4 Quick Tips on Coming Back From Injury

Contributed by Coach Emily Conlon, RRCA

There are few things more frustrating for an athlete than being sidelined by an injury. Getting back out on the road or field after sitting out for weeks or months or longer, is like reaching the light at the end of a tunnel. It’s exciting and full of relief. But it’s important to come back smartly and progressively, or else you’ll likely be reinjured and back in that dark tunnel.

So how do you intelligently and safely return to your sport?

  • Acknowledge the Psychological Side – It can be hard to accept that, during your time off, you’ve lost some fitness. And when you’re clear to train again, you may be eager to pick up right where you left off, to assure yourself you are just as good as you used to be.  But the truth is, depending on the severity of the injury and time off, it’s going to take a while – and it should! Easing back into exercise after an extended break is essential to preventing future injury. Taking on 40% of your former training volume is a good way to start.  If you can maintain that volume at a low intensity for a week or two, continue to add on 10-20% until you’ve returned to your routine fully. Avoid high-intensity workouts (speed training or hills) until you are comfortably at your previous volume of training. Keep your ego in check and remind yourself that muscle memory is on your side. You will get back where you were, in time.
  • Continue to Rehab – Just because you can lace up your shoes again doesn’t mean you should retire from your physical therapy and injury maintenance routine. Sure, it lacks the thrill of biking down a canyon road or running a marathon, but continuing your prescribed exercises can help you stay injury-free and in the game while you build yourself back up.
  • Cross Train – For athletes who’ve suffered overuse injuries, there is great benefit in switching up the schedule and causing some positive muscle confusion. For runners, throw in a stair climbing workout to challenge your cardio. For cyclists, incorporate yoga once in a while to allow your hips and back some stretching that will counter the closed, curled position biking requires.  Swimmers can hit the pavement for a run or walk to take a break from taxing their shoulders.
  • Pay It Forward – Your compassion, not your injury. All athletes, at some point in their career, suffer injury. Even after you’re back on track, keep in mind what you went through, how you managed the lows and how you rebounded.  Share it with someone who is going through their own rehab. It can be encouraging for an injured athlete to hear from someone whose ‘been there’ and ‘survived’.

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