How to love your body when you’re injured and can’t run

As runners, we are constantly rewarding our bodies for jobs well done. After long runs, we sit in muscle-soothing ice baths, and painstakingly prepare protein recovery shakes to help our muscles rebuild. After races, we wear our medals proudly, and treat ourselves to our favorite dinners to celebrate. When we are sore, we foam-roll, stretch and get massages.

But when we are injured and can’t run, we often struggle to find appropriate ways to show our bodies that same love, even though there’s no more important time to do so. It’s been almost seven weeks since my wrist surgery, and I’m just now fully realizing the importance of not just being mentally tough, but of being unusually kind to yourself during your recovery. A key component in doing that has been finding ways to love my body that don’t involve running, or swimming, or hiking. Here’s what’s helped me so far:

Chill out and accept it. I started saying almost immediately that there were worse things in the world than not being able to work out for a month. I haven’t always felt this chilled-out and nonchalant about it, but it’s true, and it helped keep my problem in perspective.

Accept your body as it is now. I wrote a whole blog post about this, but I feel like it’s worth mentioning again here. Remember that you’re doing more than biding your time until you can hit the road again. Part of this is appreciating all the little things your body can do right now. For example, cooking with one hand can be frustrating, but it is totally doable. If I were on crutches, not so much. My wrist may be out of commission, but the rest of my body lets me get out of bed, cook for myself, walk where I need to go and appreciate just about everything life has to offer.

Find ways to treat your body now. Take a bath. Get a massage. Buy fresh fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Take a walk around the block if your injury allows for a stroll, and make sure to notice how good the sun feels on your skin. Have a glass of wine with dinner without worrying that it will screw up your morning run. Or, if your injury requires pain killers that preclude a glass of wine, have a cup of tea (I special-ordered a box of Celestial Seasonings decaf chai as a treat for myself. I highly recommend doing the same, and enjoying your first cup in a nice, long bath.)

When you get to run again, listen to your body–and take it as slow as you need to. Yesterday, the sun was shining, the magnolias and dogwoods were blooming, and the air was the perfect temperature–warm in the sun and pleasantly cool in the shade, or when the breeze kicked up. Normally, I’d spend a beautiful spring day like that tackling a long run, and part of me itched to do just that. Instead, I listened to my body, which was still sore from my first week back to “regular” training (two weekday five-milers with Pacers, plus a weekend run and cross-training on the stationary bike), and Steve and I enjoyed a leisurely hike through Rock Creek Park instead.

How do you show your body love when you’re injured–or in general?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “How to love your body when you’re injured and can’t run

  1. Ron

    You just have to keep in mind there are always other activities you can do, walking, hiking etc..
    When I have overdone it running I switch to walking, I enjoy walking almost as much as running and its a good chance to get out and be around people. plus my dog loves it !

  2. Erica

    I’ve been doing a LOT of moping since I’ve been benched by my doctor, particularly on beautiful sunny days… not to mention when I see all the running gear scattered around the house, race reports on Twitter, getting the latest Runner’s World in the mail (GO YOU, by the way!), and, well, there are plenty of triggers.

    I moped all through yesterday until after my swimming lesson, when I recognized the delightful soreness of well-used muscles. I picked up the pool schedule and smiled at the possibility of lane swimming. It’s going up on my fridge.

    There are plenty of doctor-approved activities for me, so I’m taking this time off running as an opportunity to explore all the different ways my body can move. I’m in the market for a bike (new gear ALWAYS helps get me motivated), and I joined my husband on a nice 8k hike last weekend (though it pained me to see how long 8k takes when you’re walking. Heh). I’m also taking a really cool Yoga-on-a-Bosu class that’s strengthening my core, increasing my flexibility, and teaching me more about what my body can do.

  3. It is so hard for me when I’m red shirted not to panic and think that will never swim, bike or run again. Thanks it made it ok to just sit and “be” and “be” pampered even if injured.

  4. Anna

    Thanks, I needed this! Just got diagnosed with a stress fracture yesterday. PS I realized I’m following you on Twitter (ontherun7) too.-I stumbled across your blog only tonight. Thanks for all the great posts…keep em coming!

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