For professional or casual athletes who enjoy active physical exertion every day, time spent in recovery is often incredibly difficult. The first few days and possibly even weeks of ‘downtime’ after an injury mean leaving behind your normal workout routine, staying off the field or track and out of the gym. When the doctor has sent you home to recuperate, it’s important to actually rest the injury or you’ll only take longer to heal. But how do you fully relax when all you can think about is how much you want to get back in the game? We have ten useful tips to help you make the most of your recovery time without getting ‘out of shape’ in the meantime.
Your body needs a certain amount of sleep each night and healing increases that time because you are using more energy while at rest. The first chance you get, turn off the alarm clock and sleep yourself out. Sleep until you’re actually through being in bed and your body wants to get up. This time spent immobile will help you recover faster and give you a few extra enjoyable hours holding still without asking anything from the injury.
If you’re taking time off work to recover, try sleeping in the first two or three days you have available. Otherwise, consider going to bed early to give yourself extra time to sleep before work and take the next weekend for a long sleep. While sleep shouldn’t become your new hobby, a little extra is good for the recovery process.
While you’re lounging around the house or even at work if you have the space, find creative ways to elevate the injury. Rig up slings on random pieces of furniture or throw your arm or leg up over the back of the couch while you hang out. Prop the injury up on the backs of chairs, random furniture, and even on very tolerant pets and family. Make maintaining elevation a game in which you try to have a way to elevate at every place you stop in the house. This will make the act of nursing the injury more silly and less tedious.
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If you’re one of those people who always has a thousand unread or barely skimmed emails in their inbox, now is the time to get organized. While you’re at home not out exercising in your usual favorite way, take the time to get yourself organized. Dig up paperwork you need to take care of, sort your work files, and archive old emails in your inbox. This is a great time to check up on your various online accounts, do your taxes, or even catch up with family and friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. In other words, recovery time is an excellent excuse to take care of all those little clerical tasks you’ve been putting off in favor of your favorite physical activities.
Long Hot Bath
After the first few days of ice and compression, after the swelling goes down, heat becomes a better treatment than regular ice. While you’ve got a few hours in which you should be holding still, consider how rarely you take the luxury of a long, hot bath. Many people, though they own bathtubs, don’t even know where the plug is or if they have one. If you can’t find your plug, a small round Tupperware® over the opening will do the trick.
Run yourself a hot bath, measuring the temperature with your hand to make sure you’re not about to boil yourself. Epsom salts in the bath can be incredibly beneficial to healing while bath oils will make the whole experience smell delicious. Stay in the bath for at least half an hour, running extra hot water as needed to keep it hot. Consider taking a nap or reading carefully above the water to give yourself time to soak.
Another great way to hold still for a long time is a movie marathon. Best used over the weekend when you’re not at work and would usually be dedicating much of the next two days to your on your regular exercise routine. Stock up on all your favorite movie snacks, invite a friend over if you want to, and settle in for ten hours of your favorite kind of movie. Your movie streaming platform of choice should have plenty of low-rent movies in any genre whether you fancy bad horror films, old westerns, or endless crime dramas. The movie marathon is great for vegging out for a few hours but is also useful for cycling slowly between rest and stretching or mild recovery exercises.
Not every exercise takes the whole body and there are many ways to work out that won’t put undue stress on your injury. If your wrist is hurt, focus on lower body and core exercises that don’t require gripping or leaning on the injured hand. If it’s an ankle or knee, you can focus on arm, core, and even exercises with the other leg. Isolated exercising is a great way to keep yourself in shape and ready to work out while still allowing the injury itself to recover.
While you’re pacing around at home, try to find useful chores you can do from a mostly stationary position. You want activities that allow you to sit and sort as the vast majority of the physical effort. Organizing your close it a good place to start, as clothes are lightweight and judging them doesn’t take a lot of lifting. Sort out items you no longer wear, put away keepsakes that are taking up space, and designate a pile for ‘give-aways’ later on. When you’re done with the closet, consider sorting the cabinet under your kitchen sink, the stuff at the back of your linen closet, and easier to reach items in the garage.
Take a Swim
Swimming is one of the few exercise types that almost anyone with a standard sports injury can do, as long as you don’t push it. With the right brace and perhaps some advice from a doctor or physical therapist, you can float in a pool and carefully propel yourself around without stressing one injured limb. This is the perfect time to implement some creative elevation using a pool noodle to semi-immobilize and float the injury while the rest of you splashes around and has a great time.
Play with a Pet
Pets are ideal for recovery because they are usually willing to provide 99% of the physical activity for a good play session. You can have a great time with your pet while recovering from an injury simply by finding how they will play without you getting up. Dogs are easy as fetch is a game almost every dog understands perfectly. If your dog is particularly distractible, it can help to have a collection of fetch toys just in case. Cats, on the other hand, are perfect for recovery games as long as you have one of a few key toys. A feather stick is great for enticing cats to bat at or jump for a small bird-like object while a laser light pointer can send your kitty careening around the room while you laugh and toy with them from the couch.
Catch Up on Reading
Finally, when the closets are sorted and the pets are tired out, it may be the right moment to take a little quiet time for yourself. You can meditate if that’s your thing or, like many people, you can curl up with a good book. Most of us have a few books we’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t managed and recovery is a good time to get to them. Immerse yourself in interesting industry statistics, the fascinating tales of a historical life, or an exciting world of magic and sword fights depending on your literary tastes.
Recovery time may be a change from your normal routine, but it doesn’t have to bore you to tears. There are many ways to not only endure but truly enjoy time spent recovering from an injury. Take good care of yourself, spend a little time on personal improvement, and be ready to jump back into the game as soon as your doctor says it’s okay.