Where Do You Start When You’re Injured?
You’re not doomed to no motion. You’re not doomed to extra weight. You’re no further behind any able-bodied Boomer chic. Nutrition is #1 and responsible for 80% of your success. Movement is only the icing. For you, nutrition may need to be 90%. So, is it worth it?
If you’re looking for answers, it is. That’s an entirely different blog to go into finding reasons you can’t.
I’ve been hurt. I get it. Hurt is not a handicap and it can give you insight to things you didn’t know about yourself – or took for granted otherwise. You do have to get creative, however!
Absolutely true that an exercise resource intended for apparently healthy populations, as we refer to those who may have a few aches and pains but otherwise can pick and choose what works for them, won’t fit your needs if you’re injured. The nutrition and stress and sleep though then become even more important. When you’re blind you rely heavily on your other senses and oddly, so many blind individuals I’ve been privileged to know more than makeup for it.
Let’s face it though, you are bound to be injured in some small or big way along your active journey. Small as it may be, as quickly as you might recover a small patch of ice, another driver, a pothole on your bike path…can happen to any of us and leave us without the ability temporarily or permanently to do what we’d love to do.
So let’s talk so that you’re ready.
The Recovery From Injury Process
STEP ONE: Nothing said here should precede what your doctor or physical therapist tells you. If you’ve not found one you trust find another one but reaching out to a Fitness Expert for advice first isn’t the right step. Though there are many credible, educated fitness professionals and wellness coaches, we rely on the evidence you’ve got through MRI, x-ray, testing and feedback from a doctor, too. We want to rule out the chance you could be doing further injury and define what’s safe.
STEP TWO: Once you have the green light to move and you’re in agreement you need to and know yourself that you’ll feel better it’s time. Defining what does good and what does harm and staying below a threshold where you feel pain is important. You leaving every session thinking you could have done more is better than feeling already exhausted or feeling discomfort.
The slow and steady process can be hard for someone who wants results in a hurry. You’re helping your hormones help you (enhance weight control, decrease stress, and heal) by doing this. In a pain and inflammatory loop you don’t want to be a part of triggering more inflammation.
In this phase often two types of exercise are beneficial.
Cardiovascular exercise, without a heart rate or intensity attached to it, is first. Finding what you can and what you can’t do. For many walking is the most sensible. If not on land, walk in water. A treadmill can be scary and if a flat terrain is available walking on land may be the better route. That may be dependent on the quality of the treadmill. If you’re not used to one, not comfortable, I would stick with walking on a safe flat space.
Walking against the resistance of water (not yet a current or lazy river) is good for both the benefit of cardiovascular movement and the second type of exercise below, isometric exercise. Water levels between nipple and navel depth are best. Eventually walking with a belt in deeper water may be a good idea. Initially, it is not the best first thing. You want feet on the ground.
Bicycling works for some and not for others. Like water, it does take the load off the body. There are two types of bicycles. Try them both. Upright and recumbent bikes feel very different. No one can tell you whether or not one will work. It isn’t about whether one is better or worse for knees, or backs. Its’ about whether it works for you. We have so many variables to our lever length, site of injury, secondary factors and on and on that it’s trial and error.
Isometric, or stabilization, types of exercise begin to strengthen the muscles specifically around the injury and in your core (back and abs) without flexion and extension. That means they’re safer, more tolerable, and help you “turn on” muscles that might be lazy now from trauma of pain and or injury.
Sitting still tightening and releasing your abdominal muscles is isometric. We refer to it as “bracing.” Truly, it is the biggest role your core plays and it’s why hover and planks are used more and more and crunches and sit ups (proven to cause more harm than good) are going by the wayside. The example above of walking in water (forward, backward, sideways) is one that causes you to brace. The faster you attempt to walk the more resistance you’ll create and the more challenging it will be. Starting out that isn’t what you want to do but it is an example of progression.
Other examples of performing isometrics include tensing and relaxing the muscles in the top of the thigh. If you’ve had a knee injury or surgery it’s where you started. Just tense, release. Then tense, hold, release. Then tense, lift a straight leg, lower and release. Progression never goes away whether its rehabilitation or it’s big muscles. Right now if you’re injured, these are your big muscles and your “work.”
The frequency of exercise and duration of exercise changes for you if you’re injured. You want small doses of the exercise but more frequently. Daily movement to aid circulation, and boosting the neural connection are your goals. The neural connection is turning that signal on from brain to muscle so that more fibers fire and they fire stronger each time.
As you get stronger and begin to do more, you might then find that you should back off to fewer days of the week. Adding strength training (which is again wonderful for bracing core muscles all over) only on two days of the week with isometric work between.
Increasing minutes of exercise by two a week may be all you do. If you’ve started with 10 minutes, though, by the end of the month you’re at 18 minutes of exercise. That is nearly double and you will get stronger.
Your rest, stress reduction, sleep, and nutrition all will need to play a bigger part in your progress. That is, progress in healing the injury and progress in losing weight or getting into a shape you’re more comfortable with. The fact you’re injured changes the variables but it doesn’t make anything impossible if your mindset is onboard.