Sunday, 1 November 2015

How to not go insane when you're injured or, Advice I give myself but can't take

Runners, as a group, tend to be ambitious, dedicated, obsessive, passionate, competitive types.
We get up at 5am to ensure we stick to our training plan, our weekends are dedicated to getting in those long run miles. We lose sleep, friends, our evenings, weekends, toenails... but none of that matters when you're out on the road, just you and your trainers.
So when we're injured, it's not too surprising that we are absolute monsters.

When you take the running out of the runner, is the runner a runner at all?
This has been my thought process over the last two weeks.
To go from being about to run a half marathon (and in a decent time, I would like to add!) to struggling to walk for five minutes, that gets your ego bad.
But worst of all, it gets your sense of self.

When you plan your weekends around your runs, what do you do with yourself when you can't run? When you are used to 5.30am wakeups, do you just stay in bed? When you are used to eating all.of.the.carbs, what do you eat when you don't need the energy for 20 miles per week?

The emotional side of being injured, or at least, when you're a little bit injured, can be a hundred times worse than the physical pain. The ache in my foot doesn't bother me nearly as much as the knowledge that I can't just go for a run on Tuesday morning. Or the fact that I should have started my marathon training by now. Or the fact that I can't do parkrun. Or the fear that I'm losing fitness by the minute.

Being injured has really, really, really got me down. I don't really have any "runner friends" who can really appreciate how much this is affecting me mentally, and all my other friends are sick of me moaning about it! After a week of hoping it was just "post-race tightness", I accepted last week that I was injured and it was time to come up with a post-injury plan.

So here's what I've come up with. It's not perfect, it's incredibly hard, it hasn't made it all go away, and I don't even know if it's working yet because I'm far from there yet. But he's what I'm trying. Or at least, trying to try!

1) Find a cross-training plan (and stick to it)
I am awful at cross-training, mainly because when it comes to fitness I have only extremes. I am either ALL ABOUT RUNNING AND ONLY RUNNING or I am ONLY INSANITY/T25/CHALEAN EXTREME/INSANITY MAX30 and nothing else. Combing these two states has always been a problem for me.
Throughout all of my half marathon training, I had Wednesdays scheduled in for cross-training, and I lost count of the number of times I snoozed, or made an excuse, or went to bed knowing I wouldn't get up to cross train. But when you're injured, you kind of have no choice.
I think for me, it's because I like to have a plan, something to stick to. So to get through this I made myself  a cross-training plan of sorts. I've decided to use Piyo, because it's low-impact and it can help me to work those muscles that get neglected when I run. So I've planned a workout for all the days that I usually run, with plenty of variety, and by having a plan and a purpose for each workout, I know I'll get through it.

2) Stick to your old routines
My usually running schedule is:
Monday - rest
Tuesday - easy mid-length run
Wednesday - cross-train (see above...)
Thursday - tempo/speedwork
Friday - rest
Saturday - parkrun
Sunday - long run
So I've scheduled out a workout plan for the same days of the week that I normally run. This keeps me in the habit of working out on those days, gets me back into the routine of which days to go to bed early and which days to get up early, and means it will be easier to slip back into my routine when I'm recovered.

3) Use the time to do things you wouldn't normally be able to do (including trying new exercise!)
Running takes up a lot of my time. So not running means I have a lot of empty space in my life, so I'm trying to make the most of it. As a person who struggles to relax, this is hard, but I'm trying to use that time productively. I'm trying to have earlier nights, trying to relax and sleep in a little more and using more of my free time to read and spend time with Phil.
I'm also using it to try new things - yesterday I volunteered at parkrun so Phil could still go, and it was really good fun! I was worried that going and not being able to run would just make me sad, but instead I loved cheering people on, and it came me a sense of purpose back into my day.
Then today, Phil and I went to play badminton! We'd been talking about renting a court to play, but at the weekends my focus is always on running and I'd never want to play badminton after a long run or an intense parkrun! So today we took advantage of the fact that I wasn't going to be running and rented a court! It was really good fun, made me feel good that I'd got a good workout in, and it was something new we wouldn't have been able to do if I had been running!

4) Give yourself a break
Obviously, this one I am struggling with. I know I put my body through a lot training for, and running, a half marathon. I know I ran really hard, and I ran really well, and it's natural for my body to be like, "no mate, we need a break." I know this could not have come at a better time - I have 23 weeks til my marathon and I've just ran the best half I could possibly have imagined. But it's still really hard. I'm still really annoyed at myself that I can't run. But I know I should be thanking my body for its hard work and giving it a chance to properly rest and recover, and know that I'll be back in my trainers in a few weeks. I'm just not quite there yet.

5) Cut down the running talk 
I'm finding it really hard to hear other people talk about running right now. Yes, I know that is really, really selfish. But it's the truth. Right now I just need to not hearing about other people running. And I hope people can respect that. For example, my best friend Eve, who inspired me to run in the first place, had two foot operations around the time I started running and couldn't run, and even though I was really excited about my running progress, I knew it would be hard for her to hear about it, so I didn't talk about it with her much. So for now, just let me recover. I'll be desperate to talk about running again soon, I promise. It's just too hard for me right now.

6) Don't compare yourself to others
Some people will recover more quickly than you, some more slowly. Some will be back up to 30 miles a week days after their first tentative run. You might not. I know this is really hard advice, believe me, but you look after you.

7) Take it slow
Okay I definitely can't take this. I am dying to get out on the road again. But I know I'm not there yet. This morning I jogged for five minutes on the way to badminton. After a minute or so I was aware of the ache in my foot, but after about four minutes it was starting to hurt, so I knew I had to stop. And now I know I need a longer break from running. Do not push through the pain. It's so hard, so so hard. I know. But you have to be patient. The one thing stopping me from getting out there is knowing I could make this so much worse by trying to run again too soon. Or pushing too much once I feel a bit better. Be patient and think long term. Those extra little runs will not be worth it if you end up sidelined for months.

So that's my advice. I don't know yet if it will work for me, let alone anyone else, but it's how I'm going to get through the next few weeks. I'm still praying to the running gods to get me better soon, but for now I'm going to focus on cross-training and not going insane.

Charlotte x

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