Taking time away from the sport weakens your mind and body no matter how you spin it, and no matter how fit you remain – or get during cross training (DUH! Cuz we all love cross training!)– resuming running is hard work.
It’s hard physically for obvious reasons. Even if your injury is healed your muscles aren’t as tough as they were. Neither are your joints, so though they’re fine they scream about the impact while conforming to the fact that YOU.WILL.RUN. Your heart rate will soar to new heights even if the work doesn’t feel that hard. Every muscle, right up to your teeth, will feel tired post run.
Your mind will think that everything is unreasonable. However fast you were 2 months ago? Yeah, impossibly ridiculously fast. When you do eventually try to run at that pace you once were your mind will tell your legs GO-OMFG-BALLS-TO-THE-WALL-FAST-GO-DYING-HURRY-HURRY-FASTER. You’ll test it by riding a more comfortable (pace) line, which will be discouraging because you probably won’t hold on long enough to build back the confidence you need to do it right.
Every time I get injured I learn something new about the sport of running. This time it’s that fitness is vital, but your mind is what will make or break your return to running. In the running moment the challenge feels 100% physical while you sweat, pant, and burn. But it’s only a physical challenge for a short time. Your body adjusts to that pain once your mind forces it to (gradually, within reason).
Every single time you can just hold on that next run is an improvement. Re-proving and reminding yourself that you have it in you is just as important as keeping your legs strong and heart healthy. In reality a large amount of focus, some pushing through it, and forcing yourself to ride that line of barely holding on will do it. And you’ll be well on your way back to where you were.
Self, please remember this. That’s all.