Getting Injured in Hawaii Was Actually the Best Thing to Happen to My Vacation

Photo: Stocksy/Carey Shaw
On day two of the weeklong vacation to be spent relaxing in Hawaii, I sprained my ankle. As I ran out of the ocean, away from the jellyfish I spotted in the water (I got stung on my other ankle the day before), I didn't see a dip in the sand and landed badly.

I screamed in pain—inviting the attention of all the other beachgoers in Kailua, Oahu—kneeled down, and started crying. As far as physical injuries go, I'm well aware that a muscle sprain isn't near the top of the list in terms of severity, but it really hurt. That said, my tears of pain quickly morphed into tears of sadness about my now-ruined vacation.

As my boyfriend and a (very, very kind) stranger carried me off the beach, I mentally scratched out all the activities on the itinerary I'd no longer be able to do: hikes I'd planned to climb, beaches I'd planned to run, tropical attractions I'd planned to explore. All these plans slipped like sand through my fingers when I made that one wrong step on the beach. Now I couldn't bear any weight on my right foot; I couldn't walk or exercise at all, and since fitness is part of my daily routine, the injury felt like a disorienting assault on my natural inclination to run and move and sweat every single day. (I'm not kidding—I even work out when I'm slightly sick, which research has shown can benefit the immune system).

But it seemed I had no choice but to try to heal as responsibly as possible. I felt hopeless while wrapping my ankle with a compression sock and putting ice atop my foot so I could R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, elevate) myself to recovery within a few precious, fleeting vacation days. My body had to heal, so I resigned myself to a several-day stretch of relaxing in Hawaii, albeit not in the sense I desired to do so.

I'm really good about turning my brain off for proper recovery (hello, Real Housewives), and it only makes sense to give my muscles the same kind of regular breaks.

Day one of injury-nursing was actually pretty great, given that my boyfriend essentially waited on me, hand and foot. Then the next day, he full-on carried me to the beach, where all I could do was either sunbathe and read, or float in the water (into which he had to deposit me and from which he had to remove me). The third day was the same: lounging, resting, and relying on others to transport me from one sitting spot to another. And if you're not feeling bad for me at this point, I can't blame you. I, myself, was surprised about how relaxed I was forced to feel, thanks to the need to opt out of physical activities. I'd missed a group hike, I'd only seen the stretch of beach accessible to our rental house, and I'd only eaten at a few coffee shops and nearby restaurants. Sure, I still wanted to do and see and experience more because I had no idea when or if I'd ever return to this exotic oasis, but I was hardly miserable. And things kept getting better from there.

When I got out of bed on the fourth day of relaxing in Hawaii, I was shocked to be able to hobble around and carry some of my own weight. I still couldn't exercise or hike, but the physical improvement gave me hope—and for good reason: The next morning, when I felt practically back to normal, I wrapped up my ankle, tucked my foot into a sneaker, and completed the Pillbox Hike overlooking Lanikai Beach without any issue.

In fact, I felt more agile and nimble than I normally do. As I climbed up the rocky terrain, my leg muscles weren't heavy and sore as they usually are thanks to a regular rotation of boot-camp workouts and runs. Those exercise-free days of rest forced me to recover from not just my beach tumble but also my chronically overworked muscles. To that point, I had an a-ha moment as I took in the views along the Pillbox trail: Maybe I don't need to be grinding my muscles so hard, so often. Clearly, my body needed a vacation, too—from my fitness routine, the grind of daily exercise, and strenuous movement in general. And ultimately, allowing my body to join my mind on vacation mode helped me feel holistically refreshed and rejuvenated.

So, as I stood at the peak of my hike and looked out over the Pacific Ocean, I vowed to treat my body with way more TLC all the time. I'm really good about turning my brain off for proper recovery (hello, Real Housewives), and it only makes sense to give my muscles the same kind of regular breaks. So, basically, I owe the most sincere of thanks to that jellyfish for scaring me out of the water on day two.

I also learned a lot in Europe when I went to Hydra, Greece, and ran to the top of it. And, hot tip: If you ever find yourself in Australia, visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for a good, cathartic cry.

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