You might remember that during my training for the #AzoresTrailRun2017, I suffered an annoying ankle injury which put an end to my training and left me feeling super-frustrated.
After giving myself the rest I deserved, I decided to put my not-feeling-injured-at-all ankle to the test and started running again. Hard.
You’d have thought I’d learned my lesson the first time around. But no. Before long my ankle was looking horribly swollen, I could barely put any weight on it again and I was feeling VERY sorry for myself.
Was it all over? Could I ever run again? Was I one of that massive number of runners who suffer chronic injury?
I LOVE running, so it was a scary place to be.
But now, several more weeks of rest, some essential physio and regular yoga practice later, and I’m not just feeling stronger and more positive. I’m also consciously grateful for the amazing life lessons my running injury has taught me.
I’d love to share them with you today so you can learn from my mistakes, avoid getting injured in the first place, become more mindful of the ‘zen of running’ and take your lessons into the wider world. Here goes.
#1. We should always listen to our bodies!
By far, the most vital lesson I’ve learned is to listen to my body and give it what it needs.
OK, so we all know that we should be listening to our bodies, but how many of us actually do it? We’re so used to pushing through discomfort, making that extra effort and demanding the very best of ourselves that often we don’t listen closely enough to the signals our bodies are giving us.
If your body is saying ‘Hey- that hurts!’ or ‘ Ouch! It’s getting worse! ’ then we really need to listen up and be kinder to ourselves. This is what true self-love and sportsmanship is all about.
After all, you can never meet your personal fitness goals (or life goals, for that matter) if you’re broken, tired and sad.
To do that, you’ll need to be strong, healthy and running like a well-oiled machine. That includes slowing down when you need to, eating whatever food your body needs to be well, getting more sleep or even taking time off to rest.
I should have stopped my run and walked home as soon as my ankle started to complain. But I didn’t. Lesson number one!
#2. You deserve that TLC (Don’t skip the stretching!)
Even if you think stretching is for wimps, that rest days are for lazy people and quiet time is for the boring, make sure you give yourself this chance for some TLC and recovery.
Doing this will help protect you against injury (oops!), build your strength and endurance, keep your stress hormones so you can stay in your best shape ever and give your brain a bit of down time. And in turn, this will make you a better runner, swimmer, cyclist, yogi or general human being!
So stretch your aching muscles before and after your workouts, make yourself a mouth-watering post-workout smoothie and curl up in the sunshine with a great book.
#3. It’s so totally OK not to reach your goals
*Sigh*…This is a tough one to learn. You see, once I set myself a goal I ALWAYS work my butt off until I actually achieve it. It’s a character trait I’m super-proud of having and one that will continue to help me realise my dreams.
But that didn’t happen this time.
When my ankle injury happened, I couldn’t do a thing about it. It didn’t matter how much I rested, how many ankle-strengthening exercises I did. There simply wasn’t time.
And it’s OK. We can’t always win the battle. There’s a certain beauty in allowing ourselves to surrender, allowing ourselves to fail and using the experience as fuel for personal growth.
#4. Challenges bring opportunity
Yes, even though I’ve been so incredibly desperate to get out there running again, I have to come clean and admit that this running injury has brought certain positives and even opportunities to my life.
If I hadn’t got injured (and decided to focus on strengthening my ankles), I would never have found time to develop the most delicious daily yoga practice of my life. I would never have discovered the great ‘One Mile a Day’ initiative with my son and I wouldn’t have had chance to slow down and learn more about sports anatomy. Awesome!
#5. We need to slow down and accept our limitations
This lesson is still really difficult for me to learn. Because I strongly believe that we can achieve anything our hearts desire if we first really want to (provided we take steps to make it happen).
Not being able to keep training and reach my goals in time has forced me to understand that I’m not invincible, that I do have my limitations and that too is perfectly OK.
So what if I can’t make the race this time? There’s always next year. Even if I have to go slower than I want to, I will get there eventually.
Taking the slow road instead of the intense and finding acceptance there is a vital part of the journey too.
It isn’t a reflection of my motivation, my fitness or even my worth as a human being if my ankle injury prevents me from taking part. What matters is that I’m on the journey in the first place.
It hasn’t been easy to suffer an ankle injury so late into my training for a race, but it HAS taught me so many important lessons that will strengthen my training and self-love well into the future.
Of course, these lessons don’t just apply to running injuries but the rest of my life too.
The important thing is that we stand up in the face of challenges, find strength when life doesn’t go our way and find a positive path through somehow. I’ve learned my lesson and I will be taking it much more slowly and being that extra bit kinder to myself along the way.