If an injury has been keeping you out of the gym, you might be feeling lost right now. Your body is going through changes and it might seem like the fruit of all your hard labor is turning into thin air as you see your muscles getting smaller and smaller every day you spend recovering. However, the truth is that your muscles are not disappearing: they are still there, they are just shrinking. The good news is that you can turn this around, and here are a few tips on how.
Why are your muscles shrinking?
Due to the injury, you are likely taking a break from actively using your muscles as you usually do. Your body notices this change and naturally, it adapts to it. Since your body is always focused on using energy in the most efficient manner, it switches to “energy-saving” mode and reduces the resources spent on maintaining your muscles – you’re not using them anyway, right? Once you have successfully recovered from your injury, though, you will want to get back into shape as soon as possible. However, make sure you keep a few things in mind:
Take it slow
Those who have been consistently training for a long time might find it hard to cope with having to take a break. It’s not uncommon to get depressed during this time but the more you’re trying to speed up the process and start training too hard too early, the harder it will be to fully recover. So, while your first instinct might be to just ignore the pain and get back to the gym, you should do your best to take it slow instead.
How long it will take for you to get back to normal depends on both the seriousness of your injury and how much time you took off. For lighter injuries, it is generally said that it will take roughly the same amount of time to get back as you spent resting. However, more serious injuries naturally take longer. What you must remember is to keep the training intensity low and not to overestimate your limits during your recovery period. Start working out half as hard as you normally would and slowly raise the intensity week after week. You might feel empowered on your first gym session after the break but keep in mind that your body is still not on 100% and you don’t want to aggravate your injury or sustain a new one.
Your injury might require you to rest for a long time. However, even during this time, you should keep your muscles engaged to make it easier for you to get back to normal once you are allowed to. Naturally, your muscles stiffen up when you get injured, and this stiffness can persist if you don’t do something about it. Therefore, doing some stretches is recommended to loosen your muscles up. Stretching will also engage your muscles so you’re preventing muscle atrophy (or your muscles “wasting away”). However, you should consult with your doctor or therapist prior to creating your own stretching regimen.
Besides stretching, staying active even during your recovery period is something that will help you ease back more seamlessly. This does not mean working your body part that is injured. Rather, you should work on other parts of your body while protecting the one that needs some more time. Remember that working out, no matter what body part, ultimately benefits you, so find creative ways in which you can keep active. Taking walks or going swimming can be great ways to stay in motion without putting too much pressure on your injury.
Don’t be a rebel
Another very important thing to keep in mind is to listen to your body, as well as listen to the professionals around you. Even when you are not in the process of recovering from injury, paying attention to pain and stopping when it doesn’t feel right is extremely important, and even more so when you’re still not at your peak performance.
Moreover, you might feel like since this is your body, you know your limits best. But this time, you really have to listen to professional opinion. Your doctor, physical therapist and trainer have probably dealt with similar cases as yours countless times before, so they understand your capabilities at the moment better. So, even after your injury has technically healed, seeking out sport focus podiatry to ask for professional advice and additional treatment, if necessary, might be a good idea.
Give yourself time
Ultimately, what you have to do is give yourself some time. Injury happens to the best of us and there’s no shame in taking a step back from your usual workout regimen. Building your muscles back up is entirely possible, and for someone who had been training consistently before, it’s going to be much easier than for someone who is starting from zero. The more responsibly you approach this process, though, the more successful you’ll be able to get back into shape.