It’s typical, you get into a routine with exercise, you’re eating better, sleeping better and just feeling better overall. Then, BOOM, you feel a twinge or stabbing pain and you’re injured. It’s every exerciser’s nightmare but sadly a very common feature of training.
No matter the extremity of your injury or duration of your recovery, it’s of paramount importance to give your body the rest and recovery time it needs before you can think about getting into training again. If you’re smart with your training after injury you can make yourself stronger and fitter than before without pushing yourself too much and hindering your progress or, worse, causing re-injury.
So, to help you get back into your training routine as quickly as possible, we have devised a simple 5 step guide to get you back on the road to recovery after an injury.
Get Professional Approval
It’s ironic that you’ve spent so much time trying to motivate yourself to exercise but as soon as you’re injured all you want to do is exercise. However, it is important to remember when starting training after injury that you must do it properly.
You shouldn’t return to the gym or restart a sport until the pain, swelling and stiffness have significantly improved. If you push yourself too soon you could make your injury worse and make your recovery time a lot longer. Remember that the pain, stiffness or swelling is there for a reason; it’s your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right so don’t underestimate the pain.
Once you’re feeling ready to get back to training, first consult with your doctor or physiotherapist before returning to the gym. If you’ve been working with a physiotherapist, they should have taught you some specific exercises to help strengthen and stretch your injured area.
Have a Realistic Timescale
When wanting to get back into shape after an injury, it can be tempting to resume training as usual but that will increase the risk of making your injury worse. Therefore, it’s important to keep a realistic timeframe in mind for when you’ll be back to peak fitness. The timeframe of your return will depend on the type of injury you sustained but you can probably count on a simple formula to give you a basic idea. For cardio/endurance, the longer you’re ‘out’ due to injury, the more the challenge. However, this is not as gloomy as it seems. For example, if your injury takes you out of action for two weeks then you can be likely to expect to be back to peak performance around the end of the month after your injury. If your injury is more major, such as a broken bone or torn ligament, then you can expect to be out for a lot longer, therefore more work will be required to get you back to form.
Listen to your Body and Reflect
Once you have the all-clear and you feel ready to get back into training, spend some time evaluating your old exercise routine and think of any reasons why you got injured so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. For example, if you’ve only been doing a certain type of exercise like HIIT or weight training, then think about mixing up your exercise routine in order to strike more of a balance. Switch one of your HIIT sessions for a LISS session or yoga class. Or rethink your workout split and introduce another rest day into your weekly routine.
Use this injury as an opportunity to learn about your body and understand when you are doing too much or too little of something. By listening to your body as you reintroduce exercise you are reducing your chances of getting injured again or making existing injuries worse.
Start Light and Build Up Gradually
Weight training after injury is particularly tricky to return to as some people can find it frustrating they are no longer as strong as they were pre-injury. However, remember that everyone has to start somewhere as no journey is linear. So, once you have been given the all-clear to perform bodyweight movements you can then start to think about the transition into light weighted movements.
The million dollar question is: how light is light? The answer is probably lighter than you think. Whilst the type of weight you use may depend on the type of injury you sustained and the amount of time you had off, it’s always a good idea to start much lighter than you expect yourself to be able to do. This is due to the nervous system losing the adaptations you created with strength training within about a month, so these will need to be relearned before returning to your usual routine. Also, be prepared to be sore again after the workout so it is best to start off light so the muscles can get used to the movement patterns again.
Similarly, avoid HIIT and Crossfit style classes until you’ve had enough time to build back up or make progress towards your strength and endurance pre-injury. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting competitive with yourself and others and rush back into doing moves that push you beyond your limits. Instead, try using this time to rebuild yourself and use the pain as a gauge to measure how far you can push yourself and when you can progress. If you’re eager to return to that style of training then make sure to prep yourself before you return to class and remember to inform the instructor of your injury so they can help you with any modifications you may need.
Focus on What You Can Do
Try and remain as optimistic as possible and relish this chance to develop and turn your weaknesses into strengths. For instance, if you have a hip injury from running then use this opportunity to develop your upper body strength or focus on building the smaller muscles in the legs such as the gluteus minimus or adductors rather than typically focusing on quadriceps or hamstrings.
Use this time to build a strong foundation so you can return to training fitter and stronger than ever and avoid injuries in the future.
Hopefully, this post has given you a bit of extra advice for how to get back into training after injury. Once you’re back in a more regular exercise routine, why not try a sports massage to help reduce your risk of injuries in the future. Or if you would like more personalised help to get you back into your routine, pop into Beckwith Health Club and one of our friendly personal trainers will be more than happy to help devise a program for you.