Recovering from an injury is just so unpleasant. First of all, you’re injured and probably in pain. Secondly, many of us who receive injuries have a hard time adjusting to this new fitness-less lifestyle while we are in recovery. All the benefits that us fitness junkies rely on to maintain physical and mental serenity are replaced with hours on the couch, forming a strong relationship with ibuprofen and a heating pad. So how do you keep your spirits up? What actually happens when you are forced to take a break? How do you battle with the mental side-effects of a sudden decrease in physical activity, like depression, anxiety, and, well, general apathy?
What happens when you stop working out?
I have been through this a few times. When injured, it is really in your best interest to just lay low, see a PT, and allow your body to repair itself. Because I’m stubborn and can’t imagine a life without fitness, whenever I have been injured I usually spend about three weeks ignoring the pain and working out through it. This is a frustrating, painful process with much cursing, crying, and general desperation. Why can’t I just do my workout!? Shortly there after, I break down. Time to sit on the couch with a bag of chips, and accept that my body simply cannot perform.
I am going to lose all the progress I made after all those years of hard work and training. I am gaining weight. I have all of this extra time/space in my head to dwell on these two things, plus so many others. The space in your head normally filled with the endorphins and routine of a fitness regimen is now replaced with…what? What do you do with all of this mental space and time? Personally, I dwell.
Will I ever get it back? What I never get back into it? What if I let myself go, lose control and my life spirals away from me? This is now dramatic. It sounds dramatic, but the benefits of fitness are actually powerful to keep anxiety and the occurring semi-apocalyptic nightmares at bay. When they are gone, it is easy to let them take over.
Keeping your spirits up when you are injured
Ok, so now the part we’ve been waiting for. There is no solution, you have to do it yourself. Not what you wanted to hear? Well, I’m sorry, but it’s true. There is no cure-all. You are injured and your body will simply not allow you to pursue the short-term goals you have set for yourself. Key word here is short-term goals. More often than not, this is a road block along the way to your ultimate, long-term goals. Injuries can take anywhere from a month to years. But how far have you come? If you have actually sustained an injury from your fitness routine, that implies you worked out hard enough to sustain the injury…this is not a good thing, obviously. However, this does suggest that you are not going to allow this bump in the road stop you from pursuing your long-term goals. Yes, you will lose muscle tone, you will gain weight giving the decrease in muscle mass and physical activity, you will feel frustrated. But you will get past it; this too shall pass.
Steps to staying sane
Understand that there is more to you than just your body and your fitness abilities.
This is a hard one. Many of us who entered into the world of fitness did so because we identify ourself with our physical appearance and ability. In fact, we are our bodies and fitness is what we do. This is such a slippery slope that so many battle with. Eating disorders, fitness obsession, over working your body, and frequently a combination of the latter. These are the things that lead to injury in the first place. We have become so obsessed with our physical presence that we forget to take care of our bodies. Take this time as an opportunity to develop more than just your physical self. In a way, you are forced to, unless you want to just not have an identity at all after being stripped of what you considered to be your purpose in life.
2. Accept that you are not in control.
Another reason for fitness mania is maintaining a sense of control. This is unhealthy, obviously. Our need for control over ourselves can manifest in self-harm, such as eating disorders and over working. A need for control over our lives can have more sinister forms of course, including being a workaholic, to actual abuse. If you are freaking out because you haven’t worked out in a month and you suspect the reason is lack of control, reflect on that for moment. After all, some things we can control but most things in this life we cannot. This is a good thing to just go ahead and accept. Might as well get it over with. Need proof? Think about your current couch-bound situation; can’t get any less in control than that.
3. Don’t lose sight of the light at the end.
No, you’re not dying. Injuries heal if you allow them to and to the right things, such as seeing a doctor and not working out. Remind yourself that you made it this far once, you can do it again. You will come out of this a stronger person and will not make the mistakes you made before. This is a lesson your body is giving you.
Once we develop a foundation it is much easier to get back to the level we were once at. This is just a fact. If you were injured at the very beginning of a fitness journey, that sucks and it will certainly take much more motivation to get back on the horse. But do so, and make sure you do it RIGHT this time. Regaining your muscle tone and strength takes hard work, but it took hard work in the first place. This is the reason you are a fit human, because you found some kind of joy in the process. You will just have to remind yourself why.