Recovering from an injury is a tedious process, particularly when you’re itching to get back in the gym. Guest Blogger and Freelance Writer, Tom Wishart, shares his top tips and advice for getting back in the game safely and efficiently…
It happens to everyone at some point. Maybe you were pushing yourself to go an extra set, maybe you slipped while out for a run; whatever the reason, you’ve injured yourself training. After having sat through the excruciating time away from the gym and your workout routine, you’re finally ready to get back into the game and pick up where you left off.
But it’s not that easy. It’s important to note that performance drops significantly after 2 weeks’ rest; research shows aerobic conditioning has a noticeable decline after this period. Your body simply isn’t ready to return to full training straight away. I know, as last year I slipped doing balance practice and fractured my right arm’s radial bone (what you might consider the “outside” bone of the forearm) near the wrist. This led to six weeks in a wrist brace, which imposed severe limitations on how I could train. I then rushed back to full training without giving myself the proper recovery time, which led to my recovery taking far longer than it should have.
This is a common feeling amongst athletes, either professional or enthusiastic amateur. Time off is time wasted, and getting back to the gym as quickly as possible is the only priority. I can empathise with this feeling. Despite that, this blog will explain why rushing things is a bad idea, while outlining the best ways to ease yourself back into your normal routine. Rest, rehabilitation, and re-engagement are the three crucial steps.
Step One: Rest
This may seem obvious, but as stated before, many of us are just too eager to get back to the free weights. You must give yourself the necessary amount of time to recover from an injury. This varies depending on the injury itself, but the essence of recovery is always the same – be patient and wait it out. Chris Thomson, Club Manager of Glasgow Gym Anytime Fitness St Enoch says “It’s a common mistake I see amongst gym goers, both newcomers and experienced users. Returning to exercise too soon after injury can be a real blow to your physical form.”
Avoid putting stress on the affected areas wherever possible. The “rest” period is for just that; the rehab period can come after. Violating this simple principle can leave you with chronic injuries that will inhibit all future training. I will point you to my wrist injury from last year. I now have reduced movement that will take several years of corrective training to return to normal.
It should be noted that rest only refers to the area of injury. If you have an injured shoulder, it’s entirely possible to go to the gym and do a leg day, as there is no need for your shoulder to come into play here. Recognise what your injury is and what exercises it affects, and alter your workout accordingly.
Step Two: Rehabilitation
Physio techniques are essential to recovering from all but the most minor of injuries. They allow your body to familiarise itself with the normal range of movements required in exercises. Physio Tim Keeley has a great selection of videos on his YouTube channel ‘Physio Fitness’ that outline a variety of exercises for a range of injuries.
Depending on the injuries, the use of a wobble board could be a great option. Designed to improve proprioception, our awareness of the position of our body parts relative to each other, they are excellent for lower body issues such as ankle or knee problems. Given that they are a low cost, at-home alternative to in-clinic sessions with professional physios, with many different exercise tips online, this one off investment has the potential to become an essential part of not only injury recovery, but your workout routine as a whole.
If you’re looking to take your route to recovery up another notch, incorporating a Power Plate into your routine will boost your rehabilitation further. Moving 25 to 50 times per second to engage muscles in a consistent and controlled manner, the Power Plate’s vibrating platform rebuilds strength and accelerates training at a pace appropriate for you.
Step Three: Re-engagement
One tactic to test your capabilities upon returning an injured area to training is to start with half-weight reps. For instance, if you injure your bicep and normally work with 10kg on a curl, drop to 5kg when starting back. This gives you an idea of how your injured area will respond to strain and finds out if your lift range has dropped. Work upwards in small increments to find the weight that works best for rehabilitation. The key point here is to listen to what your body is saying. No pain, no gain is in reference to the day after a workout, not during one. If an exercise is causing you pain, stop. This will only cause further damage.
Low impact activities are good means of working through injury, and after injury. Such exercises might include:
- Yoga – The go-to low impact workout and rehab exercise, yoga is great for increasing flexibility and movement while gently testing joints and muscles. It has also been shown that holding poses for more than 72 seconds can increase restoration of connective tissues, a necessity following training injuries.
- Swimming – Swimming alleviates some of the stress on joints and ligaments, making it an ideal low impact exercise that still gives a good full body workout.
- Cycling – Cycling is great for aerobic conditioning. Just make sure it’s not a knee or ankle injury, and you’re good to go.
Guest blog from Tom Wishart, a Freelance Writer from Glasgow with a passion for healthy living and exercise.