Last spring while training for a race, I felt an excruciating pain in my right calf muscle. I tried to shake it off but I couldn't walk without limping. I hobbled to my car, devastated and still sweating, knowing that I had to sit this run out.
If you're a runner or someone who walks or bikes everywhere, you know how frustrating an injury can be. Injuries that restrict our movement in any way can raise our stress level because we simply aren't used to being sedentary. I've dealt with lower leg muscle strains since April, a pulled calf muscle and a nagging foot injury. These injuries have restricted my running and walking and are extremely difficult to accept.
Here are a few guidelines to help you heal, learn to be grateful for where you are and to feel relatively active while taking it easy.
1. Be patient.
It's easier said than done but if you push your body, you'll take longer to heal. Keep in mind that you can make a minor injury worse by ignoring the pain, so take it easy so you can get back in the game.
2. Remember RICE.
Rest, ice, compression and elevation. You can throw in some hot/cold cream too if you like. Do this twice a day. Blog, meditate or chat on the phone while you rest.
3. Do upper/mid body strength training exercises.
Use hand weights, do pushups, do gentle yoga or core exercises for 20-30 minutes a day. You'll still burn calories and stay in shape while resting your leg muscles. You may even learn to love pushups!
4. When your pain subsides, start walking and then jog.
Do a run once a week and rest the other days. Stretch after a run or walk. Be gentle on your leg muscle, build up your endurance slowly and stop if you feel pain.
5. Eat a balanced diet.
Clean up your plate. Eat a lot of greens and fill up on whole grains and beans. Take a multivitamin as directed.
6. Identify what you've learned.
You may have felt angry or frustrated because your injury forced you to slow down, but you may have gained patience and an understanding of your body's limits. You may have also realized how awesome meditation is or channeled your frustrations into something creative.
As athletes, we feel our best when we're active, pushing our bodies and raising our heart rates. We often feel invincible, but it could take an injury to realize that slowing down can be just as awesome. It encourages us to savor the small things in life: sleeping in, walking meditations, appreciating the flowers and catching up with friends.
The important rule to remember when recovering from an injury is to be grateful for what you have. Injuries don't last forever and you'll be back on the running trail again.