I hate being injured.
It can keep me from doing things I really love to do.
- Working out
- Playing outside
- Practicing my dance moves (I’ve said too much)
- Sometimes it even affects my work and mood.
My goal when I get injured is to first figure out why and how I got injured. Then discover what preventive measures I can take to decrease the risk of that specific injury or other injuries in the future.
Then I like to come up with a plan that will help me recover faster so that I can get back to practicing those sick dance moves as soon as possible.
I’ve got a motto, “It’s hard to live a LimitlessLIFE if you can’t get out of bed.”
If you’re injured or sick it’s going to be very hard to become the fittest, awesomest, and most limitless version of yourself.
So today you and I are talking about the simple ways you can prevent, treat, eat, and move to get over injuries fast.
Lets do this!
UNDERSTANDING TWO MAJOR TYPES OF INJURIES
It’s important to know what’s going on in your body when you get injured so that you can treat it in the best ways possible.
There are two major types of injuries:
SOFT TISSUE INJURIES
Are injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your body. Think of sprains and strains like a pulled hamstrings, stiff neck, or twisted ankle.
These are injuries to your bones (pretty obvious I guess). Think of breaks, fractures, or micro cracks to them. A broken arm is a great example of this.
When you injure soft tissue your body will undergo through a series of stages to help heal and recover.
THE REPAIR STAGE
The best way to characterize this stage of injury is inflammation. When you have an injury to soft tissue blood flow and oxygen to the area will end up being restricted.
You’ll know when inflammation is happening because you’ll experience heat, pain, swelling, and redness at the point of injury and possibly to surrounding areas as well.
Although super uncomfortable inflammation is actually super important to your recovery process. Soft tissue injuries cause cells within and surrounding the area to die. Inflammation is needed to help clear out those dead cells.
This stage usually lasts 1 to 4 days depending on the severity of the injury.
When you first get injured you won’t want to eliminate inflammation. Instead, let it do its job.
THE FIX IT STAGE
This stage of the injury recovery process is when oxygen, nutrient, and blood flow to the injured and surrounding area is almost completely restored.
You may still experience some discomfort but most of the pain has probably subsided, swelling is starting to diminish, and the area is probably not as red or warm.
At this time it’s important to protect the area but not to entirely baby it (more on this in a bit).
This stage can last anywhere from a week to 6 weeks and sometimes even longer depending on the severity of the injury.
REBUILD AND RENEW STAGE
During this stage our body is laying down new scar tissue within the injured area. This new tissue will not be as strong as the old tissue so it’s still important to keep the area protected.
During this time you can often feel tightness, weakness, and lack of mobility and/or flexibility.
Your body is super smart. During this time it will be exerting a ton of energy to get you back to normal. And to repairing that area to get it back to where it was before the injury.
This stage usually lasts 6 weeks to a year. Again, depending not he severity of the injury.
There’s a good chance that your body will be trying to repair itself for some time after it is injured. It’s important to monitor that area even up to a year or two to avoid having chronic injuries in the future.
Injuries to bone undergo a similar process for recovery.
When you injure a bone bleeding from that area will result in swelling, discomfort, heat, and pain. After a week weeks you my notice some stiffness and weakness in that area as new bone growth is occurring.
The entire healing process for bones can take years depending on the severity of the injury. Also, injuries to large bones like the femur may take longer to heal than to small ones like the pinky finger or forearm.
HOW TO RECOVER FASTER
To get your injury recovery game on point you can break it down into a few areas to focus on. Yay for fast recovery!
STEP 1: WHAT YOU SHOULD DO AFTER AN INJURY
Avoid getting a case of “selfisdiagnosis”. This is a common disease that affects many. It’s classified as getting hurt or sick and using your own expert opinion to determine what’s going on with you.
It usually includes a 2 minute evaluation of yourself, frequent stops to webmd.com (a great site actually), and refusal to take anyone else’s opinion into consideration. #imsoguiltyofthis
If the injury is severe or causing you a lot of pain and discomfort, seek out a good opinion through a professional like a physical therapist, chiropractor, or sports specialist. After that, get a good second opinion.
Note: To all guys out there. This is your permission slip to ask for help 🙂 It’s ok to do that every once in a while.
Asses how you got injured in the first place. Was it because you weren’t paying attention, a freak accident, poor form, were you being to aggressive, trying to do too much for where your now at physically?
If you know why you got hurt you can help to avoid it in the future.
STEP 2: GET YOUR MENTAL GAME RIGHT
Part 1 – Accept the damn injury
Getting injured sucks! Flat out it’s just not fun. I don’t know anyone out there that looks forward to it and if that’s you – you’re totally weird 🙂
A few years ago I started playing in a pick-up basketball league with some of my boys. I was really looking forward to it. Being able to be active, connect with my buddies, and be competitive are some important virtues of mine (and probably some of yours as well).
A couple of days after our first game a bunch of us decided to play a pick-up game at a local park. Long story short, about 10 minutes in I rolled an ankle and was under some pain that I like to equate to male child-birth (yes, I’m overreacting but it hurt like shit!).
Needless to say I was in a boot and was going to be out of commission for 6 to 8 weeks.
I wasn’t suppose to workout (more on that in a bit), play hoops, or take part in any strenuous activity. I don’t own a car so it made riding my motorcycle extremely difficult, just trying to get up and down the stairs was not fun.
During this time it’s easy to get depressed, anxious, and restless.
Accepting the injury and that you may be limited is an important step in the recovery process. Also, practicing gratitude, a habit of some of the happiest people on earth is also of importance.
I remember journaling and giving thanks that I didn’t hurt it worse, that I didn’t pull someone down with me and injure them, and that I had some finances to help me pay for the medical expenses (YIKES!).
Part 2 – Set Realistic Expectations Around The Injury
Next, set realistic expectations about the recovery process. If you’re told that it may take 6 to 8 weeks to heal (or longer) accept that it may take that long.
When I injured my ankle I made it a goal not to heal faster but to heal better and come back stronger than before. This kept me from trying to rush things and from getting frustrated if I was not able to heal “in time.”
I wasn’t as so concerned about how fast I healed but instead with how well I healed. This was something I had control over. I got to choose how hard I worked during the recovery process and rehab, I got to choose to do small exercises on my own to help keep it mobile and strong, I got to choose to come back better than before.
Nietzsche said it best, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
A very important part of the mental game to recovery is to only compare you with you. Just because someone else healed faster doesn’t mean you should too.
- Are you getting better everyday?
- Are you putting in the work and doing the things you need to do everyday?
We are unique people and time tables for things like this will differ greatly.
STEP 3: EAT RIGHT WHILE INJURED
When you’re injured eating right is super important. Your energy needs will increase as your body is trying to heal itself. Depending on the severity of the injury you could need between 10 and 50% more calories per day. Under-eating during this time could slow down recovery and increase the risk of future injuries.
Because you most likely will not be as active during this time choosing your calories from the right sources will be important.
Protein will be important to help muscles repair – 1 to 2 grams per pound of lean body mass should do the trick.
For example: A 180 pound man with 10% body fat has 18 pounds of fat. This means that his lean body mass is 162 pounds. 162 gram of protein per day should help with the recovery process.
If you’re not sure of your body fat percentage or how much lean mass you have don’t stress too much. If you eat 3 to 4 meals per day that include a palm sized portion of protein for women and 2 palmed size portions of protein for men you should easily take care of these needs.
Because you most likely will not be as active during this time your body will not need as many carbohydrates for energy, exercise, and other physically demanding activities.
By including 2 fists of veggies with each meal and 1 fist sized servings of low sugar berries you should be able to supply yourself with enough carbohydrate and necessary vitamins and minerals to help with energy and recovery.
Don’t skimp on the healthy fats. Olive oil, avocado, fish oil, and fatty fish like salmon will help with inflammation and supply important building blocks for regeneration and recuperation.
1 to 2 thumb sized servings per meal (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) should be enough. If you are a bigger guy or girl or are very lean then you may need a bit more than that.
STEP 4: TREAT YO SELF RIGHT. SUPPLEMENTS AND REST
In the words of Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec, “Treat. Yo. Self.” Treat Yo Self!
Once you’ve add an injury you have to treat it correctly.
The first part of this is taking care of yourself during the inflammation period. If you remember, inflammation is actually an important part of the healing process.
Wait at least a few hours before using the Ice, heat, and elevation method. Once you do start this process keep it up 3 to 4 times throughout the day for about a week.
When you feel comfortable begin light stretching once or twice per day. I like early in the morning and again in the evening before bed.
48 to 72 hours after the injury supplementing with extra Omega-3 fatty acids and slightly decreasing Omega-6 fatty acids will help to reduce extra inflammation.
Include the following:
- Fish Oil (5 to 10 grams per day)
- Wild caught salmon
- Olive oil
- Grass-fed Meats
Note: Fish oil can interfere with blood clotting so if you are having surgery it may be in your best interest to stay away from it.
Reduce the following:
- Industrial seed oils (see this chart)
- Most nuts
- Grain-Fed Meats
Other supplements that will help with excess inflammation include and help to support the immune system:
- Tumeric (400 to 600 mg per day)
- Garlic (2 grams or about 1 clove)
- Flavanoids (blueberries, curry, and cocoa)
Other important vitamins and minerals to include:
- Vitamin A (5 to 10 i/u per day): To help with inflammation
- Vitamin C (1 to 2 grams per day): To help with immune system support
- Copper (2 to 4 mg per day): To help with red blood cells
- Zinc (15-30mg per day): To help with wound healing
- Iron: If you are deficient will help support oxygen delivery to injured areas.
STEP 5: DON’T BE A COUCH POTATO
There will be some injuries that require you to take it easy and may keep you from most movements but if your body allows for it try to stay active while you’re recovering.
By staying active during the recovery process you’ll be able to maintain most of your strength, body composition, mobility, and flexibility. Plus, it’s great for your mood and mindset.
Just do what you can.
You may have to get creative and try some things out but enjoy the process, it’s actually kind of fun seeing what you can do.
When I was in a boot I wasn’t able to back squat, do any lunges, run, and a host of other exercises I really enjoyed. But I could ride the bike, walk on a treadmill, do body weight squats, and could still do upper body exercises.
Are you able to still do certain exercises and work around that injury? Can you spend a little more time stretching or on mobility?
This is a great time to try to get better at other stuff.
- Can’t Crossfit? Try yoga
- Bum ankle? Work on your handstand
- Shoulder got you down? How about practicing your pistols
STEP 6: CIRCLE BACK TO NUTRITION. IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO THIS.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know we already talked about nutrition but I want to stress the importance of it.
If your injury has you away from the gym for a while this is a great time to get your nutrition game on point. You may not control whether you can work out but you always have a choice as to what you’re going to be eating.
- Are you eating a source of protein with each meal?
- Are you getting a serving of veggies with each meal?
- Are you taking in a healthy fat?
- Are you swapping any grains and starchy carbs with veggies or low sugar fruits like berries?
Use these free resources as a way to help you practice some the most important healthy nutrition habits.
Don’t throw in the towel completely if you can’t get to the gym. Bring your “A” game to the nutrition table.
Even Superhero’s get hurt – You are not invincible and whether you just started training or have worked out for years the odds are you’ve been injured or eventually will be.
Use this article as a resource to help get your mind, body, and spirit to be in the best place to help you through it.
If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this.
Know your training age and act accordingly. If you haven’t exercised in years, don’t try and run a 5K tomorrow. Start slow and build up to it. This is the best way to make sure that you stay injury free, healthy, and are able to stay consistent as you move towards your health and fitness goals.
I want to leave you all with a few resources for staying fit while hurt and to help you stay injury free in the future.
Low back injuries: Be careful of any heavy loading. Back squats, deadliest, and overhead presses will most likely put too much pressure on it. Try some of these lower body mobility exercises from K-Starr.
Knee Injuries: These are usually caused by overuse/overtraining. Too much long distance running is a great example but also jumping and biking can give you problems. Try kettle bell swings as a great way to exercise without putting too much strain on the knee-joint.
Ankle Injuries: Stick mostly with upper body movements but when you feel comfortable begin biking, walking at an incline, and doing body weight lower body exercises
Shoulder Injuries: Be very careful with these. Because they are a ball and socket body part it is very easy for them to get messed up. This makes them extremely fragile. Again, try some of these shoulder mobility exercises from K-Starr as a way to create a healthy shoulder joint.
Some great books and websites include:
- Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain
- Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
- Strength Running
Any strategies you’ve had success with to avoid injuries or overcome them? Post to the comments below and lets talk it out.