An injury can quickly damper your spirits. Somehow this rather unfortunate reality always seems to hit smack in the middle of a great training cycle or just before an A race (it’s so not funny how that works). But there’s no need to be bummed about a bum leg. By following a few simple dos and don’ts, you can easily adjust to – even work out around – an injury. Proceed with caution…and an open mind.
1. First and foremost, evaluate the severity of the injury and treat accordingly.
Is your injury acute or chronic? Acute injuries come on suddenly, as in crashing your bike and walking away with a dislocated shoulder. Usually, they’re accompanied by severe pain, swelling and reduced range of motion. You’ll want to seek medical attention for major stress fractures or suspected broken bones – that should go without saying. For lesser worries, act quickly to clean open wounds, immobilize joints and ice any swollen areas. Before resting, icing, compressing or elevating, be sure you’re on top of when the R.I.C.E. method is most appropriate.
Chronic injuries, on the other hand, are a result of overuse or doing too much too soon. This is when you get sidelined by shin splints or iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. Treating these can be tricky, because you’ll need to pin-point the root cause as best you can. Look at how your shoes are wearing to determine if you’re over-pronating or favoring one leg over the other. A poorly fitted bike can also contribute to imbalances and overuse injuries. And even though we’re all creatures of habit, performing the same exercises day after day can cause irritation in all the wrong places, not to mention the potential for muscle imbalance or alignment issues.
Chronic injuries will require rest, or avoiding the offending exercise completely, until all feels well. Additional treatment, such as physical therapy or structural integration may be needed if this is a serious, long-term problem that’s holding you back. Regardless of the severity, you know your body. Rest as long as you need and gradually build back up. Even with a race on the horizon, rushing back into training will only set you back even further.
2. Eat your way to recovery.
This would be the worst time to stuff your face with what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this donuts. Wallowing in self-pity won’t get you very far, and all that junk will drag you down…physically. Naturally you won’t be as active during the healing process, so you won’t be burning as many calories. Eating to cope will just promote weight gain and cause a vicious cycle of negative emotions. Perhaps even more important, though, is the fact that over-processed, refined and sugar-laden foods don’t support recovery.
To help your body repair, you need to be filling your plate with healthy fats, such as omega-3-rich salmon and walnuts. Steer clear of too much omega-6 fatty acid, though, as it can actually promote inflammation and interrupt your body’s natural healing process. You’ll also want to avoid refined carbs. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary fiber found in whole grains has proven to help protect against high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of acute inflammation. Lastly, don’t forget your fruits and veggies for their wholesome source of vitamins, minerals and free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Dark leafy greens, beets, berries and cherries are all great choices when your body is under stress.
3. Supplement for supreme support.
When you’re sick or injured, no amount of nutrient-packed food is going to get you back to 100%. Vitamins, minerals and herbs in supplement form can actually be more beneficial than their whole food source. Ginger is a good example of this. Compacted into a capsule, ginger root extract is potent and effective in promoting a healthy inflammatory response. Zinc, an essential mineral which isn’t found in many foods, plays an important role in tissue health and protein synthesis.*
4. Train with your head more than your muscles.
Don’t lie. You’ve exercised without warming up at least once, and it may have worked out just fine for you – no injuries to show for it. Skipping a warm-up is like speeding past a cop and not getting pulled over. You can only get away with this for so long. Before ANY workout, take the time to literally get your body warm – body temperature has risen, muscles are relaxed, tension has been released and blood is circulating sufficiently. Take it a step further and perform a combination of static and dynamic stretches.
During your actual workout, keep it nice and easy. That might mean saying bye-bye to burpees and basically any other plyometrics. Use a mirror to watch your form, so you don’t risk a re-injury or hurt another area. And don’t be a tough guy (or gal) and think you can push through the pain. Any twinge, niggle or pull should be taken as a red light, so STOP, put down the weights and do something else.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.