Getting Over Betrayals and Mental Hurdles

Katy asks a good question: I’ve been off running for entirely too long, with some back issues. I’m finding myself too scared to start again, because I fear I’ll re-injure myself. Any tips on getting over an injury mental hurdle?

I think this isapplicable to so many situations in our lives. There are things that we like to do, love even, but something happens and we develop a fear for this thing we love. Because it can hurt us. It can lead to discouragement and pain. We feel somewhat incomplete without it, but we have a hard time committing to it anyway.

I’ve felt this way about writing.

I’ve felt this way about having kids.

I’ve felt this way about having friends.

In fact, I think we all have to face the prospect of giving up some of the things we love most in our lives because we are afraid of the pain – physical, mental, emotional – that comes when something you love hurts you. It’s a big thing. It can be really traumatic. It may have been a huge part of your life and your identity, and then it came and bit you in the back. Ouch.

So, Running is your friend, but she’s hurt you, and now, perhaps, you feel slightly betrayed by her. You think she is worth forgiving and being friends with again, but you don’t know where this betrayal came from or if she’ll do it again. Maybe it was a fluke? An accident? A misunderstanding?

Already you’ve taken a break from her and realized that you miss her and you would like to hangout again, just like old times. But will it be like old times? Will it be awkward? Will she come back and bite you again?

The good news is that you don’t have to commit to spending 26.2 miles together to find out. You can start by just taking a quick turn around the block, and see how that goes. Do you sense any awkwardness? Any twinges? Any hints that maybe you didn’t spend enough time apart? Then you can slow things down, walk a little, maybe give yourself some more time to heal.

But maybe it feels good to be back together. Really good. So good you want to just jump right in where you left off. To which I would say, slow down. A turn or two around the block is a good start. If things go well, it’ll leave you wanting more and eager to go out again soon. Running seems to still be your friend, but you don’t want to overdo it. Maybe go out for a couple of short runs until you feel comfortable together, both mentally and physically, and then when the awkwardness and pain is gone, you’ll know you have your friendship back.

The other approach I might try is to branch out. Running may be your best friend, the one you spent most of your time with, and that’s why it hurt so much when she betrayed you. So, if you haven’t already, it might be time to make some new friends. That way, if running does betray you again, you aren’t left completely alone. You can hangout at the swimming pool or the yoga studio or on the bike so that you aren’t quite as vulnerable to the loss of your friend. You’ll still miss running, I’m sure, but because you are well-rounded and have other interests, you won’t have as much mental energy to dwell on the pain she caused. And if she does come and bite you in the back again, you might be stronger than you were before so that you are able to rebound more quickly.

Does anybody else have any ideas for Katy? Any experience overcoming the mental part of an injury that we can learn from?

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2 Comments

  1. Knew I could count on you! What a great perspective! Thanks!

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  2. I’ve had one semi-serious calf injury a year over the last three years. It usually knocks me out of activity completely for 2-3 weeks, and then I have to come back slowly, which is painful. It’s physically painful, as you have to listen really carefully and not tweak anything again. And it’s mentally painful, because I want my running to be a steady upwards climb, a triumph of improvement. (Obsessively keeping records doesn’t help this, since you know exactly how much slower you’re going and how much faster your heart is beating.) I try to compensate by engaging in strengthening and stretching/yoga type things for the leg muscles, and living vicariously.

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