So, you’ve been injured, you rested, and now you want to get back into your exercise routine but don’t know where to start. There are many things to consider before jumping back into your exercise routine. Are you still having pain? If so, how intense? Does the pain cause you to limp or alter your form? Are you still having a lot of swelling? If you are still struggling with any of the above, consider resting, stretching, icing/elevating, and seeing your physical therapist until you can safely resume activity.
Additionally, think about how or why the injury occurred in the first place. Were you pushing too hard? Did you rest adequately in between routines to allow for tissue healing? Is there something off in your mechanics? It is important to figure out what contributed to the injury so that you do not make the same mistakes again. If you can’t figure it out on your own, seek out a physical therapist to help pinpoint the issue.
If your symptoms are by and large resolved, then consider the following tips to safely resume activity:
- Start with a gentle warm up routine such as a brisk walk, light jog, or cycling at a low intensity.
- Once your muscles are warmed up, take at least 5 minutes to stretch.
- Next, perform an abbreviated routine to assess your response. As a general guideline, you should start out at no greater than 50% of your pre-injury intensity. If at any point, you develop a significant increase in pain or if your form starts to falter, then stop the activity. Increase the intensity of your workouts by no more than 10-15% per week (assuming your symptoms remain at bay) until you are back to pre-injury levels.
- End your session with a cool down period consisting of light activity and stretching.
- Follow up with ice, elevation, and possibly NSAIDS (check with your physician if NSAIDS are appropriate for you).
Be aware that there is often a delay in when you may experience an increase in pain. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which can peak anywhere from 24-72 hours after the activity. It is okay to be a little sore after resuming activity, but a large increase in pain is counterproductive and could be causing more damage than good.
If you still want to be active on your “off” days, try cross-training. For example, if you are an avid runner but are suffering from intense shin-splints, then try swimming. You can still get a great cardio workout in while allowing your tissue to heal. Think creatively about all the things you can do to work towards your fitness goals during this recovery time.
To keep track of your progress, consider charting your return to activity on a calendar. Chart things like type of exercise, intensity of exercise, pain during and immediately following exercise, and post exercise routine. During “off” days, chart your symptoms daily as well as actions taken to alleviate symptoms. This will help you to determine how safely you can ramp up your activity!
Kelsey Goraczkowski, PT, DPT, Physical Therapist with MyCatholicDoctor
Editor: Samantha Wright, Director of Education and Online Resources with MyCatholicDoctor
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