Dealing with injuries. Some helpful ways to cope and carry on with your training for a strong comeback, both physically and mentally
How do injuries happen?
I think that everyone would agree, dealing with injuries sucks. Unfortunately, injuries happen, even when we are training carefully, and doing everything in our power to avoid them in the first place. Injury may occur from years of activity and overuse, or it happened from an incident at work or even playing a sport. Regardless, an injury will definitely force us to make some changes in our everyday lives, including the gym; which is what we are going to get into specifics.
When you were used to following a routine or a program, working towards a goal, or just simply being a gym rat, a lot of mixed emotions can arise. Injuries are just as much of a mental burden as they are a physical burden. I would argue that the mental aspect of dealing with an injury can be even more cumbersome. We also have the opportunity to learn a lot about our bodies when going through an injury.
Find a doctor you trust, ask questions, and get as much information as possible
Knowledge is power. This is your body, your health, and your life. You deserve to feel like you are being heard and taken care of. Advocate for yourself! Express your concerns and mention what interruptions this injury may cause in your training, and what activities/sports/exercise you desire to get back to. An orthopedic, physical therapist and personal trainer will be great resources in the process and help you navigate through this difficult time. Sometimes a second opinion is warranted and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Yes, movement is a part of your recovery
In order to heal, recovering is key. This is a time to focus on the most important things that you can control, which are sleep, nutrition, and reducing as much stress as possible. In addition to recovery, some light movement in the beginning stages of the injury is also very important. We tend to put an emphasis on rest, which is understandable because initially there is a decrease in the amount of movement that is done when injured, but this shouldn’t resort to doing absolutely anything. Movement is going to help promote blood flow, give you energy and in turn, this should result in making you feel better. Depending on the severity of the injury and the individual, there may be some longer periods of rest required. When you are cleared by your doctor, it’s time to get going.
Training around the injury and testing movements over time
Again, this will all depend on the type of injury you have, whether or not you went in for surgery. The general idea is that there is something you can do!
This is where specialists and personal trainers come into the mix. When they have as much information as possible and know where you are in your stage of recovery, they are able to gauge where would be a good place for you to start back up in your training plan.
How will it look like for the client or Athlete?
It could mean just changing up the variation of a movement while keeping a good amount of intensity. It may also mean going back to the basics and using bodyweight or lighter weights. This will vary between the individual, so however this may relate to you, just know that it is a process, and it requires patience. You may find yourself having to take 2 steps back in order to take 3 more forward.
Throughout the recovery process, a large part of the training will consist of continuing to test how movements/ranges of motion/intensities are feeling; slowly incorporating more (even possibly scaling back), and holding off on some for a little longer.
Ease in slowly, and never push when something is painful!
Sometimes MILD discomfort is ok and expected with SOME movements, and is still a green light to continue. This should be clarified or explained to you by your doctor; as this is something I had done for an injury of my own.
Keep in mind that there may be movements that seem to progress and feel better faster than others.
Check-in with yourself daily, allow yourself to feel and cope in a healthy way.
Acknowledge how you are feeling each day. In general, we all experience our “ups” and “downs”, but even more so with an injury in the equation. It can be far too easy to let our mind creep into a negative space where all we can think about is what we can’t do, what we used to do, and if we are ever going to be able to do those things again.
You are human and there are going to be moments when you feel a shift in your ability to think positively. Training and the healing process are never linear. I have been there myself, and I am still going through it. It is completely healthy to allow yourself to feel. Give yourself permission to release any bottled-up emotions.
Journal, listen to music, talk to a family member or friend you trust, or simply just let yourself have a good cry! Afterward, do your best to reframe your mindset into positive thinking.
Pick yourself back up and allow yourself to focus on what you can do, versus what you can’t.
Perhaps it occurs to you that something you had once taken for granted, is now something you appreciate doing during your injury. There is a lot of discovery and meaningful work you can do with your mindset at this time; it will make the process go more smoothly. You’ve got this!