How To Change Your Mindset on Injuries
Before summer 2019 came around, I’ve never taken a break from running for more than two or three weeks due to injury or sickness. One year later, I’ve had a fair share of injuries ranging from an ankle sprain to Achilles tendonitis to stress fracture. In that year, my running shoes stayed in the closet more days than they were taken out.
And of course, there was a lot of doubt, fear, and yes, even tears. Because when you’re standing at the beginning of a road, you often can’t see the end of it. When will the injury be healed? Will I lose all my fitness in recovery? When will I be able to race again?
In the end, injuries are just part of sports although we do our best to avoid them or sometimes even to ignore them. But they want our attention and they want to be learned from.
Here are the best strategies that helped me change the way I think about injuries:
1. Remind yourself of all the good things in your life. Be grateful.
You’ve heard it a hundred times. Maybe you’re annoyed of hearing it another time. If the latter is true, you should ask yourself if you’ve really been listening then. You’ve probably skipped this question before, but if you really want to change your mindset about injuries, you have to answer this for yourself: What am I grateful for?
There is so much to be thankful for. If you can’t come up with something personal yet, think about the people you’re close to, the fact that you have a safe place to sleep, and plenty of food to keep you healthy. Once you have found an answer that feels good, hold on to the feeling of gratitude.
2. Injuries are here to point out what you’ve been neglecting.
Problems, injuries, and diseases have one thing in common: They make us look at things we haven’t given enough attention to. The stress reaction might point out that you have been training too much for too long. The fatigue that constantly has your company might be a sign that you’ve been ignoring you sleeping needs. The tight calves might want to tell you that they need better recovery treatment.
It sounds weird, but be grateful for the injury because it points out mistakes of the past and it shows you the way to go in the future. Listen to your body and give yourself what you need!
3. The analogy of the prisoner.
Imagine you were wrongly convicted of a crime you had nothing to do with. You’re facing ten years of prison. How would you deal with that?
I think there are two ways to look at the situation. You could give up on hope and let your fate break you. Or you could take this as a chance. You could use this time to learn about yourself, to meditate, to read books, to write, to talk to other prisoners.
Now of course dealing with an injury is not as hard as dealing with ten years of prison. But no matter how bad or not-so-bad a situation is, you can always make the best of it and treat it like an opportunity.
4. Take running as a metaphor.
You’ve just passed the midpoint of your first half-marathon. You’re tired, your legs are heavy. You want to quit. But you don’t. Because you know how good it feels when you’re finally crossing the finish line. How good the food tastes after running for so long. Or when your friends and family cover you in hugs and congratulations.
Obviously, you can’t quit an injury like you can quit a race. But just like a race, an injury is a challenge. And no matter the size or shape of a challenge, once you’ve overcome it you’re stronger.
5. Find other things to occupy your mind with.
It’s a strategy you’ll probably read about in any guide about dealing with injuries. But it’s still a good one.
When you’re forced to take a break from running, you’ll have more or less time over that is looking for a new occupation! Why not take it as a chance to try something new?
Even if you have to spend a lot of time at home or even in the bed, there’s still plenty to explore. I guess we’ve all become experts in this since Covid-19, but from documentaries to books to online classes, the Internet has a lot more to offer than social media and Netflix.
If you’re allowed to do other sports, you could engage in cross-training such as swimming, cycling, and weight lifting. If that’s not for you, think about these options: aqua jogging, bouldering, kayaking, and the elliptical are just waiting to be discovered by you!
While I was recovering from the stress fracture, which required me to walk on crutches for two months, I kept reminding myself of these five things every single day. And you know what? The two months actually flew by like two weeks. Just remember to be nice to yourself, give your body all the time it needs to heal, and be patient!