There's nothing worse than time spent out of training because of an injury. Once you're healed up and your doctor has, if necessary, cleared you to return to training, you're ready to dive back in as quickly as possible! Unfortunately, diving in too fast can lead to further injury, putting you right back on the bench before you even have a chance to enjoy your freedom to train as you like. By following a few simple precautions, however, you can get back to your normal training schedule sooner and avoid further injuries in the future.
Take It Slow
Yes, you want to jump back in with both feet. Unfortunately, you don't know what you're going to be able to do once you've taken the time to heal. Sometimes, a few weeks off will only slow you down a bit: drop your max weight down 5-10 lbs, decrease your reps a little, or make you a little slower when you hit the pavement on a run. Other times, your injury will lead to more substantial weaknesses that will take time to push past.
When you return to your workout, test what your body is able to do. If you typically jog several miles as your warm-up, start with one or two. Test a lower weight before jumping straight to your max. Reduce your number of reps for a little while. It may be helpful to work from a modified workout schedule for a week or two in order to give you the opportunity to accurately gauge what you're able to do.
One Day At a Time
When you first started exercising, you probably noticed that what you could do on Monday wasn't necessarily what you could do on Tuesday. Your muscles need time to recover after a substantial workout, whether you're pushing yourself to improve your time on a cardio machine or to lift a heavier weight. If you realize, after a day or two back, that you're not able to accomplish what you did on your first day, don't despair! Take one day at a time and be willing to make accommodations for your injury. Taking care of yourself now could be the difference between a full recovery and a second injury.
You should never push yourself to your max immediately after returning from an injury. A general rule of thumb is to start with half of your usual intensity, working up to twenty percent less, then pushing the rest of the way to your usual capability. You spent several weeks off recovering. Don't expect yourself to dive right back in at full intensity.
Correct Injury-Causing Problems
Something caused the injury in the first place. Unbalanced muscles as one side became far stronger than the other, weak core muscles, or poor cardio training can all contribute to an increase in the possibility of injury. Chances are, you've had plenty of time to think about how you got hurt in the first place. Now that you're able to resume your usual training routine, take the time to correct the gaps in your training that caused the problem in the first place. Maybe that means slowing down and taking more time to listen to your body. It might mean working with a personal trainer or your coach to identify potential problems or imbalances.
Take advantage of what you've learned during your time off and make your training routine better than ever. You don't have to let your injury stand in the way of your ultimate athletic success. Instead, look at it as a message: there's something you can do better in the future, and you're going to commit to doing it. Study what weaknesses could have led to your injury. If over-training was the problem, commit to scaling back and doing only what your body is capable of. With patience, you can let your injury turn you into a better athlete, rather than substantially weakening your long-term performance.
Support Injuries Properly
When you first return to training, you might not be at 100% yet. Braces, supports, and wraps can help support your injured limb, ensuring that you won't inadvertently cause fresh damage before you've even been back for a full week. Some athletes find that, when they're dealing with chronic injuries, using braces and wraps regularly will reduce the time that they have to spend waiting for an injury to heal or decrease their odds of irritating a chronic injury. It's important, however, to work with your doctor or physical therapist to decide when it's appropriate to leave those tools behind. Relying on them for too long can create weakness in the affected limb and lead to a permanent need for the additional support even when your body could have healed completely.
Take Care of Yourself
While you were injured, you were careful to take care of your injured limb. If you were dedicated to the recovery process, you ate right, exercised as much as you could around the injury, and made sure that you stayed as healthy as possible. Now that you're back to training, don't break those habits! Don't binge when you're done at the gym just because you suddenly have a ton of calories to add back to your diet. Instead, keep up your healthy regime to make sure you make a full comeback. Eat right, drink plenty of water, and keep listening to your body so that you push just hard enough, but not too hard.
Taking care of yourself also means icing or using heat on the injury site as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist. When you first return to training, the injury site may be sore at first. You don't want to push yourself to the point of pain, but ice or heat, as appropriate, will help make you more comfortable as you work your way back to your full capability.
Go Easy On Yourself
It's tempting, when you first get back to training, to berate yourself for all the ground you've lost while you were waiting for your injury to heal. Your run time is slower, your max weight is lighter, and you gave up after half of the reps you could manage before--not exactly the stellar comeback you were hoping for! Being frustrated and impatient with yourself, however, isn't going to get you better any faster. Instead, take it easy on yourself as you work your way back. Acknowledge that the injury happened and that it's going to take time to return to your previous peak of fitness.
The time you've spent injured seems endless. The time it will take you to recover and return to your normal level of performance may feel even longer. Being gentle with yourself, however, will make the entire process easier--and probably make you feel better about it, too.
Whether you've been injured and are looking for the supports and supplies that will help restore you to full health or you simply want to be prepared for any possibility, contact us! We'll work with you to decide on the perfect medical kit to fit your needs. Whether you're in need of a full medical kit or a few braces and wraps to help support an injured limb, we're your first line of shopping for all of your athletic needs.