If you’re an athlete who’s out of commission because of an injury, you may worry about maintaining your fitness level during the lost training time. The truth is, you likely will experience some loss of conditioning in your primary sport. Studies show muscle mass loss as much as 12% per week with strict bed rest.
But with the right attitude and modifications to your routine, you can preserve your base fitness and look forward to getting back up to speed quickly. Here are five tips for staying active and healthy while you recuperate.
- Heed What Your Body Is Telling You
Many athletes push through with their regular training regardless of how they feel — and that’s a mistake. Powering through pain is never a great idea, and it can be especially harmful when you’ve suffered an injury.
View pain as a sign that something in your body has gone awry, and make sure you seek medical evaluation for severe or prolonged pain and begin appropriate treatment promptly. It’s important to understand how the injury happened so you can avoid exacerbating the problem during rehab.
- Use Sports Psychology Principles
Recovery after an injury typically focuses on the physical, but your mindset also plays a role in getting better. By making use of some strategies from sports psychology, you can deal with emotional swings as you develop positive methods for getting back on track. Consider:
- Committing to your recovery by closely following the recommendations of your trainers and doctors.
- Monitoring your self-talk and using techniques like imagery and meditation to stay positive.
- Seeking support from teammates, friends, coaches and family members.
- Setting goals and celebrating small improvements in your recovery.
- Get the Right Fuel
Eating a high-nutrient diet — packed with fruits and vegetables — is especially important as your body recovers. Avoid foods with empty calories and low nutrition, like white flour, sugar and alcohol.
In addition, sufficient hydration is key, and you also may want to check with your doctor about the benefits of specific supplements like glutamine for rebuilding joints.
- Seize the Opportunity to Cross-Train
As soon as you have medical approval, get back to working out in ways that don’t aggravate your injury. By cross-training, you can burn calories and maintain your fitness level until you can return to your main sport.
You also can take the opportunity to work on parts of your body that may get reduced attention in your normal workout. For instance, if you’re a runner, doing some strength work may help you improve your times. In addition to hitting the weights, consider activities like walking instead of running, swimming and yoga for full-body workouts.
- Gradually Return to Your Routine
It’s important to go slowly as you return to your regular routine to ensure that you’ve fully healed. In fact, continuing with your rehabilitation plan for several more weeks once you feel back to normal will help you build your strength. Ease back into your usual training, and gradually increase the intensity.
With the right rehab plan and support, you can overcome your injury and get back to your regular workouts sooner than you think. In addition, talk to your doctor about the benefits of medical-grade compression products during your recovery.