Your identity needs to be that of a recovering runner. That’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
Anytime that you get an injury and you’re taken out of training, your doctor tells you to stop running, and you sit still doing nothing, lots of bad things happen. Number one, you stop running, so you feel terrible physically. Additionally, you’re probably going to get super grumpy and your spouse, your kids, your friends, they’re probably going to think you’re being a little bit of a jerk because you’re in a really terrible mood all the time because you’re not running. In addition to that, you kind of start to lose your identity in large part. I mean, we all feel good when we run. We feel good when we accomplish things. We feel good when we do a long run at a good pace. And that all gets washed away when you’re sitting around recovering from an injury.
I heard a quote a long time ago that said something to the effect of the physician’s job is to provide reassurance while nature takes its course. And that’s sort of true, but really when somebody calls me for a series of calls to help them through an injury, a lot of what I’m doing when I listen to their story every day is I actually make notes on the things that they’re doing that is right, on the things that they perceive are moving in the right direction. But when they call me, they’re almost always focused on the problem. They’ll say, “Well, I ran in the AlterG Treadmill, but I had this much pain this far into the run, so I had to back off a little bit.” Or, “I went out for an eight-mile run today and I started having pain a mile and a half from the finish.”
Well, those are bad things, but they’re highly focused on that. And what you have to do if you want to recover quickly is to focus on the positive. You have to really take on this mindset and identity of a recovering runner, not an injured runner. And when you only focus on how your run didn’t feel as good as it should have, how you didn’t run quite as far as you wanted to. Many of these runners who I talk to are actually overly focused on the negative. They are confused about why they start having pain when they went up to a certain percentage of gravity in the AlterG Treadmill, or they’re frustrated because they did an eight-mile run outside and they started to fall off pace because they had some sort of hesitation and achiness in their foot around mile six.
Those are negative things. It’s hard to not focus on them. But my job is to actually help you think about how much you’ve improved since the last time we checked in. And there is always improvement. And you have to identify those improvements. You have to focus on the positive things that are happening in recovery the same way that you focus on the positive things in your training.
If you sign up for a marathon and you want to qualify for Boston and you’re a long way off from that goal, you don’t sit around all day thinking about how bummed out you are that you can’t run a three-hour marathon right now. You think about how great it is that you just went to the track and you did mile repeats on pace, every single one, all the way through your workout. You think about how it is that you actually did that 18-mile run and you stayed on pace the whole time. You think about the things that are positive because the short-term positives help you get to the long-term success. That’s totally true in training, and it’s totally true in your recovery. You have to focus on your most recent improvement.
So sometimes it’s helpful to do something really simple like write out a gratitude list after your workouts. Believe it or not, it sounds silly, but this can be hugely helpful, and that’s largely what I’m doing with these athletes without them actually realizing it, every time we check in on these calls. Focus on the positive. Make sure that your identity stays hooked to being a recovering runner, someone who’s improving rather than someone that’s injured and if you do that, it will help you get back to running a whole lot faster.