Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Mental Aspect

I have been on a bit of hiatus for the last couple months.  No specific reason – just busy.  I went to Germany at the end of September, and then to Florida for an extended girls’ weekend earlier this month.  I ran a 5k last weekend, the first of the winter series I talked about in 2013-2014 and I am LOVING this fall running weather.  I missed running all last fall/winter so this year is very special for me.

Let’s talk about injuries and such.  A coworker of mine is having ACL reconstruction this week and she asked me what the hardest part of it was.  I answered almost instantly – the mental aspect - sitting on the couch completely inactive when you’re used to running miles or doing yoga, or circuit training almost every day.  She asked me about pain and recovery, which I don’t believe I’m a good judge of since I opted to not take the pain meds after my surgery / during recovery.  That being said, I will still say without hesitation the mental aspect is the worst.  This holds true for any injury, no matter how long you are out for – a sprained ankle, a major surgery – no matter.

There were many days that I would just cry on the couch while glaring at my brace.  Rational, no – did it help?  Not really.  However, I finally had a day of clarity about 4 weeks after surgery when I realized, I’m a runner no matter how many miles I run.  Runners are strong.  We have more mental toughness than a lot of people.  When people tell me that running is boring, I am always shocked.  The mental toughness it requires is anything but boring.  It shows you just how much you can accomplish when you really want something.  Every time I run, I am amazed at what my body can accomplish. 

Mental toughness also holds true for injuries – when you’re an injured runner, it’s brutal.  However, our running has groomed us for these types of setbacks.  We get injured because our bodies are telling us to take a break, take a step back and breathe.  Take the time off to read a book you’ve been hearing about.  Go for a slow walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the scent of fall in the air.  There’s a reason you’re injured – give your body the rest time it is asking for and it will reward you once you’re fully recovered. 

We have the mental toughness to get through these things.  Is it easier said than done?  Yes.  Do I know what I’m talking about?  Yes, actually.  One year ago, I was the one crying on my couch because I was told that if my surgery went well, I could possibly be running again by March.  6 months after surgery I ran Ragnar.  Monday I crushed it in a 45 minute circuit class.  Today I ran 3 miles before lunch.  I gave my body the time it needed to rest and recover and destroyed every timeline my PT set for me.  Give your body what it’s asking for and it will give you what you’re asking for.  Try to enjoy the time off.  I read a lot of running books during recovery.  It helped for sure!

Setbacks and injuries are necessary for us as runners to remind ourselves just how tough we really are… and to appreciate every mile.

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