How Soon is Too Soon? Coming Back From an Injury
You’re ready to get back into the game.
It’s been several weeks since your injury occurred. You’ve spent plenty of time resting and rehabbing. Your patience is wearing thin, and you’re ready to get back to the gym, trail, or court.
Take note; this is the point where most people try to pick up right where they left off, and it’s often too much, too soon.
On the other hand, sitting around all day doing nothing isn’t good for your mind or your waistline. Instead, follow the simple strategies listed below that will help you maintain your strength, enhance your recovery, safely return to training, and, most of all, protect you from re-injury.
Take it slow. It bears repeating: do not try to pick up where you left off before your injury. Ease back into training and progress gradually and only if you are pain free. For strength training, start with body weight exercises and work up in weight gradually. For cardio, start slow and build up your intensity, duration, and distance one at a time. Remember to take a full day off between sessions and don’t push yourself. Again, if it hurts don’t do it.
Shoot for low or no impact. This can be especially beneficial for overuse injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis. Low impact training includes walking, cycling, swimming, and rowing. If you’re a runner, stick to softer surfaces like a rubber track or cross-country trail.
Hit the water. With no impact and no weight bearing, water training is a great option for many injuries. Swimming is an excellent total body workout, and calisthenics, running, aerobics, and even resistance training can be performed in the pool.
Practice proactive recovery. Ice your injury after every workout to reduce inflammation. Stretch and foam roll on your off days. Massages, Epsom salt baths, and hot tubs can all help relieve muscle tension and hasten the recovery process. For tendonitis, muscle tears, strains, sprains, and joint injuries, consider prolotherapy or platelet rich plasma therapy to accelerate the healing process.
Train the good side. If you injure your left arm, you can still train your right arm (assuming it’s not also injured), and the injured left arm will get a minimal training effect. This will help prevent the loss of strength in both arms. You can also train your lower body.
Prevent future injuries. There are several ways to help prevent injuries from occurring again including correcting muscle imbalances, improving soft tissue quality, strengthening weaknesses, stretching tight muscles, addressing gait or movement dysfunction, wearing proper footwear, and fixing poor posture. The best way to discover any of these issues is to have an exercise assessment. Every person tested at Human Health Specialists has had at least one weakness, and some simple exercises can usually correct the issue within a few weeks.
Injuries are always an unwelcome set-back, but they don’t have to get in the way of staying in shape, and they can be a great lesson on the importance of being proactive about injury prevention. Of course, if your injury was caused by a crash or fall, you may just want to be more careful the next time. In any case, be smart about returning to training; your body isn’t what it was before you got hurt and it takes time to rebuild yourself mentally and physically.