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.
We were asked to share what works for us as runners during the summer months to keep running and training.
First and foremost, what works for me is not a sure thing for you. Generally though, as human beings our physiological make up make general recommendations a perfect starting point for any of us.
The two most important factors, in my opinion, are hydration and protection from the sun. My first coach in Team in Training, David Burdette, taught us simply to drink water or sports drink often. His general guidance always worked for me which was "Drink before you're thirsty because if you've waited until you're thirsty, until you're craving water, then you've waited too long." There are other symptoms such as urine color (the lighter the better) but ultimately if you're thirsty and craving water, you need to drink.
Don't forget to replace the electrolytes and sodium you are sweating out. S-Caps, Salt tablets, most of the gel products, and sports drinks are all excellent sources of electrolyte replacement. I have no one single product that I recommend. Experiment and find one that works for you. When I buy an electrolyte replacement product that I've never tried before I will try it before even running. I'll take it while at home just to see if it upsets my stomach or makes me feel funny. It's better to find out a product makes you ill at home, close to the bathroom, than it is 3 or 4 miles from home.
I'll close on the subject of hydration and electrolytes by sharing this excellent page from Navy Fitness that covers hydration and the impact of altitude and humidity on your body's hydration.
Protection from the sun is equally as important. Runners and cyclists spend an amazing amount of time out of doors exposed to the sun and its harmful rays. As it gets warmer the clothing we wear covers less and less of our skin and thus we become more and more exposed to the suns ultraviolet rays that, with prolonged exposure, burn the skin and with longer prolonged exposure are proven to cause skin cancer. Protect yourself and be generous with sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. I've read reports that state products with an SPF higher than 30 are really not any more effective than the 30, so I always buy at least 30, waterproof, and sweat proof products. I've also found the "stick" products work amazingly well on the face. Again, I have no specific brand recommendations and haven't had any bad experiences with any one brand over another. And summer time is a great time to wear a very light, designed for fitness, cap to protect that head from the sun. The RunJunkEes shop has an amazing cap designed for runners that I personally own in every color and strongly recommend. The white, red, and yellow are perfect colors for the summer months.
I'll close on the subject of protection from the sun by sharing this excellent infographic from the American Cancer Society about skin cancer, the most common form of cancer diagnosed every year, with you.
Now is the time of year to become a vampire runner whenever safely possible and run during the dark hours. If you run at night please be safe and run in well lit areas, run with friends, run with a pepper spray product, and run with lights such as the amazing Knuckle Lights. Running indoors on a treadmill or indoor track is an excellent option to train on the hottest of all days, but if you're racing this summer remember this: You perform best on race day trained for the environment you'll race in. Running out of doors, even on the hottest of days, is totally possible and safe so long as you remain hydrated, slow your pace a bit, and protect yourself from the sun.
Check out the other RunJunkEes Sponsored Athletes' blogs as they've also shared what works for them. Feel free to ask any of us questions or join us in the RunJunkEes Virtual Run Club and exchange information and experiences with runners from around the world.