Motivation Monday: the ‘happy distractions’ edition

Pro runners always talk about tuning into their pain when they race–that winning requires a certain awareness of just how awful it feels to push your body to its absolute limits.  Sports psychologists say even amateur athletes can benefit from staying in the present rather than distracting themselves to disassociate themselves from pain.

I’m more of a “crank the iPod until it’s over” kind of girl myself, and I’m using similar distraction tactics to avoid going nuts before my next doctor appointment March 23, a week from tomorrow. I should get to trade my purple cast for a splint, which means I should get to start resuming my regular activity for the first time since surgery on Feb. 24 to fix the wrist I broke snowboarding.

Here are a few of the happy distractions keeping me sane, which are motivating me to get to next week:

Remember my quest to find stomach-friendly running fuel? I may not be running right now, but I’m still experimenting with fun and interesting runner-friendly recipes. I’m still totally jazzed about adding pumpkin to a wide variety of foods, with soups serving as my latest experiments. This week, my minor pumpkin obsession and an apparent canned-pumpkin shortage in local grocery stores led me to do something a little bit crazy: I actually ordered a dozen cans of pumpkin from to make sure I always have some. Somehow, knowing I didn’t have to wait to buy a favorite food made me feel more able to be patient until my next doctor appointment March 23.

I have to wait a week to get my cast off. I wasn't about to wait for pumpkin to be restocked, too.

I’m reading the books I didn’t have time to while I was training for a marathon. Among them: Running With the Buffaloes by Chris Lear, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (not a running book, but if I can get through that monster, I can get through recovery, too). Stay tuned for reviews.

I’m planning a trip! We were supposed to go to Stowe this week, but I deemed spending several days in a ski town without any skiing to be the most depressing thing I could think of. Instead, we’re going to New York to see a play and have a fabulous dinner in Little Italy! Details to follow.

Finally, like a runner focusing on crowds of cheering spectators to take his or her mind off the pain of a race, I am distracting myself by focusing on your helpful and inspirational comments, including those from Gary, a marathoner and race director who’s recovering from an injury that’s practically identical to mine, and my friend Tiffany, who has a great approach to her recovery from ankle surgery. She responded to my post about the truce I’m calling with my body by sharing her own recovery goal, saying she’s “going to spend the rest of 29 healing, so that when I turn 30 in June, I can hopefully be healthy enough to live the life I want to live.” I love this. If I can just maintain the truce until May 20, my own 30th birthday, I feel like I’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Lara at Saturday Morning Zen says after getting through the “anger stage of not being able to run,” she actually enjoys the stillness. It’s the idea of “sitting with injury” that they talk about in yoga classes, and she says when she’s able to “sit” with whatever feels uncomfortable, she’s stronger for it when she gets back to running. This is a little bit revolutionary to me. This strategy seems to be half distraction and dissociation, half tuning in to the pain. It’s how I survived the two-hour drive from Whitetail to the emergency room at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda with a badly broken wrist. It involves accepting the pain (or discomfort, or annoyance), then moving on, and I could stand to improve the “moving on” part. Wish me luck with that this week…


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9 responses to “Motivation Monday: the ‘happy distractions’ edition

  1. Chocolate chip pumpkin bread will distract ANYONE!

  2. One of the hardest things for me is the anxiety about feeling like all the fitness you’ve worked for for so long is slipping away so quickly. I’ve been running for about 15 years now and have never taken more than a week off. In part I’ve always been afraid if I got out of the routine I might just become a permanent couch potato, but I also like all the benefits I get from a high level of fitness. Being forced to sit still for almost a month you feel like you’ll be starting back at square one.

    I’ve been back to running for two days now, and while I’m certainly not in top form, I’m also far from square one. I can tell that that 15 year base is there and will just need a little dusting off. So try not to worry too much about that part. I tried to think of it as a little rest time I could take without feeling guilty. And there are some benefits–I’ve been battling a little plantar faciitis that for now at least has cleared up.

    Just a week to go!

    • I am SO glad to hear you say that! I’ve been sidelined from running before, but have always been able to swim. Never in my life have I gone more than a week without any physical activity. I’m embarrassed to say how often I’ve thought about what my resting pulse is now (50? 60? Probably still low for the general population, but absurdly high for us). But I’m sure the base of what I’ve done my whole life will outweigh a month off. Plus, looking to the benefits, though my wrist is sometimes still sore, my usually-cranky IT band is fine!

      • Gary

        My run today was strange. It was a beautiful day out and I took yesterday off so I felt like running a little harder. I did my short 4 mile course again, but pushed it a little. My legs didn’t feel great, and my breathing was heavy for the pace I figured I was doing.

        As I was running a few things were going through my mind. I wondered if I would really be able to work up to a solid 10 miles by Sunday the 28th. And I was thinking that this month off was different from just slacking for a month. My body has probably been putting a lot of energy into healing. And I had surgery just a little more than two weeks ago. And all these crazy drugs I’m not used too. And about halfway in my wrist started to bother me a little so I held it up as I ran. I wondered if passing cars started thinking of that Bangles song, only with slightly different lyrics–“Run Like an Egyptian.”

        I was a little discouraged as I finished up. I frequently don’t run with a watch–I know my pace pretty well by feel and if I watch the time I too frequently push myself harder than I should on easy days. When I came in the house and saw the clock I thought, “that isn’t too bad.” We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

        I started physical therapy yesterday. I broke this same wrist twenty-some-odd years ago, though in a much more minor way. It was only one of the small bones and was just a minor fracture. I wore a cast for however long, got it cut off, and got on with life. This is different. I have maybe 10% of my normal range of motion, and 2% of my normal strength. They actually didn’t bother measuring strength because she didn’t think it would register. But the upside is that I can take my splint completely off for a while several times a day and I think I’m already making some progress.

  3. trialsoftraining

    An entire CASE of pumpkin? ha! you’re definitely set for quite some time…baking doesn’t make you sweat right? that’s always a good afternoon-time-suck activity 🙂

    glad you’re doing well! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 3/23. trip to NYC? now *that* is distraction at its best..

  4. Dozen cans of pumpkin! Did you know those pain killers can cause OCD? lol
    Glad you hear you’re feeling better.

  5. Tiffany

    Thanks for the shout out, Amy! You’re almost there…one more week! 🙂

    I went for my post-op appt. today, which went well. I had my cast removed (woo-hoo!) and the doctor said I only have to use the crutches for THREE more weeks, not four. I’ve been on cloud nine all day! OH!…and when I go for follow-up in four weeks, his goal is to get me in a shoe. A SHOE!!

    • That is such great news! It must feel great to be out of the cast! Plus, if you’re in a boot now, you get to tell people: “stop looking at my booty!” I was on crutches/in a boot for a week in 2007, and that never got old. 🙂

  6. Jessica

    You are a freak, but I love you. Don’t forget pumpkin soup!

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