Anyone who goes to the gym or does any sort of training will have heard the old saying, “No pain, no gain”.
Well to my mind that old piece of so called sage advice has a few hairs on it. Pain is an indicator of a problem with a particular body part and is a warning to slow down or maybe even stop for a bit. But soreness on the other hand means you have probably had a good workout (but still need a rest day before attacking it with the same verocity again).
I am still amazed at the number of times I hear this question asked at the gym by people with painful injuries, “what’s the best way to keep training?”
In reality, the answer is to avoid injury in the first place; train smarter, not necessarily harder……prevention is better than having to find a cure. To maintain a training program over many tears we need to come to grips with the fact we only have one body so please learn to take care of it if you want it to last the distance.
But having said all that, no matter how careful we might be over 10, 20 or 30 years we are going to chalk up a few injuries so here are 6 proven tips to help get you back on the road again without having lost too much muscle mass and not put on too many kilos.
- Injuries are inevitable but there can be a silver lining…….look at it as the ideal opportunity to give your body a well-earned rest. Learn to be patient – listen to your doctor and take whatever time your body needs to heal itself…..if you don’t you will only end up worse off.
- Since you are going to have plenty of spare time, use it wisely. Learn something new, read that book you always wanted to read, try starting a new healthy habit (something in the food area would be good) or maybe take some time to research and re-jig your training programs for the rest of the year.
- This one goes without saying…..watch what you eat. Because you are bored out of your mind good nutrition suddenly becomes a big issue. Muscle injuries (surgical wounds too) need a higher protein intake than your normal diet for healing so beef it up a bit but make sure you watch your overall intake of calories. You know what happens when calories go up and activity goes down, so don’t get caught out as weight gain will only put more pressure and strain on the areas you are trying to heal plus make it harder to get yourself going again once you are feeling a bit better and ready to make a comeback.
- Injuries also mean inflammation and certain foods are known to cause inflammation in the body so try to avoid them at all costs if you want a quick recovery. Examples to steer clear of include sugar, refined processed, packaged and prepared foods, hydrogenated and trans fats (found in baked goods), MSG, white rice and alcohol. Eat more foods that are high in omega-3’s.
- Keeping a positive outlook. To help speed the healing process researchers recommend maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude. Keeping your mind busy helps with this.
- The improvement phase. Once you can see signs of the inflammation subsiding then it is time to try some gentle exercise……nothing too strenuous mind you. Listen to your body as you lose your conditioning very quickly once you stop exercising. Go with low impact exercises, 5 or 10 minutes of walking, or alternative type ideas like stretch bands, squeeze balls, isometrics and body weight exercises working on your range of motion. Just move as much as your body will let you without pushing things. Swimming or water aerobics is often a good place to start.
In summing up we need to remember it is important to try and maintain some semblance of fitness while recuperating from an injury so when your injury is healed, the rest of your body is ready to go. But remember, don’t try and start back at the same intensity as when you stopped otherwise you will end up back in your sick bed.
A great way to come back after any sort of injury is to focus on exercise duration and not intensity. During the first couple of weeks it is best to choose low-impact moves with lighter weights before attempting anything more challenging.
So in short, the answer to staying fit when you’re injured (and avoid weight gain and muscle loss) is to rest, stretch, keep yourself motivated and study something new.
And here is a good resource with workarounds for you: How to Maintain Fitness While You’re Injured