Dr Adrian Rotunno is a Sports and Exercise Medicine (SEM) physician and a Virgin Active South Africa expert brings us his top 4 tips on how to gently get back into an exercise routine after you’ve been out of commission due to an injury.
First things first, it’s important to understand how or why your sports or training injury came about, so as to avoid it happening again. Read Dr Rotunno’s post on avoiding repetitive strain and overuse injuries if you missed it.
#1. Rest, recover, restore and rehabilitation
It can’t be emphasised enough that these four ‘R’s’ should be your first priority. Practise the self-awareness of trusting the management plan and what will be required going forward. Remember that all professional athletes prioritise rest and recovery days into their regular training schedule, but particularly if they have an injury.
#2. Take your time
No matter how long it takes, it’s essential to heal fully before jumping into your usual exercise routine again – the one that caused the injury in the first place. And if it takes a month or two longer than you expected, give into that rather than going back too early. There’s no need to rush your recovery, as it could just land you back at square one.
#3. Get professional help
Depending on the nature of your injury, you should enlist the help and guidance of a healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist, SEM physician, coach or Personal Trainer on your road to recovery. They can recommend other forms of movement or exercise that do not exacerbate your injury – and show you how to perform them correctly. At the same time, they may help you keep adequate tabs on your injury to prevent it from getting any worse.
#4. A transient directional change
The above-mentioned professionals may also be able to recommend an appropriate exercise prescription based on your injury to help you maintain your fitness and conditioning, while you recover and before you return to your baseline to build from there. It’s vital to closely monitor your load and to start off with a graded return. It’s only natural to build up your strength slowly, before plateauing, and then building up to the next level, before plateauing again and so on. Your pre-injury exercise load will come back with time. Be patient with yourself and the process. Don’t try to jump the gun too much or too quickly, as that could bring on injury again, and all the frustrations that come with it.
As frustrating as it may be at times, going forward progressively – one step and one day at a time – is the wisest approach to get you back to your usual level of fitness, strength, endurance and confidence.