It’s well-known that running, being outdoors and general activity are all really good for your brain. It’s not just that these things make you feel good, but they can actually have a positive effect on your brain function (references below).

Personally, I also uphold the idea that the best thing about running is when it’s over; it’s not that I don’t enjoy running, but for me the feeling of having finished is so much better than the actual activity itself. Yes, I enjoy being out in the countryside and sometimes I get a sense of achievement, but mostly I love the ‘tired’ that comes after a challenging run.

But what about when you can’t run? If you’ve ever had a period of enforced rest through injury, you may have experienced the grief of not running and, as with any loss, it can be completely overwhelming.

You may think this is a little melodramatic, and it probably is, so here’s a light-hearted look at what happens to runners when they’re injured and can’t run.

Injury occurs

Runner goes into denial, “It’s just a niggle.”
They continue their run, “I’ll run it off.”
They have, “a couple of days’ rest.”

Denial, anger, frustration

Runner has to rest because the injury is still there, gets bored and decides to “run through it”; injury gets worse.
Runner scours internet for diagnosis and may ask other running friends about their experiences.
Runner sees club/team/running mates completing events, challenges and races and starts to resent them.
Runner gets cross with injured, “stupid foot,” and starts to feel guilty about missed runs.

Despondency then acceptance

Runner starts to feel like they will never run again.
Aforementioned running mates start asking, “How’s that stupid foot of yours?”
Runner seeks some medical professional help with injury.

Moving on

Runner finally acknowledges that the injury has happened and, because they’ve been told to, starts to do some rehabilitative exercises in order to return to running.
Runner sees the light at the end of the tunnel and books a couple of events in the future.
Runner does too much too soon, returns to first phase of injury cycle.

Eventually…

Runner still feels sad that they can’t yet run as they want to and is still upset that they missed the Best Race Ever, but they start to move on more positively. They look for the good in what they can do and start setting positive, achievable goals.

I wonder if this is familiar and, if it is, what’s the best way to get to the final stage?

References/links

Activity and brain function
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951958/
Running and the brain
https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/04/19/10-ways-that-running-changes-your-mind-and-brain/
Outdoors and the brain
https://digest.bps.org.uk/2020/10/19/awe-walks-can-boost-positive-emotions-among-older-adults/