Always follow medical advice regarding your injury, recovery, and returning to exercise.
An injury can be devastating for an athlete, both physically and mentally. Even minor injuries require you to sit out for a week or longer. Severe injuries could mean missing workouts for many weeks or months.
Recovering from an injury can be frustrating, especially if it’s something with a lengthy and difficult recovery. You might be chomping at the bit, ready to jump back into your workout routine and get on with your life. But heading back to the gym too soon – or pushing yourself too hard – could lead to more injuries and potential long-term damage.
Here’s how to deal with an injury and get back to the gym safely.
Psychological Impacts of an Injury
Injuries affect more than just our bodies. The psychological symptoms can be severe, particularly if your fitness routine plays a significant role in daily life. Many athletes use exercise as a way to relieve stress, increase focus, and otherwise impact their mental health. When an injury takes away that ability, it can be overwhelming.
Injuries can have varied psychological impacts, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling of isolation or loneliness
- Irritation or anger
- Lack of motivation
- New or worsening depression or anxiety
- Changes in appetite
Just as you pay close attention to physical pain during recovery, it’s essential to notice your emotional pain, too. Practice good self-care, talk to friends and family, and find ways to keep a positive mindset as you recover from your injury. If you are concerned about your mental health, be sure to tell your doctor or another mental health professional.
How an Injury and Recovery Can Impact Performance
Injuries will inevitably have some impact on your athletic performance. Whether your recovery takes a few days or several months, your body will likely behave differently than before. How long it takes to get back to peak performance depends on several factors:
- Severity of injury
- Pre-injury fitness level
- Overall health
- Post-injury care
Most athletes can fully recover from an injury and work their way back to peak performance over time. The key is patience, understanding that it could take weeks, months, or even longer to regain your athletic ability fully.
Severe injuries or illnesses might mean you never perform the same way again. Even in these instances, most athletes can return to their fitness routines and find new or innovative ways to stay healthy.
5 Tips for Getting Back to the Gym After an Injury
Your injury is healed, and you’ve been cleared to return to exercise. What now?
1. Do What You Can
In some cases, you can work around your injury, continuing to train even while recovering. If you get the okay from your doctor, continue doing light exercise or training muscle groups not impacted by your injury. The more you can do during your recovery, the easier it will be to return to your regular workout routine when you’re cleared.
2. Listen to Your Body
“No pain, no gain” does NOT apply when recovering from an injury. If it hurts, stop. A little discomfort is to be expected. But if a movement genuinely hurts – especially where your injury occurred – do not push through the pain.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down or stop. If you’re recovering from an injury and ignore that pain, you risk re-injuring yourself or doing long-term damage.
3. Start Small
After you hear the “all clear” from your doctor, it might be tempting to dive headfirst into your pre-injury workout routine. However, even if you’ve been doing modified exercise during your recovery, your body is still not in the same shape it was before.
Start small. Modify your workouts to avoid injury, reduce the weight you’re lifting, and take cardio slow. A gradual increase gives your body time to adjust to being in the gym again and reduces the risk of further injury.
4. Stay Positive
It’s normal to feel frustrated by your progress, especially if you had a particularly long recovery. You might feel discouraged or upset. Remember, psychology plays a huge role in your overall health and fitness, so set yourself up for success by keeping a positive mindset.
Start by setting achievable goals for yourself. Make them realistic but challenging. Working towards your goals can help you chart your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Be mindful of your inner voice and self-talk. Are you giving yourself pep talks? Being uplifting and encouraging? Or negative and discouraging? Your mental outlook can make a world of difference in your fitness journey.
5. Quality Over Quantity
At first, you might need more rest days in between your workouts than you did before your injury. That’s perfectly okay. Your body might need more time to recover, especially in the early days. Start with lighter workouts or fewer workouts per week, then gently increase the intensity and frequency of your gym sessions.
By listening to your body and keeping a positive mindset, you will get back to a normal workout routine in no time.
Have you recently recovered from an injury? What’s your advice for getting back to fitness? Share with us in the comments!