Monday Musings: On Coping with Setbacks & Chronic Injuries

I have been on a good streak of slowing building up my distance and incorporating more and more hill runs. I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist weekly as a preventative measure. I’ve had some slight stiffness around my SI, but nothing that’s kept me from running or from continuing to increase my mileage.

Until Thursday.

8.4 km into my run it all went to crap and, despite a well-timed physio appointment that allowed for almost immediate treatment, I was advised to stop running (and hiking) until things get sorted.  I was also advised that I might need to consider prolotherapy, and that running an ultra may not be in my best interest. Turns out these chronic, recurring injuries from running might be a sign I am not meant for running distance.

Needless to say, Thursday was not a good day so I did what any stubborn FOME sufferer would do: I had a good cry on the walk back from physiotherapy, and then proceeded to be an absolute grumpus for the remainder of the day.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t react to injury-related setbacks this way.  I am always overly emotional and a little chicken little about them.

chicken little

I am, in short, quite insufferable to be around.

Once I can put things in perspective, I can usually get past the extreme and unproductive thinking. However, there are very real consequences of chronic injuries:

  • Training setbacks are legit.  Running is one of those things that you have to do all the time. Nothing else is a suitable replacement. I find even a couple of weeks off running tends to significantly impact running stamina.
  • Boredom. I usually spend a combined total of 6-10 hours on the trail on weekends, longer in the summer.  Without epic trail runs or hikes, I don’t even know what to do with myself. I am my father’s daughter and am incapable of relaxing.
  • Gym burnout. I don’t actually like the gym.  I use it purely for strength training and spin.  The rest of my workouts are usually outside.  When my activities are restricted to the elliptical and spin bikes, thus making the gym my only choice, my soul dies a little. I don’t think I can capture in words just how much I loathe the elliptical. And don’t even talk to me about swimming…
  • Crankiness. My workouts are what keep me sane and I find running and hiking to be particularly good outlets for all my crankiness, as well as being as close to meditation as I can personally get. I fear for my friends and loved ones when I’m forced to rest and recover.

I’m thankful this is a relatively minor setback in the grand scheme of things.  But, let’s be honest, no matter how you slice it chronic injuries suck.  I’ve suffered enough short and long-term injury-related setbacks over the years to have developed a list of advice for myself, which I now share with you.

1. Focus on what you CAN do. As much as I mocked swimming, there have been times when it’s all I could do for exercise.  So, despite hating it with the fire of a thousand suns, I swam an hour and 15 minutes several days per week to maintain my fitness. It was better than nothing and, as an added bonus, my arms never looked better.

2. Treatment is your friend. I am very pro-physiotherapy. I see mine weekly for preventative care and more often when injured. If you have a good one, he or she will be a fountain of knowledge and resources to address your issues…and maybe even keep you from developing new ones.

3. Listen to your body. As much as I love my physiotherapist, I’m also stubborn. I trust my own intuition and ability to gauge my body’s progress.  But I have learned (mostly the hard way) not to let my stubbornness get out of hand.  If activities hurt or cause my condition to worsen, I will stop immediately. It’s just not worth it. On the other hand, if I feel like I’m ready to get back at it, I’ll step outside of recommended activities or intensity and see how it goes.

4. Take advantage of the extra time. The one plus of injuries is more time for friends. And things like getting your life back in order (i.e. cleaning up my disaster of a home, laundry, grocery shopping). And afternoon beers.  Mostly the afternoon beers.  If you can’t train, you might as well have some fun, right?

5. Let yourself be frustrated. I am a big fan of the occasional wallow.  I believe if you indulge in some good, old-fashioned self-pity, you’ll get past it faster.  Embrace your inner sad panda.

sad panda

Now if only someone could teach me how to follow my own advice…


4 thoughts on “Monday Musings: On Coping with Setbacks & Chronic Injuries”

  1. I’m right there with you! I’m in the process of rehabbing from yet another Achilles injury. The toughest thing to do is stay disciplined and recognize that it’s a long slow process, and to avoid rushing back to high-intensity training.


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