When you’re injured and unable to exercise, the emotional pain can be more intense than the physical aches. You’re sidelined from an activity you love; you’re concerned your progress is going to slip away; and you’re missing out on all those feel-good endorphins that exercise produces. Your social life may even suffer – many of us love to see our friends in spin class or at the race starting line.
Read a book a week, learn a new language, figure out knitting, or pick up the guitar.
Injuries are no fun, but you can come back stronger than before – as long as you keep your head in the game. I’ve had a few sports-related injuries that kept me out of my running shoes for months on end; here’s what helped me stay positive as I healed.
CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE WORKOUTS
Missing your upcoming marathon is disappointing, but a sprained ankle doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live on the couch. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if you can participate in other sports, like no-impact swimming, gentle yoga, or cycling. This is actually how I found my favorite activity – a running-related injury forced to me take up swimming and cycling, and six months later, I was toeing the starting line of a triathlon!
FILL YOUR TIME
If you’re used to working out regularly, you’re going to have a lot of free time. Fill your schedule with a new hobby. Read a book a week, learn a new language, figure out knitting, or pick up the guitar. While a Netflix marathon every night is tempting, it’s nice to feel productive.
DON’T FALL INTO THE “ALL OR NOTHING TRAP”
If you cannot exercise, you can still eat well. It is really easy to throw up your hands and say, “Oh, screw it!” and completely fall off the bandwagon as you heal from your injury. But look at your injury as a new opportunity to really focus on fueling your body with nutritionally-dense foods. Remember your body needs healthy foods so it can heal your injury quickly.
DON’T SACRIFICE THE LONG-TERM FOR THE SHORT-TERM
Would you rather take two months off or a year off? It can be very hard to admit you have an injury and need to take time away from exercise, especially if that means missing a big event. But the reality is that you have to rest to heal from an injury. Do not ignore the pain, hoping to just ‘run through it.’ You’ll only make it worse in the long-term.
IT’S OKAY TO BE UPSET
You may experience complex emotions, such as sadness, anger, or even grief. It’s normal to be upset when you’re injured. Most of us don’t realize how important mobility is until we lose it. Honor your feelings, but if your negative reaction starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, consider talking to a professional.