So it happened… you’re injured. You’ve been smart about your training, you’ve listened to your body and it still happened. The part that sucks is it might’ve happened outside of the gym doing some mindless everyday task. Most injuries actually happen outside of the gym and a very small percentage actually happen in the gym. I’m sure you’re thinking “Now, what do I do?!”
Rule number one..Don’t Freak Out!
If you think the injury is inside your joint (cartilaginous or ligamental) or it’s a major muscle tear then it’s worth going to see a doctor as surgery might be needed to ensure a proper recovery. Sometimes ligament tears are not very painful which may lead you to believe that it’s less serious than it is. In either case don’t risk further damage by pushing through it. If you’re sure it’s a muscle pull or a very minor tear then your road to recovery starts today. The keys to your recovery are to keep moving, maintain or set goals, stay positive and be smart with your nutrition.
Movement is a magic bullet. When you get injured your instinct might be to stop moving completely, except for only essential movements, and rest for the next several weeks. Wrong! That’s exactly what you do not want. Our bodies thrive off of movement because it promotes blood flow and blood flow is essential for healing. The more blood flow, the better.
Do what you can. I’ve pulled both my adductor and my oblique in the gym (both at separate times). It sucked and they were both painful during the healing process but I knew in order to prevent/minimize muscle loss and continue making progress I needed to stay committed to my program to the best of my abilities. During my recovery process, through trial and error, I discovered the movements that didn’t produce any pain and I stuck with those. For example I could do isolation movements such as machine hamstring curls because I was stabilized by the seat or chest pad but a compound movement like romanian deadlifts would create discomfort right where my injuries were. By discovering which movements I was able to do with intensity, I continued getting stronger and grew more muscle even though my exercise selection was limited. As you go through your recovery process continue to push the intensity on the movements that do not create any significant pain or harm the injured areas.
It only takes about half the stimulus to maintain the muscle you’ve gained so even if you can’t push the intensity to where you were before, go as hard as you can and you will be far better off than if you don’t do anything.
You MUST have goals! You’ve probably heard this before and whoever said it to you was right. Goals allow you to measure progress and progress equals happiness, whether you are healthy or injured. Without goals you will wander through your recovery journey aimlessly and it’s far easier to fall off course because there are no measurables to track your progress and no clear target in sight. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time Bound. This is even more important when you are recovering from an injury because you are much more likely to fall into a slump if you feel bad for yourself. An example of progress-focused goals are micro progressions in the gym. Your goal might just be to get movement to the area, if it’s still freshly injured. If you are further along the healing journey the goal might just be to lift 5 lbs for 2 reps. Next time it might be 5 lbs for 2.5 reps and so on. The most important thing is that you are making progress in some way.
This leads me to my next essential element…STAY POSITIVE! This is imperative to your success. We’ve all had days where we felt like being lazy and not doing anything. This is more likely for you now because you’re feeling down about being hurt. Remember this…you will get better. You need to listen to positive messages as often as the pope reads the bible. These messages will get you through the tough days and keep you in a positive mental state. You may need to listen to them once per day or every few hours. Whatever it takes to keep you moving forward. I listen to them several times per day.
Now comes the king of this whole process…Your nutrition. Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food. – Hippocrates. What you eat becomes your body. When you are trying to heal yourself you must give yourself high quality building blocks. If you were eating a consistently healthy diet previously then continue that. If you didn’t eat so healthy before then this is the time to start. Don’t get into the habit of eating crap because you feel bad for yourself or you feel like trying to cheer yourself up with cheat foods. It will come back to bite you.
You may need to reduce your calories to account for a reduction in activity. The last thing you want is to add unwanted body fat because that may lead you into a slump when you look in the mirror and start to despise what you see. This ties back into goals. You need nutritional goals as well. The smartest thing to reduce is carbs as they are non essential and only used for energy. Protein is needed to rebuild tissue, and more is needed when you are injured. Fat is essential for hormone balance and vitamin storage and usage.
No matter what you’re facing, do what you can to keep yourself on track. You must exercise your will. If you fall of course it will be much harder to get back on track. Stay focused, stay committed and stay positive. This will pass. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. Where there is a will there’s a way.
Until next time, Be Relentless!