Injured: A Mindset Reset
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Everyone who knows me knows I'm passionate about running. Over the past few years, it's become a fire in me that kindles and leaps across boundaries, looking for more ways to expand, conquer, and succeed. It's something that has become part of my routine. I've been used to running 30 to 40 miles a week consistently for months. That schedule has taken me through three marathon training cycles, a few halfs, and some 5Ks.
However, a few months ago, I became injured. Because of that determination to keep exceeding my own expectations and take on new opportunities, I developed an overuse injury. This is a minor problem compared to other overuse or running-related injuries, but it's an important one because it's set me back—quite a lot—but also given me crucial time to reflect on my own goals, my own strengths, and my own struggles. It's also helped me invent new ways to keep celebrating milestones even while sidelined, and tap in to that love of running I seemed to have lost along the way.
Before the injury, I was going through burnout. I didn't think it could happen to me. I thrived off the challenge of new distances, new races, new PRs. However, I also put a lot of pressure on myself to reach those goals. You can't reach goals without putting effort in, but all of my PRs had come through hard work and a mindset of "Well, we will see how this goes!" Running was fun. The thought of PRing was a game, not a necessity. I celebrated in my victories. I cheered for my friends who were doing the same.
Over time, I expected to PR at every race. I was never (and will never be) the fastest. I'm nowhere near that level, but I have grit and I know what I can do if I dig deep enough and most importantly believe in myself. PRs were exciting. I wanted all of them. I wanted to be the best I could be.
The burnout was real. It hit me hard. The friends who ran with me saw it in its rawest form. I couldn't run a mile without stopping and swearing most days. It made me angry, and for the first time I hated running. I dreaded it. It was a chore rather than a chance to relax after a long day staring at a computer screen. To make it worse, my boyfriend was training for his first ultra. He was soaring through his plan, hitting daily and weekly mileage like it was nothing. I was impressed and happy for him, but I was also annoyed I couldn't push myself to that level. The voice in my head told me I couldn't, and I believed it.
I thought I was done. I didn't want to run anything. I knew I needed some time away. However, I had a marathon to run and I wanted to cross that finish line badly. It would be the first race run with my sister, who has inspired me so much as a runner. So I continued running.
Soon, I had the chance to run a relay with friends. We each completed three legs over the course of 8 hours. During that race, my overuse injury took full force. I'd noticed niggling irritation on my quad and IT band over the past few weeks but thought foam rolling and stretching would solve the issue. Until the day before the relay, it did. That day, I was mentoring a group of runners. The irritation expanded so I decided to stop rather than do a few extra miles after.
At the relay itself, the first leg went pretty well. It was 3 miles, and I was glad to rest my leg for a time after that. Then, leg 2 happened, and it was agony. I was all but hopping to complete the 6 miles I was slotted to do. By the time I reached the exchange point, I thought my knee would pop out of my leg. But I still had 3 more miles to run later. I completed the leg and the relay, but spent much of the rest of the afternoon—and all the next week—not running at all.
Honestly, my brain was happy about this. I had wanted a break for so long. And now I had it. However, after one week, two, three of no running, I became desperate to begin again. I missed the feeling of sweat on my brow and a slight ache in my legs, of keeping stride next to my friends and accompanying my run group on new adventures.
I decided to go to PT. I denied it, refused for a while, but soon knew I had no other choice. The guy I am working with knows a lot about running long distances, and he is helping me regain my running ability. At times, this process makes me feel as though I am starting over. I am running 1 mile, 2 miles, 2.5 miles, once or twice a week. It's not what I've been used to, but it's something. Most amazingly, it's making me fall in love with running again. By taking these "baby steps" I'm resetting my mindset. I'm regaining confidence. I'm becoming myself again.
Getting Back At It
Running isn't always easy or perfect. It shouldn't be. It's a process. It's a way to access your best and worst self at times, but overall it should be a journey welcomed, not scorned. Right now, I'm learning to love the journey again. Yes, I want to be running more now that I'm working my way into it. However, I know if I keep following the plan, I'll get to where I want to go.
If you're injured or burnt out, know you're not alone. Lots of runners go through this every year. Stay strong and keep celebrating what you can do. Be grateful. Express your frustrations to others. Maybe even write them down. You can come back stronger. Believe in the process and take joy in the journey.