After more than a year of recovery and rehabilitation from an ankle injury, I’ve made consistent headway, even if the steps have been small and I haven’t always appreciated them the way I should.
So, when a whim of a trail run in variable conditions (like losing the trail and picking my way through a boulder field covered in a foot of light snow) left me once again hopping about with a swollen ankle, my immediate reaction was less than stellar. Thankfully, years of practice with such things meant I was able to go through all of the injury related emotions—from denial to frustration to disappointment—within about a 48-hour period… for the most part.
Binge-watching Game of Thrones may have been more gratifying on an escapist level, but I opted to binge meditate my way through the entire 10-session Sport Rehab pack from Headspace. And it helped me glean some poignant wisdom. As a runner, not being able to run due to an injury can make you feel as if life is passing you by. Your friends are still running, races are still happening, and everyone posts ad nauseam on social media about their #epic sunrise/sunset adventures or shots of their watch faces sharing speedy miles. That’s awesome—for them. But you have to focus on you. Basically, according to Headspace wisdom, the key is to be in the here and now.
Injuries are a time to truly listen to your body. Even now, I’m a master at ignoring my body’s subtle signals to slow down, take a rest day or stretch. The cues I notice tend to be more obvious and painful. If you push until your body pushes back, it’s all the more important to treat it right when an injury comes calling.
Focus on what you can do and healing, while setting aside what you aren’t able to do—at least for the time being. As it turns out, you can do a lot. Go to a restorative yoga class, meditate, take a walk with a non-running friend, sit outside with your bare feet in the grass (seriously—this is called “earthing” and 10 minutes a day is really good for you!) sip an anti-inflammatory golden milk latte, hit the gym for core work or get a massage.
Also, accept that sudden shifts in capabilities—like going from prepping for one last big run of the season to hanging out with your foot elevated while searching online for quick fixes—is jarring, not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. The day after my recent setback, I was flailing and debating the benefits of pushing through with a swim session versus taking a rest day. During a manic text exchange with my PT, she posed an astute question.
“Swimming is good for most things,” she said. “But, given your reduced physical capabilities at the moment, are you mentally able to get a good workout?”
Being limited physically had my mental state laser-focused on “more” (for no rational reason). And my emotional status was “hot mess” at best. I took a rest day, and an easy day after that, with more planned for the rest of the week. Stressing about the future won’t help my ankle heal any faster. Being in the here and now (and not being stubborn AF) will.