My wife has ruined my Dublin marathon attempt……. it’s in tatters. I’m suspicious she did it purposely. She rigged a booby trap at the bottom of our stairs. Like all good booby traps it was triggered by the victim – me, and I was attracted to it by bait. A strategically placed piece of carpet at the bottom of the stairs, simplistic but effective, and affording my wife plausible deniability. The bait was the smell of fresh coffee and the result was me doing the splits at the bottom of the stairs, as the carpet slid on the wooden floor from underneath me. Aside from the initial pain the immediate thought was for the marathon, its only 8weeks away!!!
The irony of being injured while a physio is not lost on me. The ins and outs of the diagnosis and rehab are dull, the end result being strength and flexibility work rather than running. But the most frustrating part of the recovery from any injury is time….. It takes time. Lost time resulting in missed long runs and marathon training meaning the Dublin marathon is no longer an option. Injury does not just cause pain and have a physical impact on runners; it causes anger and results in a sense of injustice, it is potentially detrimental to the mental wellbeing of an athlete (Smith & Milliner, 1994; Smith, 1996). Runners as a group of people are amongst the most emotionally stable(Morgan & Costill, 1972). However, the withdrawal symptoms from running due to injury, rather than physical tend to be more psychological in nature and include guilt, irritability, anxiety, tension, restlessness and depression. Many use running as a coping strategy, to regulate their emotional state and buffer our moods(Blumenthal et al., 1985). Daily exercisers refused to participate in a study which offered to pay them to discontinue exercising for only one month. When the same study was conducted in a less addicted group of people (exercised 3 times per week),the participants were found to suffer from poor sleep, became sexually frustrated and complained of a sense of loneliness(Baekeland, 1970).
Rather than seeing injury as an obstacle to progress the most positive way to respond may be to recognise it as an opportunity. The ability to perceive sport injury rehabilitation as an opportunity for development and growth is associated with more positive rehabilitation outcomes. A positive approach reduces anxiety and fear and increases the likelihood of successful recovery. Athletes who can effectively manage anxiety and fear will experience more positive outcomes from rehabilitation (Forsdyke et al., 2016). Using the recovery time to learn new skills, try new sports will not only aid recovery but it will maintain fitness and may even result in gains on returning to running. Time off due to injury allows reflection; running is not the only way to relieve stress, keep fit or to enjoy exercise. I miss the joy of knowing that “I can” about running, and I miss the reassurance of knowing that I quieten the weak surrendering voice when it is telling me to stop, but choosing different challenges for now can be just as rewarding.
Baekeland F. (1970). Exercise deprivation. Sleep and psychological reactions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 22, 365-369.
Blumenthal JA, Rose S & Chang JL. (1985). Anorexia nervosa and exercise. Implications from recent findings. Sports Med 2, 237-247.
Forsdyke D, Smith A, Jones M & Gledhill A. (2016). Psychosocial factors associated with outcomes of sports injury rehabilitation in competitive athletes: a mixed studies systematic review. Br J Sports Med 50, 537-544.
Morgan WP & Costill DL. (1972). Psychological characteristics of the marathon runner. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 12, 42-46.
Smith AM. (1996). Psychological impact of injuries in athletes. Sports Med 22, 391-405.
Smith AM & Milliner EK. (1994). Injured athletes and the risk of suicide. J Athl Train 29, 337-341.