Even the best athletes get hurt. But they wouldn’t be as good if they didn’t take good care of their bodies. Realizing when you need to slow down or when you get the irritating aches and pains is not a rocket science.
The instinct reaction of people who exercise regularly is to keep going and just accept the discomfort. Training while in pain is allowed, as long as the injury is not too serious. Be smart to recognize when the aching is too much.
"I often tell myself and other athletes that to truly excel in your sport, you need to embrace every aspect,” says Rachel Jastrebsky, professional triathlete, coach, and Ph.D. candidate at Old Dominion University, specializing in marine biology, physiology and biomechanics. “Sometimes that means reveling in a great workout/race, but sometimes it means overcoming a rough day, or accepting the need to be patient and take a step back.” Being injured is part of the job description, so to speak.
Keeping your body moving is important because you maintain your fitness level but how much depends on the injury. If you’re having a minor problem, then it’s a good idea to switch to another sport. Consider swimming, for example, if you’re a runner.
The most common cause of injury is overworking. The biggest difficulty is to recognize when a small problem is getting bigger and bigger until it’s a very serious one. Next thing you know, you’re on the crutches.
So acknowledge the problem and treat it while still training.
Do your research
“I spent extensive time reading about my injury before I went to surgery,” Jastrebsky, who is recovering from a successful repair of my hip labrum, says. “It is important to have an understanding of the injury. […] Also, be sure both your doctor and physical therapist understand the goals you have for after surgery.”
Maintain a balanced diet
One of the easiest things to do when you’re injured and stuck on the couch resting is to over indulge on bad food. “But maintaining a balanced diet helps reduce inflammation and repair the body,” Jasterbsky adds. “Beet juice helps deliver oxygen efficiently to the muscles, but it also lowers blood pressure, eliminates toxins, has lots of antioxidants, boosts the immune system and is anti-inflammatory,” she adds. It’s important to nourish your body inside-out. Consuming wrong nutrients causes the body to not move efficiently, and you feel sluggish. If you want to get back out there, you must have energy. You need high-quality food for that.
Get a buddy to train with
But choose someone who will not judge you. Think who will call you out when you’re forgetting your injury and pushing yourself a little too much. Having a training partner can have a positive influence and could be fun, too.
If sleep was ever important in our life, it is when you’re injured. “Taking care of myself in every way possible has been critical to my recovery. That means resting when rest is needed,” Jastrebsky says. Injuries are often a result of overuse. Hence, you need a time-out.
Attitude: Be patient
“Life doesn’t always go according to plan. I had big goals for the year, but after learning I needed surgery for a large labral tear and stress fracture in my hip, I knew I would have to be patient if I wanted to heal properly and continue to succeed in my sport, triathlon,” she adds. Keep in mind that your injury is not forever. You will get out of it and can be even better.
Avoid certain exercises
Don’t do anything that can result in a fall, Jastrebsky says. Keep working out but replace exercises that put pressure on the area where the injury is. Focus on low-impact activities.
Know the difference
Being able to recognize when you’re pushing yourself is key to your recovery. If you feel worn out and you’re not sleeping well, take a step back. Think of it this way: Tiredness causes lower quality workouts and that increases the risk of injury.
Change your warmup
Warm up gradually, start slow and easy, Jastrebsky says. If you quickly flex or place tension on a cold muscle, you increase your risk of injury. So try to gradually raise the temperature of the muscle and then slowly stretch it out with static stretching.
Have a good support team
“Aside from the medical team, it is important to have excellent support from your family, friends and coach,” Jastrebsky says. “There is a fine line during recovery between holding back so you don¹t aggravate the injury, and pushing yourself in your therapy. It is essential that you are able to uphold a positive outlook while injured with the understanding that time off can make you stronger and more motivated in the long run.” It takes a lot of confidence, experience and maturity to know that missing out a few workouts is OK.