Stages of Injury
One day you are hitting your time goals, ticking off the miles getting ready for the big race. The next day you are in the gym lifting weights feeling your body responding and getting stronger. You have visions of your big goal race and you know you are ready to tackle the challenge.
Then there is that nagging pain, the one that keeps getting stronger. The discomfort that you are realizing you really need to figure out before it gets too big. You make that doctor’s appointment, you get the tests and you are still not prepared to hear the doctor tell you that there is no avoiding surgery and 4-5 months on the sidelines. You sit there in disbelief, you try not to scream, it all just becomes a blur. You spend the next few days trying to laugh and smile, trying to act like it is a small bump in the road, trying to pretend that race did not mean that much to you. Deep inside you are sick and ready to give up.
I’ve been here before, the last injury had me on the sidelines for over a year. That injury happened on the trail: two miles into what should have been a recovery run, I found myself alone and down in the dirt wondering how I was going to get out of the forest. Luckily another runner finally came along and assisted me. Unfortunately, that injury occurred just as Covid lockdown happened and due to what was deemed “not a priority at the time”, the injury was misdiagnosed and grew worse. Several months later when they finally allowed surgeries to take place, that “little torn tendon” was completely ruptured and had moved bones out of place. Surgery, bone removal, reconstruction, casts, boots, therapy coupled with trying to run a small business during Covid sent me in a downward spiral that I never thought would end.
So this time around my apprehension didn’t come without merit. I was not sure I could deal with all this again. I knew what I was up against physically, but it was the mental side that scared me more. Races and goal races taken off the table. Runs and hikes with friends canceled. PRs in the gym on hold. Frustration mounting and overwhelming sadness and loss taking over.
My life isn’t all about being an athlete. My self-worth and sense of self truly is not all wrapped up in accomplishments. However, we cannot deny that as athletes, there is something that drives us, something that makes us get up extra early or skip that late night so that we can get our workout in. There is still an inner craving that is only satisfied with giving a workout my all no matter how bad my day was. There is a calm and a balance that only takes over as I hit a trail for some miles. There is a sense of pride that happens when i lift and squat more than I weigh.
Now I’m sitting on the sidelines. Trying not to scream and bite off the head of the next person who tells me this too will pass or be thankful for what you do have. Athletes are used to obstacles; we are used to contingency plans and we are used to pushing through. However, with an injury there is a sense of grief that we need to be able to process. A sense of loss that we need to come to terms with. All things that need time to be able to work through to change our mindset to a more positive one.
Injuries are more than just physical, there is obviously a huge mental component. As athletes we all experience injuries. We all go through the stages: we deny we are injured; we get angry, we get depressed and then we can accept and move forward. Accepting and moving forward takes giving yourself leeway. We need to show ourselves the same compassion and grace that we would give to another injured athlete. We need to allow ourselves that time to be angry, but we also need to have awareness of when it is time to accept that we are injured so that we can begin to heal. My coach talked about journaling; I of course ignored the suggestion. Now here I am, putting all my feelings onto paper and realizing that it’s going to be ok. I’m ready to move forward, I’m ready for the race. I will cross that finish line!