You don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience that feeling of frustration and defeat that comes with an injury. They limit you in your daily activities and mean lost time at the gym. The recovery process requires an excruciating amount of patience and mental strength. In short, physical injuries are tedious, and oftentimes leave us panicking – Will I ever be able to perform at the same level as before?
However, they’re not the end of the world as you know it (although it might feel like it), and yes, you will be able to perform at the same level as before. Better yet, the injury you’ve experienced might come as an important lesson in your life and the challenges it brings, both mental and physical, can open the door to improvement in the future. So fear not, just armour yourself with patience and follow these steps to get back on track.
You might be very knowledgeable about anatomy and fitness, but don’t underestimate the importance of an expert’s guidance. Even if you’re dealing with a minor injury or a very frequent one in the athlete world. Each case is unique and an expert can assess your injury properly and in relation to your overall physique – something you cannot do because of the psychological factor that comes in.
That said, you might think you’re ready to lace up your sneakers again and train at your own pace, but that could just be the impatience nudging you. Consult with a physician and wait for the green light from them.
Do injury-specific moves and exercises
Also, your doctor or physical therapist will prescribe you with a set of exercises to heal and strengthen the injured area. These exercises are always simple and rather boring to do, as they rely on endless repetition, but stick to them religiously. They’re crucial to the process of healing and will help avoid getting injured again.
Of course, you won’t start with these either until any swelling is completely gone. Depending on the type of injury you’ve experienced, heat therapy could work better than ice, so it’s also best to consult with an expert on which to apply.
You need rest to recover, but no injury leaves you completely immobilized. Taking time off from any kind of physical activity will just build up anxiety and make you feel like the recovery process is endless. So, do what you can, as any form of exercise will prime your body for recovery, help you stay fit and keep you sane.
Low-impact cardio training, such as riding bicycles or swimming, is always recommendable in these cases. If your injury is related to the upper body, you still have the whole set of lower-body exercises fully available, and vice versa. As soon as your doctor gives you the green light, work out your injured muscles as well, but very lightly, just enough to keep the tissues from getting too weak.
Take extra time to do gentle stretches every day after the initial swelling has subsided. They will lead to a smoother recovery and keep your muscles from getting stiff, so that once you start slowly getting back to your fitness regime you’ll be at lower risk of running into unpleasant surprises and potential issues.
Make a habit of stretching in the morning and in the evening, and keep up the stretching as the recovery advances. This might be the time to try some light yoga if you haven’t already. Just remember, stretching should feel good, so listen to your body and stop immediately if you feel a pang in the injured area.
Ease into your fitness regime
Once your injury has subsided, you will be ready to slowly and gradually ease into your old fitness routine. This might be weeks or months after the unfortunate event, but either way, you will still need to be extremely patient and tread lightly. You might feel like you can tolerate the pain and you can do it all now, but remember that your body is somewhat changed for the time being and your muscles are not the same as before. It is commonly advised to start you exercising sessions by doing 50% of what you used to do before the injury – combining both intensity and length.
For example, if you used to run 4 miles, start by walking 2 miles. It’s best to start minimally so you don’t get surprised by a flare-up days after exercising; if there is none, you can gradually increase the intensity of your exercise by about 10% each week. Also, don’t forget to warm up first and cool down afterwards, along with light stretches. Be patient and don’t try to overcompensate for lost time – exercise lightly every day rather than pushing your limits once a week and being immobilized until the next session.
One thing that injuries teach even the most jittery individual is patience. Patience is rule number one here, but when things get too frustrating, remind yourself that this is temporary. Focus on staying positive, doing the things you can and being grateful for the parts of your body that are healthy.