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What my right foot taught me about change

Today I ran my first 10k in four weeks. I’ve been running for the past few years and, like many others, have worked hard on my fitness levels during the Covid-19 restrictions. I was running further, faster, and the positive impact on my mental health was huge. For me running has always been more about headspace than the impact it has on my waistline. For me it has to be outdoors, preferably first thing in the morning, and on my own. Running gives me the opportunity to reflect and build my self-awareness.


And then it happened … out of the blue …. I injured my right foot. I don’t know how or when it happened but I woke up one morning and realised that something didn’t feel right.


There are 5 stages on the change curve: denial; anger; bargaining; depression; and acceptance. You may not experience the stages in this order and you may not even experience all of them. You might go back and forth between the different stages. Everyone experiences change differently.


I started with anger. How will I be able to reflect and process my thoughts if I can’t get out and run? How unfair! I have done everything right and built up my fitness gradually over time! The anger didn’t last long …. only an hour or so …….. one thing Covid-19 has highlighted for me is that I can’t control everything in my life and that anger can lead to feelings of more stress rather than acting as a release.


The next day I threw on my trainers on at 6am enthusiastically telling myself that a good night’s sleep would have sorted everything out. I got as far as the end of the driveway before the pain in my foot stopped me. How could this be happening? I had built up my distances slowly, was wearing a decent pair of trainers …… I had stretched! Denial.


Then followed a week’s worth of feeling sorry myself where I did no exercise whatsoever. I stayed indoors like a sulky teenager feeling fed up and telling myself that there was no point in doing any exercise if I couldn’t run.


After seven days of really missing my early morning runs I had a few stern words with myself and pointed out that there is a perfectly good set of weights in the garage. I gave my fitness an alternative focus.


Over the past week and half I have slowly built up my running again. There is still the odd twinge and I’ll need to be careful but my right foot has taught me a lesson. I was really cross with myself for having had over a week of sulking and chastised myself for not being adaptable enough. Then I thought about it some more. Like everyone I’ve spent the past five months adapting: working more from home; home schooling; being with my family 24/7; changing shopping habits etc. etc. The running injury was me reaching my limit of adaptability.


So what has my foot taught me? I need to be kinder to myself. This new world requires us, more than ever, to be adaptable, but adaptability isn’t a never-ending fountain. We all have limits and there are times when some self-kindness needs to take its place while we brush ourselves off, readjust and then get ready to face the world again.


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