Dealing with Fear after a Major Running Injury
The moment you feared has arrived: you have had a major running injury. Whether it was a stress fracture, a sprain, or even a muscle rupture, you were effectively removed from the track for weeks, had to undergo surgery or to wear a cast. You went through a lot of pain, undoubtedly, despite the medication which you received. Now that you are back on your feet, you have second thoughts: should you go back to running, or give it up? Should you risk another injury? Will you even be able to regain your former performance level?
A Common Problem for Many Athletes
If you are having these thoughts and second-guessing yourself, do not be afraid – you are not the only one. A lot of pro athletes have gone through the same phase after a serious injury. It is natural to develop a sense of fear that you have lost your competitive edge, endurance and performance level. However, you need to learn how to overcome this fear, not allow it to rule you, and find the inner strength to restart your training.
Most runners are stuck in a vicious cycle of negative thinking because they do not feel that they are making any progress with their physical therapy, and it is exactly because of the negative thinking that they put a mental stop to their progress. There are various ways to snap out of this negative mindset, and we want to share some of the most relevant with you in order to help you get over your sense of fear.
Here they are:
- Visualize Your Progress through Charts
When you start training again, draw charts to scale showing the distance you have run on each rehabilitation session. Better still, ask your physical therapist to prepare them for you and look at them once every few days to see your actual progress. The ability to visualise the progress you make will boost up your morale and dispel your unfounded fears.
- Control Your Fear of New Injuries
Remember that your injury was an accident. Accidents do not happen very often. You can even seek statistics to observe the reduced likelihood of having another major injury. Talk to your physical therapist and trainer about your fear and ask their opinion. They will explain the degree of healing of your injury, the endurance level and strength of your muscles and bones, and will give you more precise information about your chances of getting injured again.
If the injury was a result of outside causes, such as inadequate running shoes or inclement weather conditions (such as rain or mud), these can be corrected and you can make sure that you will not be injured again.
- Set Specific Goals
Fear is always accompanied by lack of motivation and purpose. If you start by working towards a set of goals and milestones which you want to achieve, such as regaining your former performance level in X weeks and participating in a race in Y months, you are no longer purposeless. Thus, you will set aside your fear, because your competitive side will take over and drive you to succeed.
- Seek Support in Fellow Runners
Do not train alone. Always find a group of fellow runners or friends to join you. They will distract you from your fears with conversation, motivate you when you feel like giving up and watch out for you to help you prevent a new injury. Through their motivation and moral support, you will be able to forget your negative thoughts.
- Discuss It with a Counsellor
If therapy or counselling is what you need to get over your fears, do not be afraid or ashamed to seek it. Every person is different – and some need more support than others to overcome a traumatic event. Do not allow anyone to belittle you and your injury. Find a counsellor you can trust and get all the help you need to get back to your running performance.
Remember, fear is not stronger than you. Your mind and your body are strong enough to help you put your injury in the past and focus on your future performances as a runner.