One of the hardest aspects of being an athlete is the injuries. I’ve been playing sports since I was in junior high and I am now in my early 30s, still competing. In 16 years of being an athlete I have been through a lot of injuries. I’ve been through thumb and shoulder dislocations; high and low ankle sprains; several concussions; an MCL sprain on my left knee; a slipped disc; and now, most recently, a herniated and bulging disc in my lower back.
Coping with an injury can be challenging. One of the first thoughts that pops into my head is, “How long until I can get back to work on my fitness?” That is the mentality of an athlete, because we are so competitive that missing a workout or a training session can mean getting left behind by your teammates or the competition. It’s still very difficult for me to handle injuries, but at the same time I know I need to recover.
As I mentioned earlier, I previously injured my lower back with a herniated disc and a bulging disc. Those two discs in my back were irritating my nerves that go through the spinal canal causing numbness in my toes, cramping in my calf muscle, and severe pain in my hips and lower back. Daily tasks like walking the dogs and trying to clean up after them became very difficult. Even walking became a little risky. I could not feel my left foot, so I had to watch where I stepped or might trip and fall. To get better I had to go through three months of physical therapy. I don’t know about you, but three months of physical therapy feels like years to an athlete when all you want to do is get back into working out.
Here are a few tips I used to keep myself fit while recovering from an injury:
1. Know your limits.
Ask your doctor or therapist what type of activity you can do and the capacity and intensity you should be aiming for during the workout. For my injury I had to rely on walking and other lower impact exercises like biking and swimming.
2. Establish a routine.
Use the recommended activities from your doctor or therapist to establish a good routine. Having a good modified routine feels good; I was still able to continue with some type of activity whether just walking or my physical therapy exercises.
3. Learn about your body’s weaknesses.
Take the time to learn about your body’s weaknesses and strengthen them. Depending on your injury, you can use this time to focus on different areas of your fitness that you have been forgetting. Focus on flexibility exercises and even doing some auxiliary exercises to strengthen your core, shoulders, or other muscle groups that you have been forgetting to focus on.
4. Be patient.
Don’t push too hard into recovery because you can end up doing more harm than good. Stay within your limits.
5. Be mindful about what you are eating.
The workouts are now modified and controlled so you are not exerting as much energy when you are exercising. Modify your calorie intake if you have to and be more mindful about portion sizes.
Coping with an injury is never easy, but by following these five tips you can keep yourself active without hindering your recovery!