Today my physiotherapist asked me: “how are you doing with the mental side of this? I know a lot of athletes have difficulty resting and taking time off from their sport.”
It was a good question and one that I was thinking about over the weekend. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic (which I never, ever do), I had a bit of an epiphany while swimming at the local Y back home.
The hardest part about this injury isn’t going to be physical. It will be mental.
I WILL run Boston in six weeks. No matter what happens with my groin/hip flexor, I will make it across that finish line. But as confident as I’m trying to be, I’m also really, really scared. I’m kind of doing a “na na na na naaaaa not listening”, hands-over-my-ears, looking away, immature-toddler thing right now where I’m not letting myself even think about the possibility my leg won’t be healed before the marathon.
Maybe this isn’t the realistic, grown-up thing to do. But I like to think it’s me staying positive. And as difficult as my “comeback” to running may be physically, once I get the all-clear from my physio to start running again (right now it’s no running until Friday at the earliest, then re-assess), I know the biggest struggle is going to be getting over that mental block. The voice in my head freaking out and saying, “You won’t be able to do this, your leg is going to start hurting, you haven’t trained enough,” etc etc…basically, that stupid voice that tells pretty much ALL of us we’re not “enough” at whatever it is we dream of doing. The voice otherwise known as fear.
So my challenge is going to be telling that voice to shut up, and then going out there and running 42.2 kilometers, drawing upon every bit of mental strength I can summon.
That’s maybe why I’m not struggling so much with not running right now. I know I need to use this time away from running to build up my mental strength, and one major way to do that is by focusing on recovery. I’ve extolled the virtues of stretching, massaging, icing and foam rolling already on here, but there’s something to be said for just relaxing and taking it easy too.
Yesterday was not my “usual” Sunday – I didn’t do my long run, obviously, but that opened up time for sleeping in and then going shopping with my mom. Then in the afternoon, the two of us did some strength training (I modified a lot of the moves and mostly just focused on arms, deadlifts and glute bridges) and then we joined my dad on the couch to watch a movie. It was a perfect Sunday! And honestly? Probably (definitely) wouldn’t have happened if I had been off running 30 kilometers around Cambridge.
So my answer to the physiotherapist when she asked me how I was dealing with not running was, “Pretty well.” I think it helps too that I have running goals I want to achieve, and I realize the only way I’m going to achieve those goals is if I’m smart about recovery now. My last running injury was back in 2008 and happened because I was a) stupid and stubborn and b) obsessed with running every day, no matter what. The ironic thing is that back then I wasn’t racing or training, and I was actually a lot slower than I am now. I ran only because…well, because that was just what I did. It was a way for me to clear my head and de-stress, it was part of my routine, and to be completely honest it was a tried-and-true way to burn calories and to feel “in control”. So when I ended up in a cast, I mentally couldn’t handle it because suddenly my “coping” method was taken away from me.
Now, my attitude towards my injury is completely different. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have my moments of panic, frustration and “why me???” fist-shaking at the universe type of melodrama. But truly? Getting back into racing has helped me SO much. It’s given me something to work towards rather than just endless, exhausting running for no reason other than “because”. It’s given me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment and pride. It’s given me (finally! because I’m a slow learner) the knowledge to back down, slow down and take REAL rest days because those are important parts of any training plan.
Simply put, my attitude towards recovery and injury is radically healthier than it was six years ago. I’m so grateful for that and I really credit getting back into racing for this change.
And as for my running goals? Here they are:
– Run the Boston Marathon in – gulp – six weeks
– Run the Great Wall Marathon in China by the time I’m 30
– Get my half-marathon PR down to 1:30 (current PR is 1:37)
– Run for as long as I love it. Always be able to say “I’m going out for a run!” on a gorgeous sunny spring day, whether I’m 26 or 86.
And how will I accomplish those goals? By being smart now and doing everything I can to recover from this injury. It’s those four goals listed above that are helping me beat the no-running blues right now, because I know this too shall pass and soon enough I’ll be back out on the road.