Injuries are part of the training game.
No matter who you are, or how you train – at some point, you will get injured.
Unfortunately, it’s a matter of when, not if.
Injuries are going to happen – that is beyond our control. What we can control is how we recover from an injury.
Proper recovery is the difference between an injury knocking us out for 3 months versus 6+ months. The following will teach the important steps to follow to make sure your injury recovery goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.
#1 – Rest
This should be #1, #2, and #3. In fact, nothing else on this list matters if #1 is not followed properly.
You MUST rest an injury in order for it to heal.
Resting allows the body to recover. It allows the inflammatory process to play its course, and fix the damage done.
Rest prevents further worsening or aggravating of the injury.
When an injury occurs, one of our first reactions is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it. We convince ourselves that the pain is nothing abnormal – just a part of training.
This is a dangerous, damaging mindset. There’s a difference in being sore, and being in pain. You’ll know the pain of an injury when it happens. Listen to your body when it signals it is in pain – it’s time to stop doing whatever is causing pain.
Recovery cannot happen without rest.
#2 – Seek medical advice
Unless you’re a healthcare professional, you are not an expert in injuries. Stop trying to self-diagnose, and go see someone trained in determining what, if anything, is wrong.
Even if you ARE a healthcare professional, get another set of eyes on your injury.
Seeking the opinion of a medical professional helps us start the recovery process as soon as possible. We cannot recover until we know what is wrong.
Delaying this step will delay all aspects of your recovery. So don’t delay. With the growing number of urgent care centers, and extended-hour primary care offices, there’s no excuse.
#3 – Rehab
You’ve properly followed #2, and sought advice from a medical professional. You’ve been assigned rehabilitation work. The worst thing we can do at this point is to not do our assigned rehab work.
Do the fucking rehab work.
Proper rehabilitation is the difference in recovering in 8 weeks versus 16 weeks. Proper rehab makes the difference in coming back near full-strength versus coming back weak and out-of-shape.
Even if your injury is something simple that doesn’t require prescribed rehab work – such as a sprained finger or twisted ankle – it’s important to rehab. After getting cleared by your doctor, put the injury through the full range of motion throughout the day. This keeps blood flowing, prevents loss of flexibility, and prepares the body for training.
#4 – Eat a pro-recovery diet
What you eat affects your ability to recover from injury as quickly as possible. This is NOT the time to let your diet slack!
Good foods to eat include:
- Omega-3 fats. Sources include fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, flaxseed, and omega-3 supplements (any containing DHA, EPA, and/or ALA).
- Green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, collard greens.
- Nuts, including almonds and walnuts.
- Olive oil.
Foods to avoid include:
- Omega-6 fats: vegetable oils are a huge culprit here.
- Sugars and starches: candy, bagels, cakes, bread, the list goes on and on.
#5 – Stretch and hit the foam roller
Avoid this step if you are specifically instructed NOT to stretch by your doctor, or if it causes pain.
Assuming the above doesn’t apply to you, you’ll want to stretch and foam roll while you’re injured.
When we’re injured, there’s momentum to stop moving. When you don’t move, your body gets stiff. You lose flexibility. This leads to mobility issues when you try to start training.
To prevent this, it’s important to keep up with stretching and mobility work. In fact, you should strongly consider increasing the amount of mobility and recovery work you do. Stretch twice as long. Foam roll twice a day. Keep your body flexible, and you’ll find your recovery will go much smoother.
#6 – Sleep
Your body recovers while you’re asleep. Many recovery processes do not occur until we’re asleep – and if we don’t sleep enough, they don’t occur at all!
A lack of sleep is damaging enough when we’re healthy. When we’re injured, not getting enough sleep is like pouring gasoline on a fire. You’re doubling down on the damage.
#7 – Avoid aggravating the injury
You’d think something this simple wouldn’t need to be said. You’d be wrong.
As we discussed above, one of our first reactions to an injury is to downplay the seriousness of it. We walk it off. We push through it.
Aggravating an injury resets your recovery to day zero. You basically have to start all over.
It’s like typing a long essay assignment, not saving, and intentionally closing Word.
You wouldn’t intentionally erase an entire document you worked hard on. Don’t intentionally erase your recovery progress by continuing to do movements that caused your injury and aggravate it further.
#8 – Work back slowly
One of the worst mistakes we can make after a period off of training – in this case, because of injury – is to try and come back where we left off, as if nothing happened. We don’t like to hear it, but we need to coax our way back to full strength. Do not try and pick your training up where you left off.
Squatting 225 for reps? Start back at 135 and work up.
Running 4 miles? Start at one mile.
Don’t go through the recovery process just to re-injure yourself because your ego can’t handle starting back at a lower intensity.
Injuries suck. There’s no way around it. Exercise releases chemicals that make us feel good about ourselves. It’s no joke to say that we go through “withdrawal” when we’re injured and can’t exercise.
This article detailed important steps to take to ensure your recovery process is as smooth and quick as possible. It can be to dial things back while injured, but it’s essential to coming back at 100%. Ignore this advice at your own peril.