From plantar fasciitis to runner’s knee, injury can be a stressful time for runners. Not being able to run can play havoc with your mindset, shatter your self-esteem and have a negative impact on your recovery. If you’re in rehabilitation, follow our expert tips to speed up your recovery and get back on the road.
When injured it’s all too easy to forget our minds are inside our bodies and let the blues get us down. How we think and feel can play an important role in the healing process, so thinking positively is imperative for a smooth recovery.
‘What people need to understand is that our thoughts can have a huge effect on our chances for a quicker recovery,’ says Life Coach Pete Cohen. ‘Our minds and bodies are interconnected and for every negative thought we have, our body can feel it too. This is why we can often feel things in the pit of our stomach.’
‘The negative thoughts we have can inhibit our body to recover, so the more positive mental attitude we have on a situation can have a bigger effect,’ he adds. ‘Numerous studies have shown that the more positive we are, the more feel-good hormones we secrete, which can have a hugely beneficial impact on the body.’
Switch it up
One of the toughest aspects of injury is the fact you can’t exercise. But rather than lament over your favourite sport, take up a new one and use your recovery time to excel at something different. Building strength can also speed up your recovery and get you back to fitness quicker.
‘I use injury time as an opportunity to do other things,’ says Catherine Laing. ‘I had tendonitis in my foot last year so rediscovered cycling and improved my swimming!’
‘Focus on what you can do,’ agrees Cohen. ‘Find some form of activity that you can take part in that doesn’t exacerbate your injury. Try something which is low impact that will allow your body to move, while also helping aid recovery such as swimming or yoga.’
‘The most important thing to recognise is that your immune system is affected by what you think,’ he adds. ‘If you’re stressed about the fact that you are injured, this isn’t going to help with your recovery.’
Feel like a failure because you can’t run? Visualise yourself succeeding and you will reap the rewards. When you picture yourself achieving your goals you trigger your unconscious mind to believe these things are attainable. Many athletes use visualisation techniques to maximize their performance, and you can apply it to recovery too.
‘It's really important to employ visualisation techniques to create a picture of yourself running again,’ says Cohen. ‘In life you don’t always necessarily get what you want, but rather you get what you picture in your mind, so try painting a positive image in your mind and aims towards it.’
Focus on the end game
Ruminating obsessively about your injury will actually slow down the recovery process, so try to focus on the end game.
‘Worrying and being negative is like sitting in a rocking chair, you go backwards and forwards but you don’t go anywhere,’ explains Cohen.
‘It causes people to make poor decisions. When you worry you start talking to yourself in a negative way. Your body feels negative, your mind feels negative and you aren’t going to make a good decision. Instead try focusing on how you are going to feel when you have fully recovered and what you’ll be able to do - begin with the end in mind.’
Give back to the community
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, use this time to give back to the running community and without running a step you will still benefit from the feel-good factor that running provides.
‘Try marshalling or volunteering at your local parkrun,’ says Mike Wells.’ It’s easier and in many ways even more fun than running’
Emma agrees. ‘Once I stopped sulking I got off my *** and volunteered at a few local events,’ she says. ‘Giving something back really helped me mentally.’
Similar to training goals, set yourself recovery goals to aim towards.
‘Try and set yourself simple but achievable goals each week, even if it’s just walking to start with to build up your strength,’ says Cohen. ‘Each week as your fitness levels increase then try making things that little bit more difficult, but remember to listen to your body.’
‘Only you know how you feel in yourself, so don’t to be too harsh on yourself if things aren’t going the way you want,’ he adds. ‘Try and remember that it’s a process which may take time.’
Don’t forget to laugh!
Dealing with injury can be a serious business and the brevity of it can have an adverse affect on your mood. It’s all too easy to beat yourself up and scold your body for letting you down. Remember, unless you’re an Olympian running is your hobby and it doesn’t need to be serious.
‘Find humour in the world!’ says Cohen. ‘It’s important not to take what you think too seriously. Can you see the funny side of what you’re saying to yourself? Recognise that it isn’t true, and become aware that you can simply tell that negative voice to shut up!’
Pete Cohen is a life coach and author who has coached world-class athletes and sporting greats to achieve peak performance and overcome adversity, including Sally Gunnell, Ellen MacArthur and Ronnie O’Sullivan. His book Shut The Duck Up! is out now for £15.