Bouncing Back after an Injury

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Hi, dailySpark readers! I’m Emily from Daily Garnish, and I am excited to write my second guest blog post for the site (read my first one here). Today I'm going to share some tips with you today about bouncing back – both physically and mentally – after being sidelined by an injury.

Over the past few years, I have somewhat defined myself as a runner. From the moment I jogged my first block I was hooked on the exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that running brought to me. I started with my very first 5K, worked my way all the way up to marathons, and raced nearly every distance in between.

On a rainy day last October, I was crossing the street on my way to a haircut when I was suddenly struck at full force by a large SUV. The minute I hit the pavement and felt the burning in my legs, I knew that I had more than a few bumps and bruises. As the ambulance raced me to the hospital, my thoughts drifted to the half-marathon I was scheduled to run that very weekend, and my sixth full marathon that I had trained to run at the end of the month. I was grateful to be alive, but also knew that the damage to my left knee was going to forever change who I was as an athlete.

The next few months brought a range of emotions – from gratitude to depression, anger to sadness, and everything in between. Days that were previously spent running, biking, and lifting weights were suddenly spent laying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Over the course of the following days, weeks, and months – I discovered that allowing myself to heal emotionally was just as important as the physical healing process.

Now four months later, the memories of the accident are vivid in my mind, but as simple as a scar to the outside world. Throughout my path to healing, I learned several valuable lessons about how to deal with an injury:

Give yourself time to heal – both physically and emotionally, you need to allow yourself to feel everything you are feeling. The most important part of any injury is a complete and thorough recovery. As frustrating as it may be, sidelining yourself temporarily might be the key to getting you back on your feet sooner and stronger. And in the meantime…

Discover new talents and interests – before my accident, I completely defined myself as a runner. But eventually I learned to use the time I used to spend running in new and exciting ways. While I was couch-bound, I finally found the time to start reading more. I worked on new writing projects, and caught up on all the computer work I had backlogged for months. Once I was on my feet, but not quite ready to run, I embraced other forms of fitness that were less stressful on my body. I found solace in yoga, and learned to appreciate the slowness of a nice long walk.

Don’t make comparisons – when I eventually did start running again, I was afraid to see how much fitness I had lost during all of my downtime. It was hard for me to just embrace the fact that I was moving again, and not focus on how much slower and out of shape I felt. I realized that the best thing I could do was celebrate each new success, as dwelling on the past only moved me backwards. Think of yourself as an entirely new athlete – one with new goals and a new appreciation for the sport!

Find the silver lining – while it can be very easy to focus on the negatives of an injury, it is much more productive to search for the positives! While I am a little slower and a bit rustier than I used to be, I appreciate running much more now than I ever did before. I took losing my ability to run to make me realize just how special it makes me feel.

The most important thing when returning from an injury is to make sure you are fully healed and cleared by a doctor to resume activity. Now that I am back on both feet, you can follow the rest of my journey at Daily Garnish!

Have you ever experienced setbacks due to an injury? How did you keep your spirits up?

Editor's Note: Just yesterday Emily announced on her blog that she's expecting her first child in October. Head on over and tell her congratulations!

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CKEYES1 9/4/2020
Luckily I haven't had a injury yet Report
KHALIA2 2/15/2020
Thank You for sharing this one! Report
Thanks for sharing this information because I'm presently recovering from knee problems with arthritis and just had bilateral knee injections yesterday. So, thanks for the information and advice. Report
Wonderful article! Thank you. I needed to hear this, as I too am sidelined with a broken ankle. I'm going to get your positive spark glowing in my life. Report
Thank you. I had big plans for this new year and on January 2nd I fell while ice skating and it's killing me not to be able to run, or really even walk very much. I keep reminding myself that I will heal eventually and get back to it, but it's very depressing right now. Report
So glad to find this article. Currently off work after an tear in my piriformis muscle and resulting sciatic pain. Had started running in the spring and discovered a sport (finally!) that I LOVE only to be sidelined for God knows how long. Very difficult to be patient and let things heal. I feel really low at times especially when I see my running friends completing races that I had planned to do. The blog was very inspiring and helpful in a time when I most needed it! Report
Thankfully I've never been injured that bad. I've been nudged by a car and bruised my tailbone but I was OK after two weeks. I read this though because I managed to injure my shin on W1D1 of c25k (old shoes, running on sidewalk, going too fast....) and have had to cut back on my walking and aerobics along with not being able to try running again. I'm doing what I can and raising your heart rate with upper body only is difficult but it's what I can do right now. That and ST for my often neglected core and arms. Injury is hard, I wouldn't call myself an athlete but I'm least I love to read and have been able to forget how much I want to go out and walk 5 - 10 miles. It's also been hot so I haven't been as motivated to do so anyway. I should be fully back on my feet by October and will ramp up the walking slowly. Report
I applaud your attitude, optimism and wisdom. Thank you for your story. I really needed it. And Congratulations on your achievements and courage. Report
This sounds like a great place for me to be right now. Thank you for sharing your stories. Report
I know how this feels. Trying to push yourself to do things. Many times, for myself, it's because I feel I am 'suppose to'. It needs doing. It wont do itself. It can be hard figuring out where the line is and to let something go when you really can't, or shouldn't be, doing things due to an injury etc. Sometimes, though..hoping another will do it has been in vain. It isn't just exercise or running that you may need to take a rest from. I would like to find something that focuses on that issue as well. Report
Thank you!! Report
You have NO idea how much I needed to read this today! Report
Thank you!!! This came at the right time. I was just really starting to feel really good physically after 6 years in pain. Then I got rear ended. My back and neck are strained and I am in pain most of the time. So I am trying to focus on what I have to do to get myself back up on my feet and ready to run my first 5k, I had already scheduled for the end of June. Report
Great blog Emily! I tripped over our old cat sometime in December and have had sciatica pain since. They found I also have a bulging disc. So they injected me yesterday to see if that will help. Hopefully it will cause I would like to take my long walks again and also do more at the fitness center. Thanks again. Report
I love your story it is very up lifting, but how do you bounce back from something that time and therapy can't cure. I suffer from fibromyalgia how do i deal with the everyday pain. There are times i get so depressed because it keeps me from getting to the gym. I want to reach my goal so bad but this condition is making it some what impossible. I really do try to stay motivated but there are days i just break down. Well don't want to bring anybody down with me but i just find it hard at times to deal with this. I have always done some kind of exercise since I can remember it is just getting more and more painful to do. i push myself everyday to keep on going especially since i clean housed for a living. This job is very hard on my body but it pays the bills. i am thankful to god for giving me a job especially in these hard times. Report
Oh, I am the poster child for injury. I broke my arm 7 times before I was 16 years old. I've had stress fractures twice from trying to run too far too fast. I ruptured two discs in my back when I was working on building lower body strength for a mountain hiking trip. And, most recently, when I thought I was taking it pretty easy in training to walk a half marathon, I did something weird to a hamstring and that sidelined me for over a month. I'm registered to walk a half marathon on April 3 but don't think I'll be able to go the distance. My plan is to walk half of it (it's the MORE 1/2HM in Central Park in NYC and the route is 2 loops of the park plus a bit, so I'm planning to do one loop plus the bit.) At least that's the plan. Now my back is bugging me and I'm not sure I'll be able to manage it. I should buy stock a drug company that sells ibuprofen. Report
I had started training for a 5K in May of 2010. Two weeks before the race, I tripped up the stairs at work (yes, only a dork trips "up" stairs) and screwed up my piriformis muscles (i.e., a major pain in the butt). I didn't make the race and had to go through several months of physical therapy. But, I learned a lot from that experience. I still do the lower body exercises and stretches that the physical therapist recommended. They've really helped improve my running skills now that I'm back in training. Report
I was hit by a snowboarder 6 weeks ago. It gave me a serious partial tear of my Achilles tendon. There went my daily skiing, snowshoeing or hiking. I'm working my way back to these activities but I still walk with a limp. Compared to being hit by a car, though, I can't complain. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I needed to read it! And congratulations on your pregnancy! Report
I broke my foot right after deciding to train for my first mini-tri event! Report
Really helpful! Report
on feb 14 I had a heart attack, later another one. I've been doing this spark thing a year, eating right, exercising, taking care, then BAMB! Now I'm back to square one, 15lbs dumbbells, walking 2-3 miles a day, in the words of Peter Wolf, Start all Over, I'm back, taking it easy, just gald to be with you all. Report
I've had 4 ankle surgeries on my left ankle (3 in a 2 1/2 year time period - each surgery which required 6 weeks on crutches and more weeks in a walking boot), I have an unstable right ankle which may require surgery at some point, and I felt in January and have a bone bruise on my right upper calf.

So, I know all about injury and recovering from it. I think one of the hardest things is feeling like your life is taken away from you because everything you used to do get modified or becomes impossible.

It is still hard, some days I can apprecaite how far I've come. But other days I know that my calf muscle in my left leg is still smaller than my right and it's been 2 years, I know the weather makes my ankle swell up and hurt, I know that I can't run or spin or do something high intensity to get a burn in -- I have to go for time not a faster speed. But that's ok, you can have those days. Other days you'll feel better, you'll feel like you can tackle anything, you'll be able to do more than you thought or you'll go you know, a few months ago I could only bike for 30 minutes before stopping and now I'm at 45, etc. You learn to adapt the way you look at things. Report
I'm five weeks post ACL reconstruction surgery after a skiing accident. It's too easy for me to slack off on my strength exercises. ={ Report
I can't help but wonder if your high level of fitness probably kept you from having even worse injuries and also gave you a head start to a full recovery. Healthy bodies bounce back so much better, as long as we indeed to give injuries the time and therapy they need to heal. I've been sidelined from running up until the last few months from foot injuries, and have learned to appreciate running pain free . I just finished a half marathon a couple of weeks ago and am running another at the end of March. I'm so happy to go for a run and for the change in my perspective that was the silver lining behind my injury. Report
I had ankle surgery back in July 2008 and it sidelined me for a good 6-8 months. that was extremely rough, considering i was training in mma about 4 days a week and was in awesome shape. once the doctor cleared me, i continued with my physical therapy which helped TREMENDOUSLY with getting me back on my feet. i didn't go back to train just yet, but was doing slow walking which eventually turned into a slow jog. now i'm back to normal but still wear a brace and i don't overdo it when i feel soreness in the area. i've even picked up snowboarding, but can't do it for too long, as i start to feel stiffness. while side-lined i did a lot of sit-ups and leg lifts to stay in some sort of shape, so i wasn't totally inactive. it was quite an adjustment. Report
Thanks God but I have never suffered from any illness or any accidents till date. But Your story is very inspiring and hats off to you for your strength.
Many congratulations on your pregnancy and all the very best for future. Report
I had ACL replacement surgery in Dec 2010. It's hard not to consistently get frustrated! Especially because I've been athletic my whole life. I've had to learn to be patient (not my specialty hah!) and realize that it takes a long time. I'm done with PT but I'm slowly relearning everything, even how to walk normal! Don't take your body for granted; love it and be as good to it as you can! :) Report
Timing IS everything and this definitely hit the spot for me! I'm just sitting here trying to get up the energy to go walking, but ... on the 27th I was out walking aroung my apartment complex and hit a mud slick. This was the third time I've fallen in the mud slicks around the neighborhood and as they say ... the third time's the charm! When I landed, I knew it was bad, my left arm bounced off the curb and was 'screaming'! After flagging down a car to help me get up, I made it back to my apartment and had a neighbor drive me to the ER. Turns out that I dislocated me elbow and cracked the end of my humorous. The oncall Ortho tried 'reducing' it three times before he could get it to stay in place long enough to get it splinted and told me to be at his office Monday morning to see the surgeon. Needless to say, I spent 2 1/2 hours in surgery on Wednesday getting everything put back together. My driver said that he said it was worse than he thought and that he had to reconnect almost everything. Tomorrow, I get to go into his office to get the stitches out(?), get my forearm repositioned, and get a new splint which I'll get to wear for another 4-? weeks before I start PT ... and I'm going on a cruise in mid-April!!! Oh, and did I mention, that this past weekend I discovered that my lower leg bounced off the curb too ... it's turning some gorgeous shades of purple ... and hurts like the dickens tooo! Report
I have always been very active, and love to exercise. In 1994, I had a left hip replacement, and once I was recovered, right back to exercise. Since this past December, that hip is loose, and there are changes in my right hip. both of my knees are finished as well. I'm looking at a lot of surgery, but as soon, as I'm better, I'll be back to exercise, probably back to the pool. I miss it so, but just can't do much now. I try the therapeutic pool on Mondays, and even that is a bit tough, but I try my best and modify the exercises. Report
That is pretty scary! But a very encouraging story, thanks Report
Oh yea, I hurt my back at work back in December 2008. It STILL bothers me, but I am happy that it wasn't anything serious. It's hard to go full strength with pain in your back! Glad you are on the mend and getting back to normal :) Report
So glad to hear you are recovering nicely. What a scary accident! Very happy to read your article. Might have to start following you on the Daily Garnish! Report
I absolutely love Emily's blog and I remember reading about her accident. In fact, I confused my husband because I started talking about it and praying for her and he felt bad because he had no idea who I was talking about! He thought I was talking about some friend or coworker and eventually I had to admit that it was yet another blogger I love ;)

Great tips Emily! And I'm so glad you are better now (and congrats again on your good news!) Report
What an inspiration you are! Thank you so much for so beautifully articulately sharing your experience with transparency. I also love gourmet cooking and it looks like perhaps (from your outfit) that you are a chef? Congratulations on the little one! What a blessing... Report
First, congratulations on the baby. I have not had any accidents as serious as yours, but my fair share of broken bones and surgeries. I am just about to be released from PT for the latest - a shoulder replacement. But it has caused me to begin the strength training I quit several years ago because of pain. Now I really want to keep it up and add more. I am so glad you are doing well. Your story is an inspriation to lots of people. I read every one of the comments and decided that my life has been decidedly easy. Report
I hurt my back a couple of years ago and I also am an avid runner. Ran a marathon in 2006 and was training for another one but had some issues in my life that were taking over my focus and I ended up hurting my lower back. Started out as sciatica pain and I just kept running because it only hurt after I was done then it got worse and I went to a specialist and have a herniated disc with sciatica issue. I had to stop running and at one point I couldn't drive or hardly work, but I did walk some on daily basis, did not stop doing something and found that it helped. I felt sorry for myself but at the end I did take up swimmimg and learned how and I'm biking too and now three years later have completed a sprint triathlon and I've ridden in a 65 mile bike ride and now training for a 7 day ride. I now listen to my body and adjust my workouts and am stronger and better because of it. I'll never be young again but I have one body and I take better care listening to it. Report
Inspiring and practical -- and so true! Two and a half years ago I broke my ankle while hiking in the mountains near my home. (I thought it was a bad sprain, however, and walked the rest of the way down the mountain -- did not go for an xray for two days!) Fortunately it was a clean break -- no pins and no surgery. Sadly, I was within five pounds of my WW goal weight. I was in a rigid cast, the non-walking variety for six weeks. With my doctor's permission, I did chair yoga and upper body strength exercises, as well as calisthenics on the floor to keep my legs and core strong. My doctor was impressed with my rapid recovery. I reached my weight goal one week after the cast came off, and three months to the day, I hiked the same trail. BTW, I was 68 when I broke my ankle. You can do the math. I am now 70+. I still hike, swim, dance, and work out regularly. I am sure that having lost 75 pounds made my injury less severe and my recovery easier. Report
This blog was perfect timing for my situation also! I've had several surgeries in the past five years and I have a genetic condition that is causing my spine to degenerate. I can either give into the condition and spend the remainder of my life crippled or in a wheel chair or I can choose to fight against the condition! I have chosen to fight and to be thankful for each and every day that I can put one foot in front of the other. Report
great to see emily on spark. emily's blog is great and i suggest anyone that loves food, running and a bunch of other stuff to check it out for inspiration. Report
How ironic. I, too, was struck by a SUV. It's taken me over a year just to start walking/jogging. I've learned so much abut myself during that time. I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but wouldn't trade it for anything. Report
My heart really goes out to anyone with an injury that would like to lose weight. It is hard enough to work out and eat right. If you throw an injury in the mix it is heart breaking. I had a really hard time accepting my injuries, bottom line is you simply must go on. Pick up yourself and do your best, everyday. Report
No, I've never believed in "No PAIN, no gain." I think if it hurts, then ease back off and avoid injury. Report
Congrats on your having a baby and healing from your injury. Exactly what happen to your knee? Report
Oh my gosh! It will be a year this weekend since I broke my ankle. (I was run off the road, while jogging, by a a driver trying to get to a yard sale!) And six months next Tuesday since my surgery to repair latent damage from the break.

Recovering from the break wasn't nearly as difficult or frustrating as recovering from the surgery. I knew I would return eventually to running after the break. Returning from the surgery wasn't so certain.

But like the author, you learn to celebrate the small victories (finally completing a 5k, even though it took 41 minutes) and live with the permanent losses (no heels over 1 inch) and new gains (a love for cycling). With each passing day I feel stronger in my body and the hope that eventually the small pains will go away. Report
Your story is very encouraging. I "danced" on the ice January 13,2011. I received 2 metals, titanium medals that is, in my ankle. I too am a very independent person and this accident took a great toll on my emotions as well as my activities. I have just now graduated to the use of a cane and expect to be free from all devices except the "boot" soon. Physical therapy will continue for a good while. You encouraged me by not rushing the healing process, taking the time to heal properly. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just need to continue to have patience and allow the time needed to get to the end without further injury. Thanks for the encouragement. I joined Sparks about the time of the accident. I have been able to lose 4 lbs and gain upper body strength, right leg strength, balance and stretching of many muscle groups, just trying to get around the best I could and do what I was able to do for myself. There are positive things that can come out of an unexpected injury. Attitude is the key. Stay positive. Report
First of all, I am happy to know you are healed and congrats on the baby.

Your story can be applied to other areas in life where we have experienced a set-back. My pastor always says "setbacks are setups for comebacks". Which you obviously have done. But you also learned a valuable lesson. Just relax! When you couldn't run you had time to focus on other things as slow down a bit. Which was good preparation for the baby that's on the way. Thanks for sharing your story. Report
After my car accident I was in a wheel chair for three months, then crutches, a walker and finally a cane. Took eight months before I was able to walk without an aide. Great article, wish I had read it during my convalesence. As an aside - during that time of inactivity I managed to gain quite a bit of weight. That's why I'm now using Sparkpeople. Report
This is amazing!

When I was in college, I was temporarily sidelined from dancing (my major!) by a bad ankle sprain...what's worse, I got the sprain trying to get a boy's attention (he was sooooo not worth it...). I tried to rest my ankle as much as I could, but I knew that a month later, there were very important auditions for a dance piece that I had told myself I HAD to get cast in. I spent about two weeks off of my ankle, but then immediately started working out and running to get my body back into shape. I got a lead role in the piece, but due to my abrupt launch back into physical activity, I later started to suffer problems with my knees and hips.
I ended up taking the time off and gained a whole bunch of weight because I was angry at my body for falling apart and "betraying me."

Once I graduated, I took the summer and re-evaluated what needed to be done. I started seeing an orthopedist, nutritionist, physical trainer, and personal trainer. All of those people helped me get back on track and realize that injuries or not, I can still dance.

Now I know that in order to push myself to the limits, I need to define those limits first. I can run, jump, dive, roll around on the floor, and do high-impact dancing, but I also need to realize when things need to go slowly. Even well-oiled machines need servicing every now and then, nothing and no one is perfect. What makes you an incredible athlete, dancer, whatever - is having the right mentality to get you through rough and slow periods when you are sidelined.

I had been sidelined from a herniated disc. I decided to opt for surgery. It;s been about a month, and I am not healing as fast as I wanted to. Amidst the tears and frustration, I am reading more - thank God for the Nook! - blogging, and catching up with my Spark Friends. I began swimming lessons, which is very gentle on my joints.

Thanks for a timely blog. I'll try to be more patient with myself. Report
It's like you are reading my mind today. I slipped on ice and fell on 12/31/2010. I broke my leg and ankle in 3 places. I've been mostly house bound during that time and dependent on other people. Being fairly active and completely independent, it has been a hard thing for me. I have cried in frustration at times. I'm healing everyday though! I have come so far since that first day. To keep my spirits up, I'm trying to focus on appreciating my friends and family who are taking such good care of me. Before I could walk, I made Valentines! Now I can walk around in a "boot." I am so happy to be able to drive and am reveling in the luxury of being able to get a glass of water for myself. In other words, I'm trying to be happy about the things I CAN do! Report