Have you ever suffered from an injury? Maybe you twisted an ankle, hurt your back, or broke a bone. After a setback like these, your workout schedule can come to a screeching halt. This can be very frustrating for an active person and become depressing.
The mental toll alone is one to be understood. One way I describe this to my clients is:
Imagine you have a best friend. Each day you look forward to talking with them and going out and doing fun things together. All of a sudden, their life takes a shift and they move out of town. Your schedules have changed and you no longer talk each day. A depression sets in, because what was once a positive in your daily routine has changed.
The same goes for your body. You wake up each morning, and it's there for you. Your heart beats, your lungs take in oxygen, your eyes see and your limbs move. It’s easy to take this for granted, as it’s just a natural and effortless part of life. However, when something goes wrong and it's not there for you each day, the same kind of psychological depression can set in. This can be similar to losing that friend that you spoke with each day.
At the onset of an injury, people experience acute pain. This is where the injury is fresh and you may potentially have soft tissue damage. So how do you know when it’s safe to begin working out again?
Something helpful can be to keep a timetable of your injury. This can be broken into three phases:
Let me give you an example:
Phase One - The Acute Phase.
Taking out the trash, you strain your back. This can last from one to three days. This is the time to take it easy and use ice to reduce inflammation.
Phase Two - The Sub-Acute Phase
This can take up to 2-3 weeks. The body has started to control the inflammation. At this point I recommend increased activity, for example, gentle stretching, decompression and isometrics. If you were wearing some sort of brace/support, you can start taking short periods of time out of the brace/support. Do this earlier in the day, as muscles get more tired as the day goes on.
Phase Three -Chronic Phase -3-4 weeks
This is when your muscles have healed acutely and you can start getting back to normal. You can begin building and progressing on your exercise routine with active and dynamic weight training. Using bands or weight machines that can help guide you through an exercise could be a good choice. You can use a combination of ice and heat to assist in the reduction of expected mild muscle soreness as you become more active. BUT should you have a relapse of your initial pain, return to using ice and reduce your activity level to let your body recover. No bracing will be needed, unless you have an atypical situation. For example, you might want to wear that brace if you are lifting that heavy garbage can.
Once you feel you can work out again, here are a few pointers that should help you make a informed decision:
1. Consult with your doctor. This is important because everybody has a different level of health and different health care concerns. For example, do you have high blood pressure, do you have diabetes or any other condition that will come into play as far as an exercise routine?
2. An examination from a physician can determine whether the injury is properly healed or needs more time.
3. Your doctor or physical therapist can then give you recommendations as to how to modify different exercises. When working with a personal trainer, it is vital that you keep them informed of any recommendations from your doctor, so they can help plan a routine that is effective and safe.
4. It is important whether you are working with a trainer or by yourself, that you remain conscious of your body and are able to rate your exertion level/pain. One way to develop this is by doing a “body scan.” I personally do this almost every day. It is best to lie down while doing this exercise. Take a few deep breaths relaxing your mind and body so you can be fully present. Start with the top of your head and focus on any tension that you may be experiencing. Then slowly move down through your shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, legs, all the way down to the bottom of your feet. Take note of any aches and pains or any other sensations that you may be experiencing. This will help you establish a baseline that will help you become more conscious during your training.
5. Have a scale from 1-10 on your exertion level during exercise. This will help you determine after the session the intensity of your workout and whether you need to dial it back or intensify your routine. This will also help you identify different types of pain.
Immediate pain - weight is too much or the technique or exercise is wrong for you.
Pain within an hour or two - this is also due from the above.
Pain many hours later or next day - this is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and comes from appropriate exercise. It should not be severe, but enough to let you know that you worked out.
Take care of your body, and like a good friend, it will be there for you.
I hope these tips will help you in your health and fitness quest.
My best to your health and wellness.