Coping Strategies For The Runner Who Can’t Run

Jannine Myers

After moving to New Zealand several weeks ago, I not only fell ill with a bronchial type cough that lasted for weeks, but I also managed to injure myself. Consequently I have done very little running and have had to withdraw from three races I had previously signed up for. As a runner who can’t run, it’s difficult keeping a positive mindset, but the following strategies are helping to keep me motivated in the meantime:

– Acknowledging my disappointment and frustration, and allowing myself to feel those feelings was probably a good first step for me. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to run for a significant period of time, I was able to make a conscious decision to stop focusing on the negatives and visualize instead on daily and progressive steps towards improved physical and mental health.

Key Tip # 1 – Don’t camp out in the land of misery! Keep marching right on through, knowing that every step forward is a step away from negative thoughts and self-pity.

– One thing that I always find helpful whenever I am struggling with any kind of problem, is spending more time reading, learning, and self-reflecting. I like to wake up early and read and/or listen to motivational articles/books/podcasts, as well as journal and put down on paper what I envision and hope for, and then follow through with positive self-declarations.

Key Tip #2 – Use the time that would otherwise be spent training, doing things that advance your personal growth and character.

– My daily goals had to change! To avoid further discouragement, I had to make a shift in goal expectations. Rather than set myself specific and intense training goals, I set myself smaller and more realistic goals, such as “I’m going to do one thing today to maintain my strength,” or, “I’m going to do 60 minutes of non-impact cross-training today.”

Key Tip # 3 – Modify your goals! Make them manageable (given the circumstances you’re faced with), yet still rewarding enough to invoke enough of a positive stimulus and a satisfying outcome.

– Seek professional help! I’m currently under the care of a physiotherapist who has prescribed a set of recovery exercises for me, and depending on how effective or non-effective they are, we may add some acupuncture into the mix of my treatment. For now, I am abstaining from running, doing other cross-training activities that don’t aggravate my injury, foam-rolling, icing, and attempting to do (at least once a day) the rehab exercises that I’ve been given.

Key Tip # 4 – Don’t try to self-manage your recovery process if it’s obvious that your illness/injury is not improving. Better to seek professional guidance and not run, than listen to your over-eager self who will almost always tell you that it’s okay to keep running.

– Nutrition and diet has always been important to me, but it becomes even more so during times of training, racing, illness, and injury. Just as I would normally pay attention to how I fuel my body during peak training phases, I also pay extra attention to my food choices whenever my body is under other types of physical (or emotional) stress.

Key Tip # 5 – Get interested in nutrition! Seek out information on the web and at the library, or consult a dietitian if necessary; learn what foods will help to speed up your recovery. Since my immediate goal is injury/recovery-related, my kitchen efforts at this time are focused on meals that contain a lot of anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli, salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, blueberries, and ginger and turmeric. On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my anti-inflammatory (and easily portable) breakfast meals:

Turmeric-Ginger Fruit Blend With Oats 



Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 small banana

1 small apple

3 dried dates

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup oats


Plain greek yogurt, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (optional), pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds



Mix the coconut milk, banana, apple, and spices together in a blender.

In four bowls (or containers with lids), add 1/4 cup dry oats to each. Top with a little water to moisten the oats. Pour the coconut milk mixture in even portions over all four oat bowls. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready to eat, top with a dollop of yogurt, some pumpkin seeds and coconut shreds.

Enjoy :)