Nothing kills momentum quite like an injury. Whether you sprained your ankle while jumping, tore a muscle at the gym or ruptured a ligament playing your favorite sport, injuries suck. However, for most exercise aficionados, getting sidelined due to injury is perhaps more worrying than picking an injury.
Regardless of your injury’s severity or the suggested recovery period, you must give your body ample time to recover and get back into exercising gradually. Prematurely pushing your body can impede your progress or, worse, result in further injury.
Seek Your Doctor’s Approval
While the pain, stiffness or swelling from your injury may have subsided, ask your doctor for the go-ahead to jump back into action. Pushing yourself after an exercise hiatus (especially without your doctor’s approval) could result in dire consequences and susceptibility to worse injuries down the road.
Do Not Ignore Physical Therapy
Hands-on physical therapists are invaluable to recovering athletes. A physical therapist can create a custom, step-by-step recovery plan that addresses your needs and helps you get back to working out in the quickest, safest way possible. If performed consistently, physical therapy will significantly improve your strength, endurance, flexibility, and range of motion using multiple strengthening, breathing, and conditioning exercises.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Once you get the green light from your physical therapist, reflect on why you got injured and how you can avoid a similar situation in the future. Perhaps you forgot to put on protective gear, you ramped up the difficulty too soon, or your injury was purely accidental. Regardless, there is always something to learn. Besides, most exercise-related injuries are temporary; with enough patience and the right attitude towards recovery, you will eventually return to the activity you enjoy.
Increase the Intensity Slowly
Maybe you used to deadlift 1.5X your body weight or run a few miles every day. With enough dedication, you will get back to your pre-injury form, but only if you take things one step at a time. A good rule of thumb is starting at 50%—75% of your PB (personal best) and gradually bumping up the intensity 5%—15% every week or as much as your physical condition permits.
Cross-training is an exercise regimen that incorporates different exercises, modalities or movements to work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. A good cross-training program can keep you fit while your injured body part regains strength and stability. For instance, if you injured your shoulder during a CrossFit session, consider starting something low-impact like calisthenics or weight-bearing cardio.
Although injury can be a huge setback, stay optimistic and focus on transforming your weaknesses into strengths. Take your break as an opportunity to establish a strong foundation, so you do not have to deal with similar injuries in the future.