Empire Members answer the question, “How do you stay motivated during times of injury, and how do you motivate yourself to start up regular training again?”
Catherine DuBay: How to stay motivated during an injury is a good question and can only be answered by asking yourself, “How do I stay motivated when I’m NOT injured?” Motivation is a very interesting concept and every runner or wannabe runner needs to recognize what motivates them. Is it to lose weight? Look good for my class reunion? Make my ex jealous? Beat my training partner at Kenwood? PR? Etc.
Then you have to decide what type of running you like to do so you can give yourself a fighting chance to be successful. If you like nature, then try trails. If you like to run with others, then join a club or running group. If competition or traveling is your thing, then sign up for a race near or far. The key is to set yourself up for success by finding something that makes running tolerable, because, let’s face it—it is not easy day after day after day.
Once these two questions are answered (why you want to run and what type of running gets you excited), then you can apply these motivators to anything you do. Even for injured runners. What is your motivator for exercising while injured? What kind of exercise (besides running) can I tolerate? Indoor cycling classes are the best for injured competitive runners. Indoor cycling produces the closest thing I have found to that post-run feeling.
Bill Cusworth: This will probably come as a surprise, but I’ve never suffered an injury that required an extended layoff from running. I’ve had injuries, of course, but none that lasted more than 3-5 days or so, and the short break from running was welcome and likely beneficial. I’ve also had nagging issues such as bruised feet that lasted for a month or more, but I was always able to run through them. My longest periods of not running have been due to sickness or weather. When I start back up, I do low mileage and build back up to where I was. If you try to get back to previous mileage levels too soon, soreness may result, which negatively impacts motivation. If I ever did have an extended layoff, I would try to concentrate on upper body and core exercises as I generally don’t do enough of them and I would try to use the opportunity to develop new good habits.
Sarah Hallas: During my 2+ decades of experience with countless injuries, I think the biggest motivator carrying me through my time-off stints has been just looking forward to my next event. I try to find a race that is far enough out that I don’t start stressing over not being able to run. I also try to remember that being injured is usually the body’s way of telling us to TONE IT DOWN, which is hard for most runners since we are mostly wired the same. Usually during this time, I swim lots of laps, do lots of core, get lots of massage/rehab work done, and enjoy the mornings of sleeping in.
Michael Wortman: When confronted with an injury, the best advice for staying motivated that I can give is to find what motivated you to begin with. If there was a race that you were training for, a goal you were trying to achieve, figure out what it was that was driving you in the first place. Even if you’re injured, the endgame is still there—you just need to find a new route to get there. This means if you can’t run, find some form of comparable cross training to fill the training session. Using your original motivation can help you through drudging pool workouts or extended bike sessions. If done right, cross training can keep you fit and get you healthy quicker, so when you return to running, you haven’t lost much training in effect.
Tori Meredith: I totally agree with Mike Wortman. I have had my share of injuries in the last couple of years. My motivation is to be able to feel good about myself, sleep well and be alert. I find that when I don’t exercise I am very sluggish and I don’t accomplish anything. Since I don’t drink coffee my get-up and go has always been to exercise. Depending upon my injury, if I could not run then I would do more swimming, run in the pool or ride my bike but I find that nothing takes the place of running. Running keeps my weight in check, my system working, and I feel energized.
Now hear me out. There are more rational reasons to keep at the cross-training (it’ll be easier to transition back to running, you’ll rehab faster, you’ll be mentally more sane, etc.), but we all know that. So if you need motivational advice beyond that advice, what should you do? Say “#@##, injury!”
Look, you’re pissed that you’re hurt, and rightfully so (even if it was your own stubbornness that got you hurt…). So use that anger. Channel that passion into cross-training. That cross-training is how you get back at the injury, how you get back at the shitty hand that life dealt you. In spite of whatever happens, you’re going to come out stronger and better than ever.
Spite is not a way to live your life generally, but if things are in a dark place, and rational reasons to work hard are failing, channel that anger, say “#@##” to your injury, and go get in the darn pool!
Now in my 47th consecutive year of training and racing, I look back on said time spent in sport as a series of careers between injuries. Thankfully, some of those careers lasted longer than others. It is an inevitable part of red line running “on the edge” that, in order to achieve one’s maximum potential, there shall be periods of “brokenness.” How long these periods last is a function of how quickly one is willing to accept the bitter pill of down time, and how aggressively one pursues healing solutions. One thing is for sure—the body is an amazingly adaptive machine. Our recuperative powers are nothing short of astounding.
What to do when injured is a competitive runner’s ongoing dilemma. My counsel to athletes that I have coached over the years (including myself) is to absolutely bombard the area with care. In addition to all the normal modalities, extra sleep, hyper-hydration, anti-inflammatory resources, nutritional supplementation, and a wide array of ancillary bodywork protocols can help expedite recovery.
If possible, non-weight-bearing activities like pool running, Elliptigo, and workouts on stationery gym equipment can assist in maintenance. Push-ups (oft referred to as the most perfect form of calisthenics) and an ongoing focus on core work are a must. Using the fallow period to pinpoint weaknesses not normally addressed while fit, and then improving upon them, can produce a long term benefit when once again healthy.
Rather than removing oneself from the sport, staying engaged by volunteering and spectating at races in which you’d normally compete lends both perspective and appreciation. Gratitude has remarkable healing powers.
I also recommend deep reading and learning. There are so many great written works that inspire and foster the “dare to dream” instinct. The list is endless.
Whatever you do, keep a detailed daily log, chart progress with appropriate metrics, and most importantly, embrace the notion that said shut-down is merely temporary.
Here’s to your health.
Lori Barekman: As a physical therapist, I have frequent reminders of how lucky we are to enjoy running when things are going smoothly. Running is freeing; it takes us to places where we can be awestruck by the things we encounter. And we can learn so many things about the people around us as we share some time together on our run. However, running can be demanding on our bodies, and it takes work to make sure that our bodies are ready for these demands. We are in a high-risk sport if you look at the statistics for injuries.
What keeps me moving when I am recovering from some type of injury is the opportunity to work on other aspects of fitness. I enjoy having my daughter direct our morning workout of jumping jacks, planks, and pushups, and it sets a good tone for the day. Having time to walk my non-running dog (she refuses to do more than trot) with other family members gives us the chance to talk about what’s going on in our lives. I also like going to meet a non-running friend at the gym for the same reason. At other times, going to a yoga class “alone” is just the ticket for some relatively quiet time. Since rest is also an important aspect of any training routine, I like having down time to relax or get chores accomplished. My New Year’s resolution every year is “lower your standards,” which sounds silly, but honestly sometimes I have to remind myself to just do what I can and let the rest go. I have learned that I will never be in the perfect shape for the events that seem to attract me…but “good enough” allows me to stay motivated and keeps me from driving myself (and those around me) crazy when I wish I could do more to get in ideal condition. We have to listen to our bodies, and pushing through an injury is not the answer for the best long-term health. I am in this literally and figuratively for the long run.
Steve Agar: I usually just rely on cigars and whiskey to get me through.
Brad Zanetti: In dealing with an injury that stops one from training and racing it is imperative that recovery is undertaken with the same passion that one has for training and racing. In fact, it could be more appropriate to bring more passion, education, and new understanding to recovery. Then with this renewed passion and new found stregnth inject yourself back into the sport and lifestyle you love.
Val Sell: We can all relate. Haha…
Tell it to me straight, Doc. Can I still run this weekend?