“So you run?” I ask it in excited anticipation. I’m practically salivating. I love hearing what drives my peers to take on what so many people consider to be a masochistic exercise regime. My colleague nodded and described her fervorous commitment to running marathons and iron mans. She was able to empathize and relate to my nasty deep-set hip flexor strain.
“It gets worse.” She warned. I wanted to shield my ears. Running injuries translate to rest and rest is precisely what runners fear. When you start to identify yourself as a runner, it is impossible to imagine a life without it. Behold a long and drawn out identity crisis that entails running when you absolutely should not and resting minimally.
It is amazing how hard it is to take on the challenge of resting when so many people choose couch potato status for a favorite pastime. I know that for me resting meant giving up the best way I knew to challenge my body and mind. As deeply disappointed as I felt about losing the physical results I had struggled to reach, the loss of that mental stimulation was just as stressful.
For me running is like a rhythm, every step and every stride feels like music. The rhythm is a therapeutic method for facing my fears and figuring out unresolved conflict. It is also freedom to daydream. Focus. It is reaching the zone; that mental place where you are limitless. It is an achievement you strive to feel every day. That achievement breeds happiness and happiness becomes that high you always want to hold onto.
After facing the consequences of not resting and suffering an injury far longer than necessary, I developed some ways to cope with my injury and take advantage of the “rest sentence.”
- Read up and relate. There are people with injuries worse than yours who recovered and may have great advice in terms of everything from physical therapy exercises and stretches, to alternative workouts, and unique perspectives.
- Become a yogi. Yoga is a great way to teach your body to rest and to stimulate healing. It seems like injuries often stem from lack of stretching, yoga is a wonderful way to force yourself into that habit.
- Become a master at pilates. As an alternative to running, pilates is far more intensive workout than one would actually imagine. The workouts are challenging and strengthen your muscles, but they are not too rigorous for your body to handle when recovering. (Usually. Double Check with your health care provider.) My favorite virtual workouts are Pop Pilates instructed by Cassey Ho. Even Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones subscribes to her workouts! That’s not a workout you can feel bad about!
- Indulge. Pamper yourself. Take advantage of an excuse to be lazy. Take a bath, light some candles, read a book, revisit your inner artist and try painting or writing.
- Volunteer. A great way to distract yourself. Put your energy towards something that will not only feel fulfilling, but benefit your community.
- Learn. Another wonderful way to distract yourself. Use the time you would to run to learn a new language, read about the best foods to fuel your body and to heal your body, educate yourself and find your stance on current health, environmental, and social issues.
- Listen. Accept feedback from your friends and family. Chances are they are not surprised that you injured yourself. At times they may know you better than yourself. Listen to what they may have to say about your workout habits. This may be reassurance to give yourself a break.
- Stretch. If it is too painful to stretch, do not do it. When the time is right–don’t stop! Stretching is vital to recovery and to maintaining your body’s strength.
How do you choose to relax or cope with a restless mind or injury? This list could be never ending. Bring it on!