrating at the moment. This is because I finally, finally, finally got my running mojo back. And have immediately had to force myself to stop running. However, I know that this interruption is for the best.
An important part of running is not running
No matter how dedicated people are to running, sometimes not running is the best thing one can do. Ultimately, our bodies are flesh-and-blood; not perpetual motion machines. Injury and illness come to everyone. They need rest and time to recover.
- If it’s in the chest, give running a rest. As an asthmatic ex-smoker that is prone to chest infections, staying indoors while waiting to get better is the only sensible option.
- If it’s a joint, give running a rest. My weakest links are my ankles. If they go, the impact ripples out to the rest of my life – not being able to walk, drive a car or even stand.
Importance of right mental approach for successful recovery
Recovering from injury or illness is both a physical and mental game. Indeed, I believe the mental aspect is harder. This is because – to a certain extent – we can’t control our healing time. And that means we can accept our bodies doing their thing and taking a week or two to get better.
The only part of the recovery process we can control is our mental attitude. This is harder because how we feel about recovery is up to us completely. We don’t have any excuses. Knowing that our mental approach is down to us is important to make sure we don’t get discouraged or try to go back running before we are ready.
What I find hardest is the frustration. For me, frustration is the emotion showing me how I’m not in control of part of my life. It gets really, really, really hard for me to accept I can’t do what I want – which is to run. It’s hard to accept my body – occasionally – will not do what I want. It’s hard to accept that nature means I’m not the complete boss of me.
However, a key part of my personal philosophy is knowing that I can’t control what happens to me, only how I respond. This means I quickly accept that, for whatever physical reason, I’m not fit to run. I stop running. I use cold compression, walking sticks and pain killers to make life a bit easier. I focus on getting better.
I also take steps to ensure my sudden downturn in activity doesn’t impact other areas of my life. For example, calorie counting to make sure I don’t put on unwanted weight. I can also re-dedicate the running time to other hobbies. Usually reading.
The payoff of patience
Being gentle with my body and having buckets of patience has a big payoff. It means that I come back fit as before. While it can be frustrating, slowing down occasionally and doing something else means that, when I start running again, I’m back feeling renewed.