Shifting goals during injury

I am writing this blog post on November 4th; the last time I ran was May 27th. That is over 5 months without running, most of it spent in an Aircast boot with or without crutches. Right now, I am working on transitioning to walking without the boot, just with a brace. Besides the injury, other things have changed, and the summer has been mentally challenging. However, I can’t control everything that happens to me, but I can and have to control my subsequent actions because it is entirely my responsibility how I react to everything that happens.

I was diagnosed with a navicular stress fracture at the end of May and had surgery where two screws and a bone graft from my iliac crest were put into my foot.

This was almost 4 ½ months ago. End of September normally fall practice starts, and I usually sit down a couple of days before fall practice, create a vision board, and write down my goals for the next season. Writing down your goals and seeing them daily helps you achieve them. Having goals in your head is good, but writing them down gives you a kind of accountability.

This year that was different. After I was cleared to start biking and swimming in August, I started with my goals in my head (yes, I did not write them down, even though I just said you should :)). I didn’t write down goals for my next season because, coming off an injury, it is hard to set time-goals, recovery isn’t linear, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to compete again. However, I am a goal-oriented person, like many athletes.

The first few weeks back on the bike, I only thought about training to return fitter for the next outdoor season. But as I said, recovery isn’t linear, and I had a little bump that hugely impacted my motivation and belief in getting back to running as fast as I had hoped. This setback, having to spend a little more time in that aircast-boot than I had planned, had an even bigger impact on my motivation. Training basically every day, doing your rehab and everything to support your recovery, and not seeing an end is hard.

With this low motivation and the question of what, when, and how I will return to running, I started to shift my goals and focus on what I was doing right now. Looking at the progress I was making with biking, swimming, aqua jogging and weights. Comparing my practice from one week to another and the distance or watts on the spin bike in the same workout a few weeks ago. Looking at this, I realized that I was improving and getting stronger everywhere. Focusing on improving my strength on the bike motivated me a lot more this week.

When it comes to swimming, I have never been the biggest fan of swimming as it gets boring quickly. However, I started using a swimboard and a floating kickboard (that’s the word for it, apparently) to improve my freestyle technique, which I always struggled with. I had to take a break after swimming 50-100m freestyle. Yesterday I did a 60-minute swim workout and finished my workout with 10 minutes of continuous freestyle swimming and a total of 500m in that time. Technically this is a new PR! 🙂 And honestly, I am excited to start working on it more and see how long I can croul in a few weeks.

Of course, this doesn’t take away from my goal to run fast next summer and in the future, but I can’t control exactly when that will happen again. But I can enjoy the process as much as possible and set goals for myself, even in things that are not my sport. Setting a goal for swimming or biking wasn’t something I did before. However, it is something I can do now, so I am starting to set goals that will motivate me to train and help me reach my long-term goal of getting healthy and in good shape to return to running. I can set goals after that when the time is right.

For now, I’m keeping my goals focused on what I like and can do, and this shift in my goals has helped me be more motivated and have more fun in the progress instead of thinking about the future, which I can’t completely control.

Focus on the progress rather than just an end goal is helpful for me, as enjoying the progress and remaining motivated will help you eventually to reach your end goal.

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