Expert Tips to Get Back to Exercise After Injury

April 21, 2021

Expert Tips to Get Back to Exercise After Injury

women running

Everyone wants to quickly bounce back after an injury and get back to activities you love. Yet successful recovery requires some planning and expert advice.

Here are some tips from experts.

Take Advantage of All the Expertise You Can

Most people who are recovering from injury work with their provider or orthopedic specialist to ensure they’re doing it right. Physical therapists, as well as athletic trainers, also can help you avoid setbacks in your recovery.

“Even if you’re not already working with a physical therapist, you can reach out to them without referral and get help,” said Christopher Marek, DPT, ATC, Manager, Therapy & Sports Medicine for the Avera Queen of Peace region. “We can work with your provider and decipher why you might be having pain or prevent the next injury from happening.”

The continuum of care – from specialist to primary care provider to therapist to trainer – can give you the expert guidance you need to start recovery and not stop until you’re doing thing you enjoy at 100%. That team of support can help overcome the biggest hurdles.

Listen to Your Body

The old adage of “no pain, no gain” is a myth, and one that can set you back in your recovery.

“Be in touch with how your body is responding to everything you do as you recover,” Marek said. “Our bodies compensate for injury, so someone recovering from a knee or a shoulder injury might feel pain elsewhere if they go too fast.”

If something hurts, it’s likely something’s wrong, Marek added. Making adaptations, adjusting approaches in terms of what exercises you do and how long you do them, can help. Which leads to his second key idea.

Take Your Time

While you’re listening, realize the recovery road is, like many things in life, a path of endurance, not a sprint.

“When you’re working with a professional, you can celebrate the small victories – you won’t return to full-speed activities right away,” Marek said. “Therapists can help you pace yourself and set the goals that will help you feel stronger, and steadier, on a timetable that fits your age, your goals and the extent of your injury.”

Guided recovery can help you avoid over-doing it, and in the process, help you clear the biggest hurdles that come from fear of re-injury or worries about not getting “back” to your past level of fitness. Those victories will come – in time.

Build Self-Confidence First, Then Work on Muscle

Starting slow, especially for older people who are recovering from an injury, make sense, in part because there’s some fear about re-injury. That fear – and the worries it can produce – are naturally the toughest part.

“It is truly more mental than anything, and that process of recovery can be scary,” Marek said. “You do need to make progress though, that’s also important. You can get back to doing the things you love doing, be it a sport or activity or running, biking – anything.”

Trainers and therapists, as well as providers, know you’ll face days where you don’t want to work on things, and days when you’re frustrated.

“Many people who love exercise miss the adrenaline rush that comes with a big game, long run or tough session, but recovery will take time – be patient and lean on your experts for help,” Marek said. “Use the tools they provide and the advice and tips the offer. Stick with it and progress will come.”

Feel Better Faster with the Right Fuel

Anna Heronimus, RD, LN, Avera Sports Dietitian with the Avera Human Performance Center, reminds anyone working toward recovery not to forget your fuel.

“The amino acid leucine is a key building block in the injury recovery process, and people should focus on getting enough at each meal,” Heronimus said. “It will help muscle recovery happen faster. Older patients also need to properly fuel themselves.”

Leucine is found in many foods including whey protein, dairy, lean meats and legumes.

Your primary provider is the best place to start if you need help after injury. You provider can refer you to the appropriate plan of care. You can also talk to a physical therapist about your recovery.