What I'm Learning About Resilience As An Injured Pro Athlete

When you’re busy with work, family, and life, making health a priority can sometimes seem impossible—too expensive, too time-consuming, too complicated. But in reality, every tiny step you take toward wellness makes a difference. That’s why mindbodygreen and Lorissa’s Kitchen are celebrating the #SmallWins that make healthy living attainable to anyone, anywhere. Here, obstacle racer and endurance athlete Amelia Boone shares how injury has changed her perspective on #SmallWins.

Humans are meant to move. Whether you are a casual weekend warrior or a professional athlete, movement and exercise are key to our overall health and well-being—both physical and mental. For any active person, when injury strikes and you become limited in your ability to do what you love, it’s easy to feel like the world is collapsing around you.

As a professional athlete, movement and training are what I do. But like so many other athletes, I’m no stranger to injury. I was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in my femur, and I went from running 80 to 100 miles per week in preparation for Western States—the oldest and most prestigious 100-miler in the country—to a sentence of 12 weeks (at least!) of no running whatsoever.

Armed with a pair of crutches, it could have been incredibly easy to wallow in my misery and bemoan my fate for several months. In fact, I did spend some time grieving. I holed up with a pint of ice cream and a glass of wine, and spent the better part of a week in tears about the missed races, about the loss of my sacred morning runs in the mountains, and about the inevitable loss of fitness that would accompany my rehab.

The small change that worked for me: acceptance

But then something clicked. Many people had told me to look at this setback as an opportunity, a chance to hit the pause button on life. And about a week into the injury, I finally accepted that (1) I can’t change what happened, so self-flagellation over the past won’t accomplish anything, and (2) going forward, I need to focus on what I CAN do on a daily basis to get myself back to healthy.

That’s the #SmallWin I’m most proud of: the small mental shift I made to see my injury not as a loss but as an opportunity for progress every single day.

Make your own #SmallWin: Focus on what you can do—not what you can’t

So what can you do when an injury strikes? As someone who’s been there and is on her way back, here’s what I recommend to anyone who's been sidelined from an activity they love.

1. Don’t let your injury be an excuse for inactivity.

Depending on what's wrong, there are usually alternative ways you can maintain your fitness and get the health benefits of exercise. With a broken femur, I was severely limited in what I could do—but I could use a hand bike and swim with a pull buoy. While it didn’t fill my itch to run, it allowed me to keep some sanity and stay in shape.

2. View the time off as a gift, and treat yourself to it.

As an athlete who regularly subjects her body to hard blocks of training, it’s difficult for me to sit still. But I’ve been reframing this downtime by acknowledging that, while it’s hard on the mind, my body needs the rest. In our “go go go” world, we often pride ourselves on never taking a break—on going “beast-mode” through every workout. Take this time. Embrace it. Use it to reflect.

3. Focus on your progress, and document it.

It may seem like your recovery is taking an eternity, but take a minute to consider how miraculous it is that the body can heal itself at all. When I think about things this way, it’s easier to celebrate each step of my progress, no matter how small. This includes simple things like figuring out how to take out my garbage while on crutches, ditching the pull buoy and graduating to flutter kicks when swimming, or discovering new and convenient healthy snacks like Lorissa’s Kitchen premium protein snacks that keep my body nourished throughout recovery. While these might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, writing down a victory each day—no matter how small—has all but forced me to maintain a positive outlook.

4. Stay involved in the community.

It’s easy to sit and wallow in self-pity. And while it might be hard to watch others take part in something you're passionate about while you're stuck on the sidelines, it does provide valuable perspective. Can’t run that marathon? Volunteer at an aid station instead. Sad that you can’t take your Tuesday-night boot camp class? Join your workout buddies for dinner and drinks afterward. You can still find ways to be social within your chosen passion, even if you are restricted from the actual movement.

5. Be kind to yourself.

Injury isn’t easy, and progress isn’t a straight line. I found myself getting angry for being upset or sad, which only made things worse. Accept that you are going to feel some loss, and don’t be judgmental about your current state. Expect ups and downs, both physically and mentally. Recovery is sometimes two steps forward, one step back (especially for an overeager athlete). But maintain faith that you’ll come out the other side.

At several weeks out from my diagnosis, I still have a long way to go on my road to recovery. But each day brings further healing, and that, in and of itself, is a #SmallWin.


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