Like most runners, if someone asked me if I enjoyed a good challenge I’d say “of course!” without a second thought.

However, if I would have given that answer a few years ago, that answer wouldn’t always hold true. If fact, that answer only held up when I had come up with the challenge myself and everything went right. If it was an unexpected challenge I didn’t ask for, I’d have been a mess. That’s not the person I wanted to be, so I challenged myself to change.

This year has given me the perfect opportunity to see if I’m getting closer to the runner and person I aim to become.

A brief background on my current situation: I’ve had Achilles pain for a long time. I lost count on exactly how long, but I had surgery on my Achilles in May 2015. After surgery, my Achilles felt better, but it was never perfect. I was told it would take time and to continue to work on this and that, but after 4 years of that something in me snapped early this past summer.

Mentally, I was done always pain-managing my Achilles. With that went all my personal running goals and dreams for 2019 as I attempt to figure this out.

I gave myself a little time to feel bad and let go of those goals as I do think that’s an important part of my mental health. Then it was time to fully embrace the challenge of staying happy while not running. I think continuing to love life while being injured will look a little different for everyone, however, I do think similar practices can apply.

Here are the four practices I find most helpful:

  1. With a lighthearted laugh, I often tell myself “get over yourself and focus on other people!” Let’s admit the truth here. I and many other runners sulk over an injury because we’re so focused on ourselves and our current situation. This is why one of the best ways to deal with an injury on an emotional level is to think about how you can best serve others and then go do that. There are even scientific studies to prove that helping others makes people happier. Help yourself by helping others!
  2. Don’t focus on what you can’t do. I’ve loved the challenge of training my mind to be appreciative of what I can do, not because it’s been easy, but because it’s a challenge that’s made me a stronger person. Anyone can do it and benefit from it, just be ready to be relentless in working towards this mindset.
  3. As both a runner and a coach, my life seems to revolve around running. It’s my passion and what I thrive off of, yet knowing there’s a lot more to me than running is critical for not letting an injury get me down. Nothing will replace running, but there are actually a lot of different activities I Iike to do. Being open to new activities may actually be the key to giving my Achilles the best shot to heal and get stronger. A couple of months ago I decided to try mountain biking. After a couple of rides thinking “what did I get myself into” I started to get excited about each ride and seeing how much I could improve. It’s forced me to embrace channeling fear into focus to go faster, something I know will help me with mountain running. It took a while to find what kind of cross-training was right for me and now that I’ve found something that brings me joy, I’m not forcing my Achilles to do more than it’s ready for.
  4. “What does the best version of myself look like in this situation?” There are times I ask myself this question and curse because it can be a heck of a lot easier to be less than my best. Yet, after a few curse words and telling myself not to be “weak sauce” (high five if you use that term too!), I admit I’m often better for challenging myself to do hard things. I think we all want to die knowing we became the best versions of ourselves and this question is helping me get there. So when I do catch myself being a little down about my situation, I ask myself this question to find the best way to think and act.

Being taken away from what you love for a while might never be easy, but I hope with these practices you’ll be up for the challenge of an injury or any other challenge that comes your way. Leave us a comment if you have some additional helpful ways to manage your mind during injuries.