Fitness First: Take Your Time Bouncing Back

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell September 15, 2016 14:01

One day you’re trim and fit, powering through gym workouts, knocking off five-mile walks or biking for hours. The next, stricken by a bad knee or a pulled hamstring, you’re sidelined.

You miss exercise right away: As the days go by, you lose your edge. Weight creeps back on, muscles shrink. What’s worse, inertia builds. You lose the inclination to exercise or worry you’ll aggravate the injury that benched you in the first place.

So how to get back in the game? Patience is the key. Bouncing back from an injury is not as easy as simply resuming your regular workout.

First, listen to your body. Pain is its check-engine light, letting you know something isn’t right.

Soft-tissue injuries – inflammation of muscles, ligaments or tendons – are frequently caused by exercise. Do not ignore the pain or try to “run through it.” Ice the injured ankle, knee or elbow for 20 minutes three times a day, wrap it in an Ace bandage, keep it elevated, and rest.

If your pain persists or worsens after 48 hours, it might be time to see a doctor.

Do you have a strained muscle or ligament? Or is a tear or sprain the problem? Your physician can give you a diagnosis and recommend treatment. This may be more rest or could include stretching or exercises to work through the pain, sometimes with the help of a physical therapist.

It takes about six weeks to recover from a sprained ankle. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all during recovery, but overdoing it can delay healing. This also applies to tendonitis and muscle tears.

Coming back from your injury will not be easy: Regular exercisers enjoy their routines and get addicted to the endorphin rush. Watching your muscles atrophy and your endurance erode during recovery can play havoc on the psyche.

Then inertia can set in. Once addicted to the gym, bike or track, you may find that getting back to your old routine can be a monumental task. But persevere: Try a new class (and pay for it in advance to up the stakes), exercise with friends (who won’t let you off the hook) or record your workouts (thus increasing incentive).

Of course, avoiding injury in the first place could solve all these problems. Here are a few tips to do just that:

Warm up: Just 10 minutes of moderate activity and stretching (hold each for 15 seconds) gets blood flowing to the muscles before you ramp up the exercise.

Do exercises correctly: Do you include push-ups, squats, leg lifts or lunges in your workouts? Then there’s a chance you’re doing them wrong, leaving yourself open to injury. Ask a trainer at your gym or check out “incorrectly done exercises” on the internet.

Avoid overuse: Repeatedly exercising the same muscles in the same motions leaves you open to overuse injuries like tennis elbow. So give every muscle group a chance.

Cool down: Slow your activity and do a few long stretches as your heartbeat slows down.

Cross-train: Try mixing up your routine. Don’t just be a walker, cyclist or a weight lifter. Add other types of exercise for whole body fitness and fewer injuries.

Sonora resident Krista Howell teaches senior fitness and works with cardiac rehab patients.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell September 15, 2016 14:01
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