How to bounce back after a serious injury
Switching on the television and reclining on the couch with a hot water bottle or bag of ice on a stretched muscle or torn ligament is less fun than, say, washing dishes or mowing the lawn. And doing small, controlled rehabilitation exercises can be more daunting and tiring than lifting the heaviest weights you’ve lifted in your life.
Physical injuries are tough to deal with – especially for people who love to be active.
For one, an injury restricts you and forces you to find another way to release the endorphins your body so badly desires (for example, by eating chocolate). It also takes a lot of effort and determination to get back in the game. And often, not a lot of people get back in the game after a serious injury.
Here’s how you can bounce back after a serious injury:
Get a diagnosis from a health professional
The best way to start recovering from an injury, and this may sound silly, is first to get it diagnosed. Don’t sit in pain trying to be brave and hope it goes away. If you know you are faced with a particular injury, you can put together a plan of action.
Make peace with rest
Oftentimes only an injury can bring you to a halt, make you think about your life (and the pace of your life), your decisions, and your future. Make peace with the fact that you will have to rest to recover. No one is going to judge you for laying low and taking it easy, and if they do, that’s their problem.
Take the time you need to heal and see it as an opportunity to rest, recover, and build mental skills. Practice skills of relaxation, imagery, goal-setting, positive self-talk, focus and team building.
Rehab is not for sissies
Just as you put in 110% into your body building, put in 110% into your rehab. Rehabilitation is repetitive, oftentimes onerous, and requires dedication. It’s sometimes more a mental challenge than a physical challenge.
So even before you start with rehab exercises, make sure you are prepared for it mentally, always keeping the end goal in mind. Imagine yourself lifting weights again. A sharp mental picture makes rehab exercises easier.
Also, keep in mind that a “speedy” recovery doesn’t necessarily mean six weeks can become four weeks. It means that the recovery won’t take longer than originally mentioned by your doctor.
Get guidance and focus on form
It’s important to do rehab exercises with a lot of focus: your movements need to be slow and controlled. If you’re not sure if you’re doing the movements correctly, ask a physical therapist or personal trainer to help you correct movements and muscle imbalances to prevent further injuries.
Focus firstly on motor control and muscular endurance – the ability of your muscles to not wimp out on you at lower weight and intensity, as well as your ability to simply do movements with good form. Once your form is good, you can get back to doing whatever it is you normally do.
Pain = Stop
Listen to your body, and once again, don’t try and be brave – even with a trainer by your side. If you do a movement and the pain gets worse, stop.
Don’t ditch the rehab
Continue your rehabilitation exercises for a few weeks after you feel your old, strong self. This will help you continue to build strength. Also remember to add some stabilisation, core, and flexibility exercises after your rehab exercises.
Focus on nutrition
Don’t fall in the trap of buying quick and easy junk food when you’re injured and steer clear of alcohol and sugar. The recovery stage is the time when your body particularly needs a nutrient-packed diet and lots of water to stay hydrated. According to Men’s Journal, you could also add a supplement like glutamine or MSM and chondroitin to help rebuild joints.
Find alternative exercises to ease you in
Even if you can’t lift the heavy weights yet, you could keep up your cardiovascular fitness by doing low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling or using the elliptical machine. Ask your doctor and your physical therapist which activities might still be appropriate.
Set small goals
You will be surprised at how excited and nervous you can be at the same time about getting back into physical activity after an injury. It’s common to fear re-injury and to experience a lack of confidence.
Take things slowly and set small, attainable goals. This will allow you to still feel like you’re accomplishing something without getting too intense. Don’t compare yourself to others and utilise those mental skills you practised while you were resting.
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