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The seven stages of injury and recovery

March 2, 2012

I’m fortunate enough to not get injured that often. However, my recent neck sprain (recovering well, since you ask) took me on quite a journey of reactions. See if any of these ring a bell with you.

  1. Denial Hmm, that hurts, and it didn’t hurt yesterday. It’s probably nothing. It’ll sort itself out. It’s fine.
  2. More denial Oh, that’s still painful. Well, I can probably still run – you know, take it easy, but still get out there.
  3. Acknowledgment Myah! Okay, perhaps that hurts. A lot. Maybe I can’t run. But it’ll be fine in the morning yeah? Sleep always sorts these things out good and proper.
  4. Acceptance Crap, it still hurts. Well. I’m just going to have to wait/cross-train it out.
  5. Fatalism It’s been a whole day and I’m not feeling significantly better. What if it’s going to be like this for weeks, months, years? I might have to miss the race/run slower/not run at all, ever.
  6. Blind optimism Hello, that’s feeling better. Still some pain, but some improvement. I want to go do some hill reps/a fast tempo session/combine the distance of all the miles I’ve skipped through this injury and run them in one session – over hills – at race pace.
  7. Pragmatism Ready to run again, but taking it gingerly. Aware of the pressing urgency to run faster, but taking time, easing in, avoiding exacerbating anything. Making a sensible return.

I know a lot of people suffer injuries in the build-up to marathon season, so hopefully this chimes with someone. I was lucky to be able to move to running again after only five days off, but that’s mostly down to being strong and knowing when not to run. While it’s frustrating to see best-laid plans fall apart, patience will get you back up and on your feet far more effectively than ignoring a problem.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2012 3:54 pm

    I like these stages and can relate. I’ve only been an endurance athlete for three years but in that short time I’ve experienced injuries in almost every part of my body (feet, legs, knees, hips, back, even my elbow once). However, my stages are a bit less mature than yours.

    My injury “arc” starts with denial (run through it, it’s nothing); then frustration (why hasn’t it gotten better, why doesn’t my mind just fix it?); tragedy (this is it, this is the injury that kills my running lifestyle forever!); optimism (maybe it’s not so bad if I just tone it down a bit); back to irresponsible hubris (see? I’m invincible!). And as you can guess, from there, it goes back to denial and we’re back at square one.

  2. March 2, 2012 5:07 pm

    I have experienced that cycle. Now I have tight Plantar Fascia and I am proactively stretching my calves. All the best.

  3. March 5, 2012 11:30 am

    My rather stiff calf is looking at these stages and is firmly in stage 2. Fortunately it’s a rest day today, so I don’t have to move on quite yet!

    • March 7, 2012 9:34 am

      I hope the stiff calf clears up. Resting well is a vital part of training well. I always try to load up on carbs and proteins on rest days – I don’t know that it helps me recover any better, but it certainly tastes nice!

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