If you are a regular caller at the gym, you have probably experienced passing through an awkward move, that results in an audible crack!, a sharp pain—and bam! An injury.
While you’re probably focused on treatment in the immediate aftermath of your injury, a tough reality you have to face soon is getting back to the gym. No matter the extremity of your injury or duration of your recovery, it’s important to give your body the time it needs to heal.
As you start to get back into training again, you need to be extra cautious to avoid any setbacks that will derail your progress or worse, cause another injury.
Here are some tips to help you get back into your workouts, but for the best guidance, make sure to talk to your doctor, too.
Keep the Intensity Low
As much as you might want to rush back into your favourite workout routine as soon as you’re back on your feet, you should reconsider. It is best to avoid HIIT and Crossfit-style classes until you’ve had some time to build back up and at least make some progress towards your original strength and endurance levels.
Practice the type of workout you’ll be asked to perform on your own to prep for the class, so you can have a realistic idea of what you can handle. This will allow you to assess your tolerance level and also better assess your tolerance to the workout volume based on the soreness you have following the workout.
Mark Your Calendar
The timeframe for your return to form will vary depending on the type of injury but you can have an idea of how long your recovery will take. If you’re forced out of the action for two weeks, you can likely plan to be back to peak performance around the end of a month after your injury.
If a major setback like surgery or a broken bone pushes you out longer, however, you’ll probably have a lot more work to do to return to form. You should remember to start simple and make small, manageable increases over time, without putting excess strain on your body.
You can use your soreness or pain to help you gauge if you can progress to another level. More so, learn to feel accomplished with each small victory, and be patient—it will take some time to get back to your peak, and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you need breaks, take them.
Avoid the Long Runs
If you used to have intense cardios or long runs prior to your injury, don’t expect your body to magically return to that same level immediately post-injury. As days go by without working out, you will begin to lose muscle and endurance.
This is especially true if you’re sidelined for longer than two weeks. At that point, there will be a noticeable decline in aerobic capacity. When you get back on the running trail, take it easy.
Remember to decrease your training volume to accommodate, and to decrease risk of re-injury. Make use of active resting or interval cycles to regain endurance quickly. Alternate between running and fitness walking.
Fitness walking is a mindful, brisk walk where you intentionally swing your arms to stimulate more muscle contraction. This will ensure that you are working your aerobic energy system.
Lighten the Load
Weight training is especially tricky to return to after an injury, and you shouldn’t even return to the gym before your doctor says you can. Once you’re cleared, you can start with bodyweight moves and then transition into light weighted movements.
The types of weights you use should depend on the type of injury you are returning from and the amount of time you have taken off. It’s always smarter to start much lighter than what you would expect to be able to do.
You also need to be aware that you will be sore again after the workout, so it’s better to start lighter. For an athlete with a back injury that has been out for a month, start at 75 percent of the weight used previously. Then, adjust the load from there.
Focus on What You Can Do
Remain as optimistic as possible, and take the chance to make your weaknesses into strengths. Avoid focusing on the negatives of being injured and don’t think about what you can do instead. If you have a shoulder injury, concentrate on lower body exercises that don’t require you to use the shoulder in the gym.
Remember to take things slow, and use the opportunity to build a strong foundation, so you can avoid future injuries down the road, too.