Once your body fully physically heals, the next step is to mentally get back into the game. For me honestly, that has always been something I’ve struggled with. Physically I know my legs can slowly progress back into running but I have to find myself mentally first.
First, your body heals eventually. One reason I personally prefer bone breaks (versus muscle issues) is because I know with proper care and recovery a bone heals stronger. It takes time and patience but eventually you will come back and be back to where you were. While this injury has taken far longer than I would have liked, I know I am recovering stronger.
My only other stress fracture was a tibia stress fracture. The day I got my tibia stress fracture in July 2011, I could not walk. That stress fracture was caused by extremely poor training. I was running every run too fast and too hard. I’ll take ownership for that injury and everything is 20-20 in hindsight. I didn’t know what I was doing and as a newer runner, I got my first dose of reality. This was a dose I needed to progress as a runner. Your body is not is not unbreakable. If you don’t train smart you will face the reality of a serious running injury. I didn’t train smartly and faced the consequence.
As a new runner I had no idea what was going on with my body. All I really knew was I wanted to whine, cry and complain until the next day…then I did the same thing. I cried my way through 6 weeks of that injury.
When I woke up in August with a bruised and swollen foot, I had a sinking feeling of what it was. This time my mindset was different. It was weird because it didn’t happen during a run but a stress fracture was obvious to me. I told a coworker that day as I limped around; I knew what I was dealing with. I just didn’t know how it happened. That day continued as well as the weekend. The world did not stop because I had a running injury. My day did not stop and I had to continue my life as normal as possible.
By the time I knew it, it was Monday and I found myself with some free time to get to the doctors. The doctor confirmed I had a stress fracture. Life had moved on between that Friday and Monday and it wasn’t a shocking discovery. As an older and “more mature” runner, I had accepted I wouldn’t be running for a while. The idea of any running for a while was laughable. The thought of a fall marathon went out the window about 3 minutes after waking up the previous Friday with a swollen foot.
I think that mindset propelled me through this injury. Life happens when you aren’t prepared. There was nothing I could do that would make my stress fracture disappear in a day. I don’t have scientific research to prove it, I just know I’m recovering much quicker mentally. I’m ready to get back in the game. I’m ready to commit to a late winter or early spring race. I’m ready to reach goals that I know I’m capable of. I’m ready to live life back on the running edge. Mentally I have not fallen off the wagon and I know I will rise to the occasion when racing is in my sights again.
So how am I building back my confidence foundation?
First I’m documenting how I feel each day in a private notebook. I’m documenting how my foot feels physically and how I feel mentally. I’m noting little recoveries. Every week I’m reviewing them and realizing that while I might not notice day to day improvements, the overall picture is linear. I’ve seen minor speed bumps and hurdles but I’m slowly recovering and progressing in the right direction.
Second, I’ve said all along but I’m seaking the positive. The positive in injury recovery, the positive in life and the positive in me as a person. My life has never revolved around running. When I’m out of running, I’m doing other things. I’m staying busy with a fulfilled life. While running is a very big hobby of mine, I don’t need running to survive. I don’t need blogging to survive, I have a collection of hobbies and activities I like to do.
Third, I’m not comparing myself to anyone including myself. I’m not comparing myself to those also recovering from an injury (this has been the hardest). I’m not comparing myself to those training or anyone at all. I’m not comparing myself to a previous fitness level or to myself at all. I’m just staying at the present and living my life. The comparison game benefits no one.
Case and point: I’m certainly not running 70 mile weeks right now and I’m 100% happy with what I am running. Running is a beautiful thing and running any injury free miles are better then none.
Do you remember back way long ago when you didn’t run to crush your PR’s, you ran because you wanted to be healthy? You don’t need to have a goal race right now because your goal is to come back stronger then ever. At least that’s how I look at it, I won’t get back to my peak fitness if I rush it right now. Yesterday I ran with no watch, no GPS and no anything. When I went to go track my run, I had forgotten the roads I ran on. The only thing I knew was that I ran for 30 injury free minutes and I felt great about it.
Question for you: How do you get over injuries mentally?