The next time you are faced with a running injury and forced to hang up the shoes for a while, embrace it with the energy and enthusiasm of an 11-month old and enjoy the journey back.
This past spring, as I built mileage toward my first marathon which lay on the horizon, I aggravated my IT band, and was forced to reassess my overall fitness and health. I was now resigned to strength training, cross training, stretching and icing to rehab.
None of these activities are especially dear to me, which is probably what got me into the predicament in the first place. Although I initially found myself schlepping through the motions each day as if to knock out chores on a checklist, I soon joined forces with a competent training partner, my then 11-month old son, Deacon.
In no time at all, he provided some much needed insight on how to move forward after being dealt a setback. Below are the seven lessons best learned from someone who has never even walked before.
1. Back to the basics
Before we ever learned to run, we learned to walk. And how did we do it? By building up our strength and confidence one step at a time. Much is the same when we are dealt with an injury. We have to take a step back, determine our deficiencies, and improve those areas, one step at a time.
Tip from Deacon: Don’t feel defeated if you have to use modified or assisting devices. Deacon preferred a four-wheeled lion to help him from Point A to Point B.
2. Have a short memory
As I watched my 11-month old son encounter minor setbacks, he became frustrated. But he had an equally effective counter – a short memory. As adults, and runners, we grow accustomed to walking and running long distances.
We suddenly have that ability taken away, and there is an accompanying psychological effect. It can be disappointing when we compare a 30 minute indoor strength training routine to a two hour, outdoor 10 mile run, that we may have done just a few weeks prior. Don’t fall victim to this mind game – stay in the moment.
Tip from Deacon: If you encounter a setback, distract yourself. Cheerios work well.
3. Get plenty of rest
As he transitioned to sitting up, crawling, pulling up, and walking with assistance, Deacon put in some much needed rest, sometimes up to 12 hours a night! Don’t get me wrong, when he is tired, he still fights the notion of going to bed.
But is our situation as injured runners (and adults) much different? As we build back our strength, our bodies also need valuable rest. As adults, we too struggle against temptation to get that much needed rest almost daily due to things like work schedules, TV, and social engagements.
Tip from Deacon: Try to get in a routine that is similar each day as bedtime approaches, and have a cue for yourself that it is approaching. Like a bath with all of your favorite toys.
4. Cross training
He crawled, he planked, he did toddler modified burpees. If Deacon woke up every day and tried to stand and walk with no help or progression, he may never have met his goal of walking.
The point being, his approach to overall fitness helped build strength and agility that would allow him to meet his goal progressively, over time. The more varied your approach (cycling, walking, strength training, swimming, etc.), the better your overall fitness will be, and the lower your risk for injury.
Tip from Deacon: Incorporate as many different toys as possible.
5. Have fun
Imagine how weird it would look if he woke up from his nap, changed himself into workout clothes, and struggled through sets and reps with a painful look on his face. Instead, he tackles his toddler-modified workout with a smile on his face, and has fun doing it.
Whatever the exercise of the day or moment might be, add a twist or competition to it to make it fun again (plank-off, anyone?).
Tip from Deacon: Add music to your workout, and when you feel like dancing, dance!
6. Keep your intensity
Just because you are sidelined with an injury does not mean you have to slog through the rehab assignment. Without risking further injury, look for ways to maintain the intensity of each workout.
Watch a toddler barrel through playtime. They take on a circuit mentality as they cycle through activities with minimal break time.
Tip from Deacon: Spread your workouts apart. Rather than sit between your sets, crawl (or walk, or jog, depending on injury) to the next station or exercise.
7. Remember that everyone has a different timeline
Pick up any child development book and it will give you an age that the average child will begin to walk. But we all know they don’t wake up that day and start walking, as they all have their own unique timelines.
Injury rehab is no different. Google “IT band rehab” and you will similarly find advice for how long you should take off. Again, every runner will differ. Be patient, and know you may not be “average”.
Tip from Deacon: Celebrate the smaller milestones along the way.
Featured photo credit: Yoga/Elvert Barnes via imcreator.com