It’s a brand new year; everyone you know just got a Fitbit, your friends are signing up for a new distances and destination races, and you’re injured.
Watching the world chase their goals while you’re sidelined from yours can leave you adrift and demotivated. But for injured athletes, these four resolutions are your roadmap to recovery (and if not recovery, sanity).
Get outside every day.
During the winter, your workout may be your only motivation to spend more than five minutes outside. Admittedly, immersing yourself in nature is harder when the sun goes down at 5 p.m. But even a ten-minute walk at lunch can enhance your creativity and concentration, studies have shown. It can even wake you up as much as a cup of coffee.
Especially if you work behind a computer, it’s valuable tech-free time. And in the rare event of sun, you’ll even get some vitamin D. (Of course, frostbite will render all these health benefits useless, so be cautious and bundle up).
Maintain your training friendships.
Your training friends are posting their long runs and planning their summer races. Even if you’re not clawing your eyes out in envy, it’s hard to contribute to their conversations when you’re injured.
But social isolation can compound your mental and physical pain, so try to stay engaged with your training group. If you usually hit Starbucks after your swim, stop there early and save everyone a table. If you can’t talk about your own injury without feeling depressed, focus on crewing your friends or advising newcomers. By staying plugged in, you’re sustaining not only your friendships, but your identity as an athlete.
Read inspiring comeback stories.
Reading more: it’s a common New Year’s Resolution. With the extra time on your hands, check out the stories of others who suffered and came back from your injury or worse. Besides the obvious inspiration, they also serve as a reminder that you’re not alone.
Especially when friends or family struggle to understand why an injury hurts you so much, it’s validating to know that other endurance athletes have experienced your frustration. And at least it’ll kill the two hours you planned to spend on your workout.
Experiment with cross-training.
Most New Year’s Resolutions are some variant of “leave my comfort zone.” Your layoff will be more enjoyable if you reframe it as an opportunity to experiment with new forms of fitness, so long as they don’t worsen your symptoms.
But in the excitement of that endorphin high, don’t overcompensate. Easier said than done, especially when you’re starved of the competition and results of consistent training. When considering cross training options, take into account both your physical limitations and personality.
Will that hypercompetitive spin class tempt you to strain yourself? Only you will know. If so, try yoga, pilates, swimming or another more mellow solo activity. Or do no formal exercise at all and consider the downtime mental training for your comeback event.