Health

'A running injury derailed my happiness'

Happiness writer Astrid was training for a 10K when an injury put her on the sidelines. Unable to get her runner's high, she shares what she did to replace it.

Women running in the morning

What would you do if you were told to stop running due to an injury? (Photo by Masterfile)

It happened about a month ago. I was well into my regular training — in fact, I was wrapping up a happy eight-kilometre run — when, over the course of the last few blocks, my left knee started to ache. Odd, I thought, since I’m not prone to knee pain. And then? Pop! As I stepped off the curb. My knee buckled and I just about cried as I foolishly tried to put weight on the clearly-damaged leg.

It wasn’t long before my doctor assessed my injury as a strained meniscus. The prescription? Rest and ice, physiotherapy and no cardio workouts. No swimming. No biking. And especially no running. Bye-bye 10-kilometre race that I was more than ready to run. (In fact, I was beyond ready. After a winter of dedicated running, I’d never felt more ready to run a race. Ever.)

I went through a mourning period — running was my happy time away from the stresses of work and parenting. I’d just figured out how to download Songza on my old iPhone so I was excited to try out some new music. And just like that, it was all gone.

A month later I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t be running for awhile, but until recently I was really struggling. My body felt like it had energy to burn and that energy felt like it had nowhere to go. Sure, I was doing Pilates once a week as part of my rehabilitation, and I was trying to walk as much as I could so I didn’t completely morph into some sloth-like couch creature.

But still, I knew my mood was suffering. I was crabbier and crankier. My sleep was less than satisfying — late falling asleep, struggling to wake up, waking throughout the night. The effects of not running were taking another sort of toll on me. While my body was showing me it knew I wasn’t exercising, clearly my mind was telling me the same thing.

And then I remembered. Remembered something I used to practise so diligently that I kept a book about it. I read magazines about it. I hired people to help me do it. The ‘it’ you ask? It was strength training. And so, hoping to unearth a silver lining, I pulled out some old-school workout tools — think weighted body bars, medicine balls, a yoga mat and hand weights (that had been hiding out in my office) and set to work pushing up chest presses, practising planks and curling my biceps.

The result? I can’t tell if my sleep is improving yet, but I can feel the change. That slight soreness the next day reminding me of my hard work the previous day. Or the slightly sweaty smile of relief that comes after a good workout. The mood? Well, there’s a relief — a happy satisfaction — knowing that I’m at least doing something.

I’ve long known — and studies have proven this connection widely — that I’m so much happier with life when I’m exercising regularly. It feels like I’ve rediscovered an old friend, only this one’s not on Facebook. And while she may not be as current in my life as my old friend running was, well, it’s nice to find the positive benefits this one offers.

What’s one thing you have to do every week to maintain a certain level of happiness? Tell us in the comment section below.

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