If you train hard enough and long enough, at some point in your workout career you are going to get injured. Hopefully this will be nothing major but even if you do everything right i.e. warm up properly and practice good exercise technique, injuries are sometimes inevitable!
Should you suffer an injury, make sure you immediately stop what you are doing to avoid making the problem worse and also seek advice how to best treat your injury.
Then do the following things to hasten your recovery and reduce your risk of suffering the same injury again!
Make recovery and rehab your new training obsession
If you are a keen exerciser, not being able to train the way you want is very frustrating and may even be stressful. After all, those exercise-induced endorphins are highly addictive. Get your exercise fix by putting your energies into recovery and rehab; make these things your new obsession.
Make sure you fully commit to the recovery process and take pride in your progress back from injury in the same way that you took pride in the performance of your pre-injury workouts.
If you half-ass your recovery and rehab, you can only really expect half-ass results. But if you commit 100%, you are more likely to recover faster and more completely.
Train around your injury
Whatever your injury, there are probably still exercises and activities that you can do. It is very rare that a gym-related exercise precludes all exercise so look for things you can do to maintain your training regimen.
If you have an upper body injury, focus on your core and legs and if your lower body is the issue, work on your upper body strength. Other alternative activities when injured include:
- Non-weight bearing cardio in place of running
- Cycling in place of swimming
- Cardio in place of weights
- More core work
- More stability work
- More flexibility work
- Non-contact sports in place of contact sports
Don’t become sedentary. Instead look for ways to remain active while giving your injury chance to recover. The only real exception to this guideline is spinal injuries which can make any kind of movement very painful.
Do not comfort eat
It can be very tempting to drown your injury sorrows by comfort eating; try not to do this. Even if you are able to maintain some degree of training regularity, you probably won’t be able to work out as hard or as long as normal. Combined with extra calories from comfort eating, this will result in unwanted weight gain.
Returning to training after injury is hard enough without having to deal with fat loss too. Eat sensibly during your recovery to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
If injury has prevented you from exercising, it can be all-too tempting to rush back as soon as the pain dissipates and the injury starts to heal. Big mistake! Rushing back to full training too soon will at the very least cause severe muscle soreness and could very well lead to re-injury.
Your initial post-injury workouts should be deliberately light and easy and leave a lot left in the tank. Consider half volume and half intensity as your maximum starting point. Increase intensity and duration gradually over the coming weeks.
The severity of the injury and duration of recovery will dictate how deconditioned you have become and how long it will take to return to your previous level of fitness but slower is better when it comes to coming back from injury.
Be cautious but not fearful
Returning from injury can sometimes be nerve-racking – will the injury happen again when you do the activity that caused the problem in the first place? Providing you ease back into training gradually and have done all the prerequisite rehab and recovery work, you would be very unlucky to suffer the same injury again. However, while you are right to be cautious, there is a difference between caution and fear though.
If you are fearful, you may subconsciously favour your injury or otherwise modify your technique which could alter movement mechanics and increase your risk of re-injury. You may also tense up around the injury. Try not to do this; have confidence in your rehab strategy and the recovery process. Start light and easy and do not hurry your return to fitness.
While this is easier said than done, it’s important to remember that many people have come back from far worse injuries that you will ever have to endure. Try not to let the fact you are injured get you down. You will recovery faster is you can remain positive. Don’t go “off grid” and hibernate because you are injured; try to keep yourself occupied and avoid dwelling on your aches and pains. Given time, you WILL get better, you just need to be patient.
Injuries suck but are almost unavoidable when you are trying to perform at your best. Do all that you can to prevent injuries but then, if you are unlucky enough to get one, do not rush your recovery. Return to exercise slowly over several weeks or even months.
If injuries are frequent and reoccurring, make sure you investigate cause; other than in contact sports like rugby and MMA, injuries should be relatively rare.