Part of the territory of being a coach is helping people deal with injuries that may cause a missed goal or a setback. It’s easy to motivate someone when they’re feeling good and hitting their paces. It’s a completely different ballgame when you throw in injuries which might cause the athlete to give up their sport, even for a short period of time. This is when it’s important to watch for signs of sadness, denial, anger, and depression.
Of course, depression is prominent with professional athletes who have had a setback to their career but it’s also much more common with the regular weekender than people realize. We spend a lot of time as coaches talking and reading about how to work with your injured athlete, from both a physical and mental stance. One of the things we don’t talk about though, is how to deal with it when you’re the one who is injured. Nobody spends much time talking about the injured coach. A lot of coaches are retired athletes so they’re not spending much time “in the field” as before but there are still plenty of us who are still in the field and an injury or setback can be a pretty tough pill to swallow.
I remember feeling really silly when I broke into a full hysterical cry when my doctor told me I had a heart issue and couldn’t run anymore (luckily my cardiologist disagreed with the “no run” ban!). I remember thinking to myself, “you are not a professional athlete, why are you so upset?” I was upset because running has become my world. It’s my job, my hobby, my passion, my thing i do with my friends, my thing i do with my husband, my alone time…..it’s just my thing. The nurse practitioner (also a runner) took me in her arms to console me and said, “I get it. It’s like he just told you we have to take your leg. Once a runner, always a runner and you don’t want to loose that.”
Well, fortunately I got past all of that but now I’ve been sidelined with a bulging disc. It’s been 72 days and I’ve run a total of 4 painful hours. That’s certainly not enough to keep me happy or sane but I’m trying my best to stay positive. I’d be lying if i said i weren’t completely envious of the marathon group, completely bummed that my triathlon season was cut so short, or just plain irritated. If you had told me in January that I would have been upset I couldn’t race every tri of the season, I would have laughed. Instead, I was surprised to find that I was completely devastated when learning this news. I love the challenge of a tri. I love the camaraderie that comes with these long distance runs. I love going to bed early on a Friday night because I have to get up early to “get my long run in.” I love being tired on a Thursday because I’ve run a long run before work. I miss this stuff.
While I find that my lifestyle is a constant reminder of what I cannot currently do, it’s also a constant reminder of what I’ve done and what I’m capable of. I plan to be back at it soon enough but in the meantime i just have to remember that coaches are human too. I will continue to grin at the “oh, i wish i could skip my run today too” comments and I’m sure I’m not free from my occasional meltdown but I’ll forge on with my rehab and continue to plot my next big goal.