That’s what Jonathan said to a despairing me the other night as we embarked on another possibly pointless home/amateur massage therapy session to try to treat whatever is ailing both of us.
He’s right. Read this.
I haven’t run in a month. Unless some miracle occurs in the coming week, I don’t expect to be running any time soon. So these days my strategy to keep myself from getting depressed is to come up with as many productive ways to cope as possible. Here are my best ideas:
1. Accept your injury. You are injured. That’s reality. If you are lucky enough to have a diagnosis and presciption, then do your homework — that might mean stretching, icing, pills, physical therapy, cross-training or any other number of assignments. Most important, don’t run again before you’re ready to, as that may only prolong your layoff.
2. Don’t set deadlines. Your injury will abate when it’s damned well ready. It does not care about your race schedule or even what an expert said about your prognosis. I am registered for a race on September 25. Even if I’m able to run by then, I probably won’t be ready to race. I could obsess over the 25th and see it as a looming deadline. Instead, I’m ignoring that date and looking further forward to races I have planned many months from now. Maybe I won’t be able to run those either, but I’ll worry about that in the coming weeks and months. With these strategies, I’m hoping I won’t have shot myself by then.
3. Embrace cross-training. I have stopped viewing cross-training as “something I have to do while I can’t run.” Now I’m trying to view it as what I do to keep in shape. I’m trying to imagine that running has not been invented yet. For better or worse, I am now spending more time cross-training — between two and three hours a day — than I did while training as a runner. Since I started doing an AM and PM session of cross-training, I have regained the daily structure that running previously provided, plus I’m confident that not only am I not losing fitness, I may be gaining it while I ride out this period of injury. Added bonus: I can stop subsisting on rabbit food like I had to during my first few weeks of injury (when I could do nothing but lurch, wince and complain) since I’m burning a truckload of calories again.
Also, mix up your cross-training with variety and real, sustained-effort workouts. Just about any long run, tempo or track workout can be replicated on a bike or in a pool, for example. Yes, it sucks. But it’s better than the alternative.
Finally, take this opportunity to multitask: you can read a book while on a stationary bike; you can listen to podcasts while water running; one person I know takes language lessons while she stretches.
4. Volunteer at a race or two. I admit it: I never volunteer at races. Yes, that probably makes me something of a total shit. Now that I’m sidelined, I may as well spread the love and make myself useful to other runners, while reminding myself of how much fun it will be when I’m grabbing that cup again, rather than handing it to someone. So I’m going to volunteer at a few road races. This will also get me outside to enjoy the fall weather when I would otherwise be inclined to sit inside and wallow in self-pity over the fact that I’m not out running in it.
5. Reconnect with your non-running friends. Remember them? I’ll bet they’ve missed you. Just don’t spend the entire lunch date talking about your injury.
6. Remember that this too shall pass. When other runners hear that you’re injured, they will tell you their stories. Many of them will be much, much worse than yours is. On one message board I frequent, one contributor was injured for four years — during that period she could barely run and she could not race at all. She cross-trained, got through it, and was racing again eventually — and winning some of those races outright at the age of 48. You’ll run again. (And, unfortunately, you’ll probably get injured again.) Keep the faith.