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The 8 emotional stages of injury

What injury really looks like

Injury is an inevitable but very unfortunate part of any sport. In running, injury is particularly frustrating because its participants are notorious for enjoying one type of physical activity: running. If you’ve recently sustained an injury and are in the midst of working through it, here are the stages you’re likely experiencing (or can remember well).

RELATED: The vicious cycle of injury

Stage 1: This is just what running feels like

There’s such a thing as a small issue that arises from running very often–a little discomfort now and again is common in running, and can usually be solved with some foam rolling or a day of cross-training. However, there’s a difference between the small issues and the ones that keep nagging.

Stage one of an injury is when your small issue isn’t going away, but you keep telling yourself nonsensical things like, “this is just what running feels like” or better yet, “no pain, no gain.”

Stage 2: Walking becomes difficult

Are you seeing stairs and then looking for the elevator (and not out of laziness). Chances are you’re in stage two of your injury, the stage where you’re straight up injured, but haven’t admitted it to yourself yet.

Temporary fixes like barely moving and taking a bunch of Advil before you exercise are getting you through workouts–you tell yourself you’re thriving (through winces of pain).

Stage 3: Ok, I might have a tiny (very small, not a big deal) little issue

Stage three is when you acknowledge that there’s something wrong. No amount of Advil or denial will fix this.

Stage 4: Fine, I’m making a physio appointment

You make the physio appointment. You go to the appointment. Depending on the severity of the injury, you get medical imaging done. You find out that you’re injured–flat out, no going around it, injured.

Stage 5: Why me?

The why me stage, also known as the self-pity stage, is a difficult time. Usually runners are a little hard to be around (due to their lack of endorphins) and inability to talk about anything other than their injury.

Signs of the ‘why me’ stage are taking down running photos, selling race bibs on Kijiji and watching episodes of The Office that they’ve already seen 100 times.

Stage 6: I got a gym membership

Stage six is when runners are getting back on the horse. They can’t handle another evening of watching Michael Scott mismanage. Runners will (really) commit to their physio exercises, get into their weight program and make the elliptical or pool their friend.

This is also the stage when runners realize how time-consuming being injured is.

Stage 7: I bought a bike

Runners like being outside, and after a few weeks of indoor workouts (especially during the spring/summer/fall) most begin to feel like their gym is also their prison. Stage seven is when the runner buys a bike. It’s not necessarily the nicest bike, but it’s a training tool that gets them working out outside again. This is also the stage when runners start enjoying their ride a bit, though they’ll never admit it.

Stage 8: I did a 10-minute run, and it was the best 10 minutes of my life


Finally, after weeks of cross-training, physio trips and strange strength exercises, you’ve been cleared to do a walk-jog. That’s right, a walk-jog. And it’s the best dang walk-jog of your entire life.

Welcome back runner, we missed you.

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