It can knock your routine and ability to keep training at the same level. If you’re not careful your motivation and training can diminish to zero and so much hard work can be undone.
This article has 8 tips and advice for sticking to your fitness goals and maintaining your motivation even when you are injured. I am an Osteopath with a background in exercise prescription and rehabilitation. I treat people with training injuries on a daily basis. I have treated everyone from professional athletes to exercise beginners and everything in-between. I’ve seen how an injury can derail someone’s performance, motivation, health and fitness goals both short and long term.
I recently found myself in this exact situation. I sprained my ankle, not with my usual training regime but during a friendly social game of tennis (just to add to frustration!). In that instant I knew it was a bad one and that weight bearing and training with this ankle was not going to happen. It felt like all my months of training and running just slammed into a brick wall. Surely all my hard work to this point would evaporate!
Its so easy at this point to get annoyed and lose all motivation for exercise and fall into a cycle of chronic injury. Its a smooth little slide downhill. Its easy to opt out of any other type exercise out of frustration. Its easy to get annoyed with stretches, ice, mobility, and treatments etc . To be healthy and maintain or improve your physical condition takes work and the right mental state. Training takes physical effort but it also takes great mental effort and focus. Keeping the right ‘headspace’ through an injury is a significant part of the rehabilitation. No matter your level, your confidence, motivation and discipline to get better and do the rehabilitation it takes is the key.
I know from years of treating is that a lot of of the time the injuries that people have sustained are just a mere setback. A lot of people can make a complete recovery. Sometimes the recovery is short, other times its a long process. In every case there is a lot the patient can learn from the injury. The rehabilitation often brings them out the other side with a lot more knowledge. It’s this knowledge that only makes them train better.
So here are my top tips for sticking to your fitness goals when you have an injury. Follow these tips to get you back to your peak performance ASAP.
1. Seek professional advice ASAP
Seek professional advice ASAP. This is where you need to think and act like a professional athlete even if you’re a total beginner. All the professional athletes that I have treated seek professional advice straight away. They seek examination, treatment and advice as soon as they feel something is not right. They are 100% focused on their next race, session or event and can’t afford to let a minor thing become a major thing.
I can’t stress this one enough! This is where so many people go wrong and can turn what could be a minor problem into a much larger one. I’ve seen patients that have taken weeks or months to seek advice and treatment. Sometimes they have been ignoring the problem, hoping it would go away. Some people follow advice from people who are not experienced or trained to give it to them. And last but not least people following generic advice from Dr Google!
Without a proper physical examination, diagnosis and treatment patients can sometimes cause further damage. Patients can continue to do activities that they do not realise make their problem worse. This puts them at higher risk of chronic injury.
Having an experienced trained professional assess your individual case is important. Having a professional make a plan for your recovery is the key to getting pain free and back to training ASAP
You can download our free guide to Osteopathy for people who lift here
2. Find a health professional who ‘gets’ your problem and that you can work with
Not all health professionals are going to be the perfect fit for every person or every injury. Patients should consult health professionals who are expertly trained to deal with musculoskeletal injuries. Professionals who are trained to examine, diagnose and treat sports injuries. You need to find a health professional who can work with you. A professional who can tell you what you can do and not just all the things that are off limits until you are better. There are very few injuries that need complete rest for the entire body. There are often modifications that can be made to your training whilst you are are injured. Health professionals who work with your trainer can design you a personal rehabilitation plan. A professional examination and rehabilitation plan can give you the best chance of recovery.
3. Go for long term recovery vs quick fixes
Braces, taping a joint, anti-inflammatory drugs etc can all be valuable when used correctly. Self prescribed and used to get through your workout they could be doing you far more harm than good. Masking pain or falsely strengthening an area can a good short term fix. These methods should always be followed up with continued guidance from a health professional. Miss-using these things can often result in further tissue damage or weakness. This can then lead to a higher future injury risk.
I am surprised how many people spend a lot of money on massage hoping it will fix a sports injury. Having massage to a sore area may seem like a good idea. Without a proper examination or diagnosis, a massage could be doing more harm than good. If it hurts it must be doing something right?! Yes possibly making it worse!! Most massage therapists don’t have the necessary training to diagnose and treat sports injuries. Sometimes massage can be really useful. Professionals often have good massage therapists they refer to. They can communicate with the massage therapist on what is best for you.
4. Keep training.
If you don’t want to lose your motivation and momentum don’t stop!
With help from an Osteopath and a trainer you can often change your program to accomodate your injury. Continuing to train and increasing general blood flow may be actually be helpful.
Use this time to follow your prescribed rehab exercises and learn new exercises. Going back to basics and working on core muscles can reduce the chance of further injuries.
It sounds obvious but we see it a lot. Patients will pay for treatments, advice and personalised rehabilitation programs but then they don’t do it what is advised. Once your rehab is designed for you it will need to be reviewed over the rehab period. Your progress needs to be monitored so you can slowly return to your full pre injury training. If you apply the same level of dedication and determination to your rehab that you applied to your training the results will speak for themselves.
6. Control inflammation and encourage tissue recovery with diet, supplements and meds.
Food can be your medicine and your poison! Some foods can help keep inflammation in the body low whilst others can be counterproductive to tissue healing. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar can all be counterproductive. while high omega 3 diet can be very helpful in dealing with inflammation. Post work-out supplements, vitamins and mineral supplements can be useful. They can help to control inflammation and encourage tissue recovery and repair
7. Prevention is better than cure
Every injury can be an opportunity to check and improve your technique. Having somebody check your form can improve your training and preventing further injuries. As an Osteopathy we have an extensive knowledge of body biomechanics. We can help work out exactly where the weaknesses are in your techniques. We can look to find where and when you are most vulnerable to injury
There’s also nothing like an injury to remind you to work on your warm up or cool down
8. Keep the right headspace
Keeping your motivation and confidence is so important. Patients who follow most of the other tips I’ve already given you are usually more supported during their injury. Patients are far more likely to make a recovery and get back to where they left off in the best time frame as a result.
I always feel a large part of my management and treatment of training and sports injuries is helping to manage the patients expectations. Patients can easily become disappointed or frustrated through the rehabilitation process. Constant communication, re-evaluation and remaining active help them get the results they are after.
When you have an injury following these simple tips to help you keep your momentum, focus, motivation and get better!
Get your injury assessed and diagnosed and start the right rehabilitation program. Maintain all of your hard work and get back to your peak performance in the quickest and safest way possible.
My Big, Fat Disclaimer
There is no way I can know if this applies to you and your specific situation. How could I? I don’t know who you are … what your medical history is … what you do or how you use your body.
This post, therefore, is in NO WAY a substitute for thorough diagnosis and assessment by a qualified health professional.
If you’ve got pain then it’s my responsibility to recommend that you consult with a professional who is qualified to diagnose and treat pain … and someone, preferably, who knows and understands how you like to exercise and won’t just tell you to ‘stop it’ … especially when you might just be able to use it to get better.
Check out our article on the kings of exercises and what you need to know (part 1 – Squats and deadlifts) here
You might like to also check out our article on common training injuries and how to avoid them