Everyone is at risk for injury in some way, shape or form. Those that push their bodies hard, such as athletes, and those that don’t challenge their bodies at all are particularly at risk. Whether it's a minor injury from over-training or a bone break from an accident, chances are you will get some kind of injury in your lifetime.
3 months ago I fell on an icy sidewalk and broke my ankle. It was so damaged that I had to have surgery to repair it, and now I’m afraid of activating metal detectors with all the hardware that’s in there. One day I was doing a HIIT combo move: burpee to donkey kick to tuck jump, and the next day I was on crutches. I was devastated.
A friend who had been through this warned me that the mental part of recovery would be harder than the physical part, but also encouraged me that I would walk again. My body knows how to heal, and I have to trust that. It was hard for me to suddenly stop using my right leg. I lost 2 inches of calf muscle in the first 3 weeks of my injury, which surprised me more than anything! As a personal trainer, I know that it's better to listen to the doctors and rest while your body needs to repair, than to try to push it and prolong recovery. I’ve seen it a million times in class, someone telling me that they haven’t been doing their assigned PT exercises so they are still experiencing pain. So I promised myself that I would do everything right.
It’s Mostly Mental
After surgery, I felt isolated and depressed, stuck in bed with my leg propped up. My husband had to bring my food and keep filling my water bottle, which sounds minor, but I felt like I lost my independence. Being on crutches was scary since a fall was the original cause of my injury. For a few weeks, I cried every time I had to get up.
Physical therapists told me that when I look back on this, it will be such a short amount of time that I’ll forget how hard it was. I hope I don’t forget. I want to remember what I’m capable of, and also be able to help other people get through injury. I used to say everything happens for a reason, and I’m sure that’s true, but I kept thinking “why?!”
Easing Back Into Exercise
I felt depressed when I was not allowed to put weight on my right leg. Exercise always makes me feel better but I wasn’t able to get my heart rate up, so I was afraid of losing my hard-earned cardio conditioning. The advice I gave myself was to just do what I can. Am I able to sit on the couch and press dumbbells overhead? Am I able to lay on the ground and do crunches? Am I able to do a plank on my knees? Just start with the basics, and keep progressing. I did what I was able to do, and gradually I was able to do more and more. I remember the first time I could do a power skip on my good leg and it got my heart rate going and I felt myself breathing heavier and I realized I was doing it! It felt amazing to breathe like that again.
There's Always a Silver Lining
While it may sound cliché, injuries can almost always be a blessing in disguise. If you injury your lower body, take the opportunity to hone a skill or aspect of fitness in with your upper body such as pull-ups. An injury recovery phase can also be a great time to just slow down and take better care of your overall well-being. Try focusing on nutrition, working on stress-management, taking up meditation, or just connecting more deeply with friends and family.
Tips For Recovery
- Allow yourself to adapt and evolve. Movement will look different during injury recovery, be patient.
- No pain, no gain does not apply here. If you feel pain, stop and evaluate. Am I hurting myself?
- Do what you're able to do, and be proud of that. Say it out loud: “I was able to move my body today!”
- Work the muscles that you can work on: for me, I focused on upper-body moves and things I could do while seated. If you have an upper-body injury, focus on those legs!
- Physical Therapy works. If it's not automatically assigned to you, it’s worth buying a few sessions if you’re able to. Having an expert guide you through a recovery plan will help in the long run. Resistance bands are some of the best tools you can own for rehab and injury prevention exercise.
- Keep your mind positive. You’re allowed to be upset about being injured, as long as you don't give up on yourself. Being injured is frustrating, and you can cry, I did. I also reminded myself who I am and what I’m capable of, which kept me going.
- Take care of yourself. Depending on your injury, you will probably want to implement ice, heat, elevation and rest along with proper movement. Make time for recovery, listen to your body.
- Go back to basics. Do mobility exercises to keep joints and tissues healthy and moving correctly. This goes for everyone, injured or not. Movement prep can help prevent injury in the first place. When we have basic movement patterns down, the body remembers how to move and when we add weight the body will continue to know what to do properly.
Remember that recovery takes time. You will have highs and lows, just take things one day at a time and speak nicely to yourself inside your own head. At COMMITTED HP, we provide simple yet effective tools to help you stay strong, prevent injuries and recover better. Checkout our innovative lineup of tools now!