How to Stay Sane While Sidelined From a Running Injury


When I first got my tibial stress fracture – and in the 168 days that followed before I ran again – I spent TONS of time on the internet trying to figure things out.  First I tried to figure out what my injury was.  After going to a doctor and getting a diagnosis of Posterior Tibial Tendonitis, I then spent all kinds of time on the internet trying to figure out how to recover from PTT.  Then I tried to figure out what caused my injury, so that I could avoid it in the future.  Then I tried to figure out if I’d been misdiagnosed (yep!).  After an MRI confirmed that I did not have PTT and instead had a tibial stress fracture, I spent MORE time on the computer googling all the same stuff for the new injury (which really was the original injury).  In between all this googling for information, I spent time on the computer reading endless blogs about stress fractures and return to running – so that I could read the stories of real runners and how they survived.   I did searches on alternative activities to running, stretches for strengthening hips and glutes, exercises that would make my imbalances (which led to the stress fracture) more balanced, emotional recovery from running injuries, return to running plans – you name it, I searched for it.  Basically I searched for anything and everything that would help me survive my downtime from running.

My website analytics shows that I am not alone in my information search.  People used to find my blog by searching “is the twin cities marathon hilly”, “qualifying for Boston Marathon”, “how much does Boston Marathon cost”, “boston marathon bombing blogs”, “beer and running”, etc.  Now my most frequent searches are  “return to running after stress fracture”, “marathon running after stress fracture”, “what should running after a stress fracture feel like”.

When I was doing all this figuring it out, I would love it when I would stumble across a blog where a runner had survived a tibial stress fracture and was running marathons (or just running!) again.  It would inspire me to continue resting.  It would give me encouragement to keep with the tedious PT exercises every day.  It would give me hope that I would run again.

So I figured that I would do a blog post to contribute to the information archives for runners who are injured with a tibial stress fracture (or, really, any kind of running injury – most of this info applies to anything that sidelines a runner for an extended period of time) and want to know that there is hope that they will make it to the other side of their running injury.

Without further ado . . .

How to Stay Sane While Sidelined From a Running Injury

  1. Cry. Rage. Whine. Sulk. Mope.  You just lost an activity that is not only important to you, it’s a part of who you are.  It’s your passion.  It keeps you fit.  It keeps you sane.  It’s your social outlet.  It’s what you do.  So you are entitled to be crabby about your loss.  For a day or two.  Maybe three.   But then you have to pull it together and quit the negativity.  Put on your happy face and move forward.  Why?  Because if you don’t, you won’t heal as fast (seriously – google it – there are all kinds of studies and stories that support this theory).  But also because if you don’t, your friends and family and co-workers are going to very quickly get sick of you.  Your non-running friends likely already are sick of how much you talk about running – imagine how quickly they will get sick of a runner who sulks and whines about not being able to run!
  2. Know that you WILL get through this and you WILL be a stronger runner – and person – because of it.  Trust me.
  3. Find alternative ways to get your daily endorphin high.  I was a 6 or 7 day a week runner.  I had a road bike but didn’t use it much.  I didn’t do any other forms of cross or strength (which, looking back, likely contributed to my stress fracture).  If I was going to take the time to exercise, I wanted it to be doing what I loved – running.  With my injury, that changed.  I started water running (aqua-jogging).  I have my road bike on a trainer inside (initially because I couldn’t ride on the road with The Boot on my leg, then because I live in Minnesota so biking outdoors ended for the season).  And I power walk.  And although none of these activities give me the same “high” that I get from running, they do give me my much needed endorphin fix.
  4. Be your own best advocate.  You know your body.  You know when something is working or not working.  When a diagnosis is right or not right.  Don’t just sit by and wait for doctors to do their thing.  Be assertive.  Ask questions.  Get a second opinion.  Insist that certain tests be done.  Switch doctors if you aren’t comfortable with and confident in your doctor.
  5. Relax. Enjoy not running.  Huh?  Seriously.  Instead of getting up at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday to get your long run in, sleep in til 8:00 (crazy!) and go to coffee with the girls.  Have an extra glass of wine on a Friday night because you aren’t in training.  Enjoy NOT being a slave to your marathon training schedule.  Read a book that you haven’t had time to read because you spend all your spare time running. Blog. Shop. 🙂
  6.  Stay involved in the running community.  Volunteer for races – it provides such a different perspective on running events to be handing out water or working at the finish line instead of running.  Spectate races – cheer your running friends on and celebrate their accomplishments.  Join your running group for happy hour or coffee.  Even if you aren’t actually running, being around running will keep you motivated and inspired to get yourself healthy.
  7. Focus on a different “training” aspect that you neglect when you are running.  For me, my time off from running allowed me to read up on, and begin focusing on, strengthening areas that were weak and imbalanced in me – my glutes and hips and core.  I learned that I have a Problem Ass.  When I was so busy running, I ignored these areas.  Now I know how important keeping my glutes and hips and core strong is to my running health.
  8. Count your blessings.  You could have it worse.  Google running injury blog and see where you are taken – there are runners who are injured with crippling back injuries, concussions from car accidents, multiple broken bones that require surgery, etc.  So if you JUST aren’t able to run, but can walk, swim, bike or exist without severe pain – then count yourself lucky.  There are also all kinds of people in your community and network of friends/acquaintances who have MAJOR stuff going wrong in their lives – like life threatening diseases, loss of jobs, death of loved ones, etc.  So if your worst problem is that you are temporarily laid off of running, again, count yourself lucky.

There you have it.  Stay positive.  You will run again!

4 thoughts on “How to Stay Sane While Sidelined From a Running Injury

  1. Tom Ford

    After being an almost daily runner for the past 40 years, it is hard to accept that fact that I cannot run due to the injury to I have been suffering through for the past 9 months.

    During this time, I have attempted (with limited success) to revamp my running career. Every time there have been setbacks; putting me back to square one.

    I realize that I will never be the runner that I was 10, 20, or 30 years ago; at this stage being a “recreational” runner sounds great.

    Thank you for your comment, “Stay positive. You will run again!”

    T. Ford

  2. You have literally saved me today…sitting here wallowing in self-pity, frustration and despair as tomorrow was supposed to be my third Boston Marathon!! Instead I’m on the couch with crutches and a cast as treatment for severe tibial and fibula stress fractures!

    Running is who I am and this is such a hard pill to swallow! Reading your blog has given me hope and I am thoroughly enjoying your entries! Scouring the internet for advice is so incredibly depressing. Thanks so much for sharing your experience…your advice is on point and has certainly altered my perspective.

    YES, I will run again!!!!


    1. Hi Tracey –

      I’m glad my blog helped! You will get through it. It sucks though, I’m not gonna lie. I just finished my hardest – but best feeling – marathon yesterday with no pain and felt fabulous. It’s a slow process to heal fully from stress fractures. Hang in there!

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