Returning to Exercise After Sports Injury: 5 Workouts to Do
Every athlete, from novice gym-goers to seasoned marathon runners, dreads the word "injury".
While there’s the initial pain of common sports injuries like rotator cuff injury, tennis elbow, runner’s knee, hamstring strain, and Achilles tendinitis, the broader challenge is the road to recovery. Questions arise – "Will I ever return to my peak performance?", "What if this becomes a recurring issue?", or "How much will this set back my training?"
This article will provide five workouts to ease you back into regular training post-injury.
Precautions before resuming your workout routine
For many, sports are more than just a hobby; they're an integral part of your lifestyle and well-being. So, when faced with interruptions like injuries, the hiatus feels like a weighty pause, and the desire to return is compelling.
As the days of rest or limited mobility stretch, jumping back into familiar workout routines becomes increasingly tempting. This eagerness often stems from the urge to reclaim lost strength, compensate for missed training days, or simply re-experience the adrenaline and satisfaction of a good workout.
Still, you might miss the subtle cues your body provides. Pushing too hard during recovery can prolong the healing process and risk further, potentially more severe, injuries. As such, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals before delving back into any form of physical activity.
Doctors and physical therapists, with their depth of knowledge and expertise, can thoroughly assess your recovery status. They can offer guidance on sports injury management, the intensity levels to adopt, and the warning signs to watch out for. A healthcare professional's clearance acts as an informed go-ahead, ensuring your body is ready for the challenge ahead.
5 workout suggestions for a smooth return post-injury
Once you have the green light, you might consider the following workout options that promote healing and foster strength with minimal risks of setbacks:
Diving straight into intensive workouts can be risky for those coming out of a prolonged rest or reduced mobility due to sports injuries. Walking thus serves as an intermediary, helping your body transition from complete rest to more demanding exercises. It allows you to assess your current physical state, gauge pain levels, and gradually rebuild endurance and muscle strength.
As recovery progresses, you can challenge yourself by increasing the pace, extending walking durations, or even choosing uphill terrains for added resistance.
Swimming is often hailed as the holy grail of post-injury workouts. The buoyant nature of water offers a sensation of weightlessness. This can alleviate the impact on joints, making swimming a preferred choice for individuals with joint-related sports injuries. In water, your body supports just about 10% of its weight, ensuring the majority of the stress usually felt during land-based workouts is mitigated.
From the core muscles that stabilise your body to the limb muscles powering your strokes, swimming can offer a full-body workout. This comprehensive engagement aids in balanced muscle recovery, preventing the overuse of any particular muscle group.
Whether stationary or outdoor, cycling is another fantastic option for those managing sports injuries. One of the main advantages of stationary bikes is the controlled environment they offer. There's no need to be wary of uneven terrains or sudden halts, and they allow you to set your pace, adjusting resistance levels as per your comfort. For someone recovering from an injury, this ability to micro-manage your exercise intensity is invaluable. Stationary bikes typically come equipped with digital panels that display metrics like speed, distance, and resistance. By monitoring these, you can gradually and safely increase your thresholds.
While stationary bikes offer control, outdoor cycling provides a refreshing change of environment, which can be therapeutic. However, it is vital to choose familiar routes initially, avoiding challenging terrains that might exacerbate the injury. Check to see if you can adjust the bike's gear settings to ensure you don't overexert.
4. Resistance bands
Lightweight, portable, and versatile, resistance bands can pack a punch when it comes to providing a comprehensive workout without risking further injuries. By altering the tension – folding the band, shortening its length, or switching to bands with higher resistance – you can customise your workout's intensity.
Unlike other training methods that may be harsh on joints, resistance bands ensure that movements remain fluid and low-impact. The progressive resistance they offer minimises jerks or sudden strains, making exercises smoother and more controlled.
5. Strength training machines
Specifically designed to target various muscle groups, these machines provide a structured environment for effective and safe muscle rehabilitation. Post-injury, it is important to start with a lower weight than you're accustomed to. This not only prevents excessive strain on the healing muscle or joint but also allows you to focus on the quality of each repetition. Quality over quantity should be the mantra during this period; a controlled movement performed correctly is more beneficial than multiple rushed ones.
Seat and handle adjustments are equally crucial. The correct positioning minimises unnecessary strain on non-targeted areas and accentuates focus on the desired muscle group.
Additionally, keep a keen eye on the range of motion. Many strength training machines offer adjustable settings that limit or extend the movement range. Especially during the early phases of injury recovery, limiting the range can prevent overextension and potential re-injury.
Bonus: Physical therapy exercises for sports injury recovery
Physical therapy can also play a pivotal role in sports injury management, providing exercises to strengthen vulnerable areas and work towards recovery. A range of techniques and tools can be employed, including:
- Therapy ball exercises: Offers a dynamic surface to work on, challenging the body's balance and activating deep core stabilisers. Therapy ball exercises are excellent for improving joint stability and muscle strength.
- Foam roller exercises: Also known as self-myofascial release, foam rolling is a self-administered technique to release muscle tightness and trigger points.
- Plyometrics: Involve exercises that integrate jumps, bounds, and hops, aiming to boost muscle power, strength, balance, and agility.
- Pilates: Emphasises body balance, targeting the core while also fostering flexibility and mindful movement – suitable for injury recovery.
Maintaining a positive mindset during sports injury recovery
That being said, recovering from a sports injury may feel like an uphill battle at times. With days or even weeks of reduced activity, it's natural to start questioning your abilities. But by shifting your perspective, you can transform this challenging period.
Recognition of progress
After an injury, progress can sometimes be slow. It might be a few more steps taken without pain, a slightly increased range of motion, or even the ability to perform a simple task without discomfort. These might seem trivial when compared to what you were used to, but they are signs that the body is healing. Recognising and celebrating these tiny victories can inject a sense of achievement into the recovery process.
Each small win is a step closer to full recovery. Celebrating them can be a constant morale booster. It's a reminder that progress is being made, no matter how small. This uplift in spirits can further expedite the healing process as a positive mind often aids a positive body response.
Instead of just focusing on the end goal, which might be returning to full sporting capacity, set micro-goals. These could be daily or weekly objectives that are achievable and measurable. Every time one of these goals is met, it's a win worth celebrating.
Income's PA Assurance – Turn your setbacks into comebacks
While everyone is susceptible to accidents, individuals who frequently engage in sports face a heightened risk. That doesn't mean you should dampen your passion or limit your activities. Instead, equip yourself with a safety net. Income's PA Assurance provides comprehensive coverage that caters specifically to your needs.
With PA Assurance, you don’t need to bear the brunt of medical expenses that result from unforeseen accidents during your sporting endeavours. Get up to $20,0001 medical expenses coverage per accident, including sports injuries2, so you can get financial support for recovery treatments after an injury.
This is crucial, as postponing medical attention can exacerbate an injury's severity, and neglecting consistent rehabilitation or treatment can result in lasting repercussions.
The coverage also extends to reimbursements for post-accident home modifications and physiotherapy expenses incurred due to accidents. For those severe injuries that may require changes to living spaces or prolonged physical therapy, knowing that these expenses are covered can provide an added layer of relief.
Whether on the field, the court, or the track, face every challenge head-on, knowing you're well-protected.