Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Emotional Side of Injury

Injuries in running seems to be both a growing plague and something which is widely accepted as normal. The cliche of being told by the overweight, bearded man in the pub holding a lager, or your inactive grandmother that you'll wreck your knees, or the has-been athlete telling you your hamstring will never be the same after that tear all course through my mind, along with a long list of problems I've learned runners go through during my research into injuries. Many friends in my University club are either currently injured or have been this year. It's the silence around the matter which has intrigued me. It seems to be shunned with the eating disorders and mental health conditions.

I'm just coming out of a 4 month injury myself, which is what I'm going to share with you. I'm still regularly in pain with the injury, not only physically. I'm going to start at the beginning and use this story as an outlet for myself as well as hopefully reassuring others that if you're currently an injured athlete (yes I am allowing myself to be called an athlete) that what you're feeling is completely valid and understandable. And that you are most definitely not alone. And I understand that that doesn't make it any easier to live with but there are things you can do to help.

let's gooooo

I suppose, if I'm doing the whole 'be super honest to myself' thing it all started with winning my first 5k race. A trail/road race just a 10 minute drive from my house back in Kent, not against a wide field or anything, and not against anyone a typical college/university runner would consider 'fast'. But it was an achievement for me, and the first time I'd properly given my all in a race without being afraid of failing as long as I'd tried. And I won! But what I didn't't realise, was that after a solid week glowing from that one victory, would come an internal pressure to keep progressing in my times and distances. A drive to push myself further than maybe I should have been considering I was on the back of a 4 month injury at the time.

So the general theme is that I progress extremely well in running and work very hard, but when I become overenthusiastic at seeing such achievements, I overreach in my current abilities and end up breaking myself in some false reality that I'm OK. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. We are after all an obsessive bunch.

Another aspect of overtraining is the era of social media and over-sharing. I'm a tap of my finger away from looking at the daily achievements of friends, strangers and loved ones. This is extremely pressurising in itself to always be training and progressing, as comparing yourself to others feeds the frenzy of competitiveness even though I'm also just happy that they're out there running. But the thing is, progress is all relative. You never get anyone's full picture, and although we are now often reminded to 'keep it real', I wonder how many of us actually acknowledge that and let it sink in. Because I know I'm not very good at it. And although it's OK to have a little envy, there's a danger of forming bad habits which lead to overtraining and pushing yourself too hard too soon to try and match paces of schedules. This isn't healthy and certainly doesn't help with injury prevention.

I REALLY REALLY love beans. Feed the gains to correct the brains

I now know from experience how exaggerated and overwhelming these feelings can become when you're injured and feel like all the training you've ever done is being lost. It first sent me into a complete overtraining (on the elliptical) mess, who continued to push and push the injury to maintain what I thought was an acceptable fitness when all I was really doing was preventing healing and wrecking my metabolism. I think there needs to be more information available on how injured runners can cross train and how to form some routine that resembles what your training plans before to gain back some of your emotional sanity. This can help us in the long run (see what I did there) get back to normal so much faster than otherwise.

Injured runners training plan coming soon!
Lots of love, Helen xox

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