Injuries affect more than just our bodies. They affect our minds. From the moment you roll your ankle, every time you step out onto a dance floor, you can’t help but favor that ankle cautiously even if it’s completely healed.
Any doctors will tell you that, while physical therapy is very important, it’s even more important for you to put yourself through some mental therapy as well. Your mind controls what your body can do, so if you don’t believe in yourself, your physical recovery will go nowhere.
It can be scary to try and get back into your old workout habits after an injury. You’ll ask yourself questions like “Am I going to be able to do this still?” “What if I get hurt again?”
Don’t psych yourself out. There have been plenty of athletes, professional and amature, that have come back from serious injuries to be even better than they were before. Here are a few tips to get you through this period and on your way to working out again.
One thing that no one really expects after an injury is the feeling of depression that inevitably follows. You just aren’t physically capable of doing the things you used to do, and that hurts. Your mind and body used to have the same goals and now they’re conflicted.
Those aren’t easy feelings to deal with, and these feelings make it hard to get yourself to a fitness class.
After you consult your doctor and plan a physical therapy routine, you have to find a way to inspire yourself to achieve your recovery goals. A great way to do that is to look for examples of people that have had similar injuries to yours and see where they are now.
One inspiring story is the recovery of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. In 2011, Peterson suffered a torn ACL in his knee, which for a running back, usually means your career is over. Peterson chose not to see it that way. He remained positive, pushed his body to the limit, and set a goal to come back better than he was before he got hurt.
Because of his hard work and positive attitude, he not only came back the following season, but he led the NFL in rushing, came within 9 yards of breaking the single season rushing record (rushing for 2,097 yards) and was named the 2012 Offensive MVP.
The point is, find yourself some inspiration. Whether it’s the example of an athlete, encouragement from family and friends or the inspirational quotes all over Pinterest, you need to find a way to put some positive thoughts in your head so that your mind can let your body recover.
Listen to medical professionals
When I say listen, I don’t mean just letting your doctor’s advice go in one ear and out the other, nor do I mean taking that same advice and throwing it out the window because you think you know better.
Believe it or not, your doctor and physical therapist actually know what they are doing. Odds are they’ve seen countless injuries just like yours. They’ve spent their entire careers helping people recover from those injuries. So if your therapist tells you to do some exercises at home, do the exercises.
Following a structured therapy routine is not only good for your physical recovery, it helps you develop mental discipline. If you strictly follow your therapy routine without fail, you’re laying the mental framework to be able to follow a workout routine without fail as well.
While it’s important to push the limits of your mental discipline, it’s even more important to know what you’re boundaries are. If your therapist insists that you do two weeks of stretching before you start working with weights, don’t just do a few days of stretching and then move right to weights because you think you’re ready.
Remember, your body still needs to physically recover. Even though you may be excited to get back into shape, pace yourself and listen to the professional advice of your therapist or doctor.
Pain is more than a symptom
Speaking of being aware of your physical boundaries, your body has this particularly cool ability to notify you when an activity is getting too strenuous. It’s called pain. Pain, unfairly, has a bad reputation.
Think of pain as the subconscious voice of your body. Pain tells you exactly where an injury has taken place, what kind of injury you’ve sustained and it can tell you how bad the injury is. There’s a reason why doctors ask you questions like “Where does it hurt?” or “Can you describe the type of pain?”
Pain doesn’t lie, and describing it to your doctor/therapist will give them a more clear picture of how they can help you recover. During your recovery process, your body will communicate with you about your limits via pain. If you’re pushing just a little too hard, your body will say “OK, send her a jolt of pain to let her know to lighten up a little.”
Listen to your body. You’ll know the difference between the muscle soreness you get from working out and injury pain. If you start to experience injury pain during your recovery, stop and consult your doctor or therapist. The last thing you want to do during injury recovery is get injured even more.
While we can’t guarantee that your recovery process will be flawless, what we can guarantee is that you can do it. Think about all the things you’ve gone through in your life. Relationships, school, work, family. You’ve survived. You’re alive. Because you’ve made it through your personal trials to be here now, you should have confidence in yourself that you can overcome this injury.
So relax. Take a deep breathe, and start your journey toward recovery. If you think of your recovery process as an opportunity to become better than you were before, you’ll gain the power you need to overcome any trial you may face in the future.