There’s going to come a time in most of our lives when we can’t run. Injury, illness, pregnancy, or other circumstances can sideline us for weeks or months. And when it happens, it can be really, really hard to deal with.
However, take heart in knowing that you probably will run again – and maybe faster than before. These tips can help you cope when you can’t run.
- Acknowledge your loss and grieve. For many of us, running is a huge part of our lives and identity. When we can’t run we feel lost, broken, and downright angry. These thoughts and emotions are completely normal. Experts say that the loss an athlete feels when they’re sidelined is similar to other types of grief in life, such as the kind you experience when you lose a pet or go through a breakup. It may sound extreme, but it’s true. Take the time to scream, shout, and pout – it’s part of a healthy grieving process.
- Talk it out. Share your feelings with you running friends. Many will know exactly how you feel, and someone may have the magic words that help you feel better. If you’re having a very hard time dealing, see a therapist.
- Do something physically active (if your doctor approves). Going from extremely active to sedentary can throw your body for a loop. You may have trouble sleeping, feel lethargic, and have an out of whack appetite. Try to do something to expel energy. If you’re able to, do some cross-training, walking, or even light stretching.
- Occupy your mind. If you’re truly bedridden, keeping busy is key. Normally training takes up a huge chunk of time. What did you miss out on when you trained for your last race? Take this time to watch DVR’d TV shows, catch up with friends, get your finances in order, or reignite other passions.
- Plan your comeback. You don’t need to have a set return date to start looking ahead to future running events. The cool thing about most races? They’re held every year. So even if you can’t make it to your goal race this year, you may be able to next year. For me, just knowing what distance I’ll be training for when I come back gets me excited. If you’re able to bike or swim during your break, consider a triathlon for your return.
- Find other ways to make running a part of your life. Brush up on the science of running. Hit the library and search for books on nutrition, training, or form. Take this time to give back to the running community – volunteer at or spectate a local race.
- …Or don’t. Depending where you are in your grieving process, it may be best for you to avoid anything running related for a while. So take a break from the entire running world. Ask your friends to refrain from talking about race plans in front of you and resist the urge to check your social media accounts.
How do you cope when you can’t run? When I tore my meniscus, my doctor said I had to take 6 weeks off running. I made a countdown calendar of those 42 days and tore a page off each day. It really helped!
Written by Jen Matz.