Running Injuries and the Seven Stages of Grief

Hip flexors

I’m injured right now.

I strained my hip flexor and glute muscles on the left side. I know that doesn’t sound bad but the pain has caused me a month of intermittent running aka inconsistent training, the death sentence for distance runners.

I’m experiencing the typical runner-deprived-of-running emotional fight with myself. Some days you’re feeling good, attacking your rehab and cross training workouts, and other days you’re bummed out and dread even showing up to the training room.

I joked to one of the athletic trainers that the emotions that come with being  injured mirror the grieving process. He took me seriously though, and said “No, you’re right, they really are alike.”

So I looked up the grieving process. I didn’t even know it all the way before.


1. Shock and denial: I refused to say I was “injured”  when I first had to stop running. I was “taking a few days off,” trying to nip the problem in the bud. I kept trying to run every few days, to see if I was better.

2. Pain and guilt: realization sets in. This bad boy won’t be getting better anytime in the next few days. Ok, didn’t feel guilty but yes, it was painful. Disappointing.

3. Anger: Anger at the world, jealousy of recreational runners who can trot around the Bear Trail with no problem, anger at missing out on meets and training with the team.

4. Depression, reflection, loneliness: Like, “this sucks. What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” I wasn’t lonely though ever – I have a great support system (parents, boyfriend, teammate, coaches, trainers)

5. The upward turn: My diagnosis helped this. Knowing what was wrong is the first step to getting better.

6. Reconstruction and working through: Remembering that people have walked this road before me. I’m not doomed to never run again, obviously. I’m going to be ok.

Enjoying an ice bath at the training room

7. Acceptance and hope:I’m injured. This is what life is right now. All that I can do is work on getting better. I have huge confidence in the athletic training staff here at Baylor – they’re top notch. They care so much about all of their athletes, and  they show it with their professionalism and friendliness. They give us their best, and help the training room be a laid-back, positive place. It still awful to be injured, but they make it better. Not to mention they know their stuff: an array of stretches for any ailment, when to heat and ice, how to massage, and how to use ultrasound and electronic stimulation.  Baylor even pays for us to go to the doctor for sports injuries! That’s how I got an official diagnosis.

Alright that was a bit melodramatic but running, like life, has its valleys and mountain tops. I’m really not that bad off – muscles are simpler to fix than bones or tendons, and I’m not in pain doing everyday activities like riding my bike to school or climbing stairs. I don’t need surgery and I’m not even out for the whole season. I’ll be ok, and for now I just get to focus my emotional energy usually put into running elsewhere.

Typical day at the track & field training room

Being injured is also great for forcing you to evaluate and appreciate the other areas of your life, like school and relationships. For me, this injury reminded me how blessed I am to have the opportunity to go to school and get a degree here. Even if I never run again, I have other fulfilling things to do with my life. But it also showed me about my relationships with some of my friends in Austin. Since I wasn’t running over Christmas break at home, I didn’t see my running friends as often. I always wondered if we’d be friends if we weren’t all runners also. The answer is, we wouldn’t be as close. Running is the way that we hang out, our excuse to get together. I missed out on time with them by not running. We did still see each other, though. Just not as much. Another inspiration to get healthy ;)

Time to go strap some ice packs to my inflamed body!


3 thoughts on “Running Injuries and the Seven Stages of Grief

  1. sweatykid

    Gahhh the dreaded hip flexor injury! I’m a little further along, but working through some injury management of my own right now too. It’s such a tricky, stressful, frustrating process, but you’re absolutely right: there’s a lot to be learned about yourself through the entire thing. Best of luck with rehab and recovery!

  2. Pingback: How’s the Running Been? « cateruns

  3. Angela Reckart

    I actually have this very same injury right now. Its has set me back about 3 months, mainly because we couldn’t properly diagnose the real issue. I kept having a lot of other injuries (extremely tight hamstring, which caused a tilted sacroiliac joint, IT band issues, just to name a few) But after many frustrating days I think we’ve nailed it. I wanted to ask you what rehab strength exercises did you do to fully recover? Did your hamstring release after you started doing these? I have been following this website in hopes of healing properly.

    I cross trained through a lot of this injury, but I’m at a point now where I want to be fully healed and I felt that I wasn’t allowing my body to do so. Any advice? I’m a post collegiate runner in hopes of simply reaching my fullest potential and this setback is not helping my biological clock:-) Thanks!


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