Getting injured is what every active person dreads. It’s bad enough when it’s just a mild sprain and you have to spend three weeks resting up. When it’s a serious injury it can really set you back, and the stress is magnified because you’re unable to do what you love. It is usually possible to exert some control over the situation, however, and speed up the healing process. You just need to know how.
Get enough sleep
When you’re itching to do something, doing nothing can be hardest of all. but recovery isn’t just about resting – you need to spend more time fully asleep. This is because it’s while you’re sleeping that your body’s repair mechanisms kick-in. If you feel more sleepy than usual, don’t fight it. Listen to your body. You may feel that you’re being lazy when you have a lie in, but your body is hard at work creating new cells, strengthening muscle fibers and routing around damage.
Eat and drink sensibly
In order to carry out repairs, your body needs the right tools, and it also needs to ensure that nothing is getting in the way. That means healthy eating is more important than ever. Injury is often complicated by inflammation, so cut out refined sugars, saturated fats and heavily processed foods, which make it worse. Although it’s a good protein source, red meat is a bad idea – instead, try to stick to plant-based proteins (Arnold Schwarzenegger says that when he made this switch, he felt stronger than he had for a decade). Make sure you get all the micronutrients you need by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Support your body properly
As your injury heals, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t damage it further. That is especially important as you gently ease yourself back into exercising, but it also matters when you’re just doing things around the house. Ensuring proper support for the back is particularly important because back injuries that don’t heal properly can cause problems for years. Even if it’s a leg or arm that you’ve injured, you can develop back problems if you’re moving in an awkward way all the time, sitting down more than usual or sleeping in an unnatural position.
Set realistic targets
The most common reason for people to end up stuck in recovery for longer than necessary is that they try to get back to normal too soon. Unless your doctor or physiotherapist says otherwise, it’s good to practice gentle movement of the injured body part as it starts to heal. You can gradually scale up the amount of weight you put through it, but you should err on the side of caution. Don’t push yourself to get back to your usual routines by a particular date. Instead, set targets week by week and take a proper rest the moment you feel the wrong kind of pain.
Manage your emotions
It’s understandable that you will feel frustrated and irritable as you wait to heal. You may find that you have difficulty controlling your temper or that it’s hard to focus on day to day life. Try to find other outlets for your stress – anything from loud music to computer games or exercise that doesn’t affect the damaged part of your body. If you’re serious about training, this is unlikely to be the only injury you’ll ever have, so learning to process your emotions and accept your circumstances is valuable. It doesn’t make everything okay but it does give you the chance to start enjoying other aspects of life.
Know when to seek help
Even if you’ve experienced serious injury before, it’s possible to end up in a situation where you don’t know the best way to proceed. You might think that you’re ready to start pushing your body again, or you might want to try a new kind of exercise that you think might help you heal – in these cases, you should talk to a physiotherapist. You might feel that you’re losing control emotionally and are at risk of doing something foolish because of the stress, in which case you should talk to a counsellor. It’s okay not to be able to figure it all out by yourself. Knowing when to get help will improve your chances of getting back to normal as soon as possible.
Dealing with injury is hard but if you put in the work to do it right, it can help you find resources within yourself that you didn’t know were there. Depending on the severity of your injury, your body may never quite return to the way it was, but that new psychological strength can give you an edge that more than makes up for it.