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?