There are 5 basic stages of coping with an injury that I go through, as a runner, every single time I'm injured. Recently I was out running a scheduled 18 mile long run when my left Achilles tendonitis became so painful at mile 9 that I ran/walked it the two miles to the house and I was done. My long runs ceased. My hopes and dreams of running the 50 miler at the Yellowstone Teton Races on the 20th of September faded quickly.
My 5 stages of coping with any injury are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial: No. Absolutely not. I am not injured. I'm fine. A little ice and a day of rest and I'm good to go.
Anger: NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I AM NOT FREAKIN' HURT. KISS MY BUTT. DAMMIT. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. STRETCHED. ICED. RESTED. THIS SUCKS. SO. DAMNED. BAD. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN TO ME?!?
Bargaining: Ok. So, maybe I can keep running through this. It doesn't hurt too bad once I get a few miles in. I'll go to my chiropractor. He'll make it better. He's a runner. He understands. Yes! I can make this work. Please, just let me get through this next big race and I'll take 6 weeks off afterwards to let everything rest and heal completely.
Depression: Life sucks. I can't run. I'm a total loser and a complete poser. All I wanted out of life was to run that particular race now. This year. Shoot. Maybe I'm not really a runner after all. I mean, real runners, shake it off and just keep going. And at times I've found myself actually crying over a lost race.
Acceptance: Ok, so I can't run. I can ride. I can work out in the gym. I can eat even cleaner to keep the weight in check while I'm not running. There are other races and my life as a runner is about longevity not any one single race. I can cross-train and keep in shape while resting the injured body part and allowing it to heal. Rehab with the chiropractor. Following his orders and communicating with my coach. And it gets better when I've rested and recovered and allowed myself to heal properly. My short runs get faster and my long runs get longer and before I really even know it happened, I'm back. And all that time I was injured and struggling to maintain fitness, both mental and physical, I realize was a few short weeks in what will be years, nay, decades of running marathons and ultramarathons.
There is always someone out there far less capable than me doing far more than me, even at my healthiest. Remaining positive, finding alternative endorphin inducing forms of training, and drawing upon their inspiration are the keys to getting from Denial to Acceptance to Healed as quickly as possible.
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