Have you ever become injured or ill and your first reaction is to PANIC? Your mind probably tells you: “If you don’t maintain your regular fitness routine, you’ll get unfit, fat and lose all your muscle.” These kinds of thoughts can prevent you from giving yourself the break and relaxation time that you need and hence cause the injury/illness to last for so much longer. I’m here to tell you that these thoughts are wrong. Dealing with injuries and illnesses in a responsible manner is so important for both your mental and physical health.
The first and most important step is acceptance. When faced with an injury or illness, a lot of people can drop into a deep pit of depression and hopelessness. Exercise is a stress-reliever, detoxifier, confidence-builder and for most, a way of life. However, if you lead an active and busy lifestyle, setbacks are inevitable. We can’t be machines 100% of the time. Sometimes an injury or illness is our body’s way of telling us to slow down. Do not ignore the injury or illness. Accept it – “I’m injured/ill, and that’s ok”.
The next step is to sit back and look at the bigger picture. I’m sure you intend to be active for the rest of your life so a few weeks or months of rest and recovery is really not a big deal. If anything, taking time off will reignite your motivation to keep fit and help you come back to the gym with extra vigour.
The next thing you need to do is establish some new goals for your rest and recovery period. If you are anything like me, you train with passion, purpose and a goal. When a spanner is thrown into the works, you may feel like you have no direction anymore. This is certainly not true! Rather than feeling like you have no direction, use this time to focus on other aspects of your life and business. Catch up on work that is piling up in the office, do some of that stretching/foam rolling that your Personal Trainer is always nagging you about, read that book you’ve always wanted to read, catch up with friends that you never seem to have time for, watch a DVD or movie that you’ve never seen before, spend time doing something nice for yourself such as a massage or facial – there are endless options! Turn this negative situation into a positive one and use the injury/illness as a period of planned de-loading.
The final thing you need to do when faced with an injury or illness is learn how to maintain your health during the recovery period. It is important to keep eating a wholesome diet and adjust your caloric needs when your calorie expenditure is less. Don’t simply think “Well I can’t go to the gym so I might as well just splurge and get back on track later.” Keeping your body healthy and happy is vital throughout rest periods. Ensure you are eating an array of different coloured vegetables to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs for recovery. Ensure you also maintain an adequate protein intake from whole foods to assist the healing process. Warming foods such as broths and stews are also ideal in a period of recovery as they are easy to digest and allow more energy to be used on healing and repair processes. Finally, include as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible (e.g. oily fish, flaxseed oil, turmeric) to counteract any inflammation that may have occurred as a result of the injury/ilness.
Whether your injury/illness is minor or major, remember there is a solution for everything and IT WILL GET BETTER. You will be strong, fit and active again and you will live to train another day. Experiencing a setback in training can be extremely character building and will not only allow you to gain insight into your body’s needs, but it will also vastly enhance your mental strength. Listen to your body’s needs and it will reward you by getting through the rest and recovery period as quick as possible.