How to psychologically recover from a running injury

Running can become your best friend, it can make you feel happier and lessen your anxiety


How to psychologically recover from a running injury

If you’ve sustained an injury from running you may become aware of how much it can impact your life. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, Ph.D., a leading researcher of injury psychology, has stated:

"The sense of loss an athlete feels when injured can be very similar to the other types of mourning or grief that occur in our lives.”

If you’re side-lined with an injury that puts your running on hold, there are tips to help you cope throughout the recovery process:

Remaining active will help alleviate negative feelings and allow you to regain an aspect of training that you’ll be craving. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, yoga and upper body strength training are categorized as safe options, but this is dependent on the extent of your injury.

Your recovery period is an opportunity to focus on your weaknesses. As a runner, your training will largely consist of cardio, so take time to reflect on other parts of your body that need attention. If your core strength needs improving, focus on this. Simple exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups are a great place to start. If you want to build muscle on your upper body, opt for weight training.

Frustration will be a natural emotion experienced during the recovery period. If your injury doesn’t allow you to perform other exercises, it’s important to seek out alternative stress relievers so you don’t become overwhelmed by negative emotions. Read a new book or take up voluntary work – anything that will keep your mind from focusing on the source of your stress.

As with any form of loss, there is a recurring grieving pattern that most individuals experience: denial, anger, depression and acceptance. The key is to embrace these emotions without allowing them to take over your life; working through each stage will help you heal faster.

Denial: being stuck in this stage can hinder healing. A short period of rest is better than long-term physical therapy so listen to your body to avoid a major injury.

Anger: it’s completely natural for you to feel injustice. Positive self-talk and goal setting will become your ultimate weapon for recovery. Goal-setting allows you to celebrate success and recognise achievements which will eventually substitute the anger.

Depression: if you miss the community spirit and endorphin fix running gave you, there are still ways to stay connected. Volunteer at races or ask your friends if you can help with training programs. This will help fill the void and make you feel less cut off from that part of your life.

Acceptance: research has proven that there is a direct correlation between stress and injury, so any anxiety will induce muscle tension and suppress immune functions, further preventing recovery. Once you’ve accepted your injury, you can accept you will get back on your feet.