Have you ever been in love? Have you ever had the aching to be reunited with that one special person when you are painstakingly separated from each other for any reason?
That is exactly how I felt when my dear love affair with running had to be interrupted indefinitely. I have been in love with running for about 7 years now – that’s a long relationship!
Over the years, I dealt with the on-and-off aches and pains that can come with a running addiction. But nothing ever completely sidelined me, which is pretty amazing because I was lazy when it came to doing anything but running. I did have one bout with IT Band syndrome, but a wonderful chiropractor seemed to fix that with ultrasound therapy, but…
Everything finally caught up to me. Intense, high-impact exercise, combined with a lack of proper stretching and inadequate rest finally got me. The pain got so intense that I couldn’t even do jumping jacks. To take 1 stride was awful.
Fast forward through visiting an orthopedist who recommended a couple of rounds of physical therapy, which would reveal several muscular imbalances and weakness that I had no idea existed! So after several weeks of wall squats, hip burners (let me know if you want those in detail, but they do just that – set those hip muscles on FIRE!), leg presses, single-leg dead-lifts…. you name it, I’ve done it, and I’m so thrilled to say that it has made me much stronger. I’m still taking a cautious return to old routines, but I’m getting there and that’s awesome!
So, when you get sidelined for a time, how do you maintain your motivation when you’re going through such a frustration of not being able to do what you’re used to? I’ll share with you what has worked for me in hopes that it will help you should you ever be in a similar situation.
1. Recognize what got you in this situation in the first place. Was it overtraining? Was it too little rest? Was it too much of one activity (i.e. running) without enough of another activity (i.e. stretching or strength training)? For me, it was all of the above.
2. Seek the appropriate treatment. Do NOT put off seeing your doctor if you have a pain that persists! I was the worst at following this advice, assuming that things would just magically work out. Well, they don’t always do that, and God gave us great doctors for a reason – use them!
3. Actually do what the doctor recommends. It seems like a no-brainer, but athletes can be the WORST patients. We like to self-diagnose (Dr. Google, anyone?), and then think that we, in our non-medical minds, know best. If your doctor tells you to rest, then rest!
4. Seek out another activity to keep yourself active. Even if you are never going to love another activity as much as the one you are taking a break from, don’t let that discourage you. Is yoga too slow for you? Try PiYo by Chalene Johnson. Do you find walking to be boring? Find a friend who will do it with you. And of course, make sure your alternative activities are approved by your doc.
5. Realize that progress takes patience. This is a very hard one for me. One of the things I needed to do was strengthen my inner quad (vastus medialis obliquus, or VMO, to be more precise). Day 1 of physical therapy and I couldn’t even handle my body weight on the leg press. Fast forward about 5 weeks later and I could press about 50 pounds over my body weight. Changing your body, no matter what it is you need to change, takes time.
6. Force yourself to believe that YOU are enough and YOU are possible. This is the hardest one of all. Many of us, as athletes, are defined by what we DO – whether you are a runner, lifter, cyclist, swimmer, etc. We are what we do. So to take a step back from that, from our identity, can feel unnatural. Believe me, I know. But there is an inherent weight that will come off your shoulders when you realize that your self-worth is not defined by your sport. It may sound wishy-washy, but it is the truth, and it has been my single greatest motivator.
So there you have it, my 6-step plan! Dealing with injuries is not easy, but you CAN overcome them! The keys are to use your resources and believe in yourself. Cheers to being the awesome athlete that you are!
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