Maintaining Sanity While Sidelined

Guest Blogger Courtney Alev

“Prevention is the best medicine.” I’ve heard that phrase before, and I’ve usually smiled and nodded without really recognizing the merits of those five words—until I recently found myself suddenly sidelined with a running injury I probably could have prevented if I’d been using my brain more than my legs. But I have found myself in the unfortunate position that many other runners will find themselves over the course of their running careers: sidelined with an injury. Those who have been there with me know that the new challenge, more than goal splits or tempo pace long runs, becomes: How do I stay sane while I’m sidelined? Some surprising survival strategies have appeared in the heights of my run-less existence:

Baking. Lots of baking. Because nothing says “I’m watching my food intake because my exercise intensity has decreased dramatically” like M&M brownies, whoopee pies, and devil’s food cupcakes. If you can’t go all out on the trail, go all out in the kitchen. Am I right?

Catching up on idiotic TV shows. Trust me, I REALLY needed to stay up until 12:30AM to watch The Bachelor. The amount of energy I expend hating on that narcissist (swear word) who unfortunately shares my first name is no doubt equal to the caloric expansion of a five-mile run. Fact.

Drinking on Fridays. Fridays have normally been a quiet night for me and definitely a dry one with Saturday long runs looming. Lately, my Saturday “walks” or two-mile jogs are a little depressing, but hey, more Gin & Tonics at Friday happy hours for me! Win.

Indulging in forgotten forms of exercise. I’m a dancer. I love to dance, and I’ve gotten farther and farther away from that in my recent San Francisco life. Now will all this time (and all these cupcakes and cocktails to burn off), I’m getting back to my roots. Wherever I can. Apartment dance party and headphone karaoke? No shame. Whatever gets the stress out.

Getting jacked (or, “Find Your Confidence Boost”). Okay, this is kind of a joke… but kind of serious nonetheless. I realized how flabby my upper body had gotten since I gradually shifted from rock climbing to running (those one armed pullups seem to be from a whole different life) so I started doing 100 Pushups. (Find the app on the app store.) In what adds up to about half an hour a WEEK (!!!) for a couple weeks, I went from being able to do 30 to 100 in a row. Super easy with the time needed and a nice fitness confidence boost for when I’m not available to run.

Staying up late for no reason at all. Just because it’s really fun to walk around the office exhausted all day. But I’m bucking the early-alarm guilt for these few weeks while I can. I can always hit the elliptical at 7PM, no big. I might as well enjoy a more nocturnal existence before the morning alarm once again is set to 5:30AM.

Research injury and treatment. I don’t like being laid up at all, as much as the prior discussions would suggest, and I need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I’ve been looking into possible causes of what I’m dealing with and making sure I get in to see a good doc when I get back from my business trip this week.

Volunteer. If I can’t run any of my upcoming races, I will volunteer. Finally. I will take the time to give back to the running community that has given me so much.

Redefining goals. I’m basically taking a full month off of running, possibly two—I can’t say until I get into a doctor next week and have a better idea of what I’m dealing with. But that means my goal races in March, April, and May may not be what I thought they would be. I’ve had my tears over this but all I can do is 1) focus on getting better, and if I do that, then the goal becomes 2) finishing. I can’t stress out about these things until my body is working correctly again.

Regaining perspective. How many mornings do I wake up and want to do ANYTHING but go running? Short-term injuries are, for many runners, blessings in disguise. Just like you take your health for granted until you’re the person on the bus in the morning hacking up a lung every three seconds and terrifying the surrounding passengers, many of us take running for granted until we can’t do it anymore. When I was learning to run in Africa, I used to say that “I run because I can” and that was enough. I need to use that time to once again remember that that IS enough.

I’m trying to make the most out of this time period, which marks a big break for me in the last 14 months of constantly being in training for something. Even though it’s hard, I know when I come back, I’ll be stronger than ever—mentally and physically. And how about those pushups?

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