I’m five weeks in and it’s already starting. The aches and pains, the fatigue, the daunting idea that the finish line is so far away, and the worst roadblock of all: the mental burnout and self-doubt.
No, it’s not marathon training. This time it’s the opposite — injury recovery. And damn, it can take a long time.
What I’ve learned, though, is that recovering from a serious injury is a lot like training for a marathon. You know, minus all the running.
Five weeks ago I had surgery to repair a torn labrum in my hip (Basil had the same in 2015!). Prior to surgery, doctors told me I’d be pretty limited in mobility for the first 6 weeks, out of running for at least 4 months and fully recovered in 6-9 months. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the end of the world. But when you’re used to living your life day by day, run by run, it feels like an eternity.
As runners, patience really isn’t our forte. I blame that on what comes at the finish line. Beers, bagels, sweet medals and all the glory. It’s in our nature to want to rush the process because the faster we go, the more badass we feel (except for the 42 seconds we feel like death and hold back that post-sprint vomit). It’s our nature to want to push ourselves to the absolute max. When someone tells you your workout for the next three weeks is going from horizontal to vertical on your couch and small bicep curls to hit next on your Netflix queue, it’s cause for alarm.
The unfortunate part about the go-hard runner mentality is that injury is a common side effect. Injury seems to plague the running community like, well, the plague.
So here I am, five weeks after surgery, counting down the weeks until someone utters the words “run-walk.” It’s like a long training cycle — the more I start to move, the more I become acutely aware of how my body reacts to every stress. Last weekend I attended a wedding weekend — a marathon in itself complete with 1 rehearsal dinner, 2 weddings, 10 hours of travel and a few drinks. Monday morning I felt like I had just run 18 miles… and then drank a bottle of wine. (Or maybe, drank a bottle of wine and then ran 18 miles. Whichever is worse.)
More than the physical aspect, it’s the mental part that feels hauntingly reminiscent of marathon or half marathon training. An injured friend recently said to me, “injury is such a mental game.” But then again, so is running.
As much as we commit ourselves to putting our heads down and focusing only on what’s ahead of us, it’s nearly impossible not to play the comparison game, both with ourselves and others. We use social media as accountability and it’s what’s kept me pushing through this recovery. But sometimes the competitive parts of us take over and that noise becomes deafening.
Which leads me to the next Twilight Zone quality of rehab — self-doubt. How many days have you woken up and thought, “There is actually no way I can run this race. I am certain an alien being took over my body and forced me to register”? (Raises hand and weeps). It’s that mid-training cycle doubt and burnout that can creep into the dark places of our mind and try to convince us that we aren’t enough.
That’s the same dark doubt that creeps into my mind as I sit on the DL. “What makes me think I can ever come back as strong as I once was? How will I ever be enough again?”
But here’s the good news! I’ve been here before. Okay, not exactly, but there’s something oddly comforting about this type of fear. It’s recognizable, it’s been an enemy before. This time the difference is I know I can overcome it. Because even while my body is catching up, I know in my mind I am enough.
How do you fight off the injury monkey and stay positive? Also, Netflix suggestions welcome.