When our founder injured her hamstring while running and became sidelined for months, she found herself frantically googling “how to manage the mental struggle of exercise injury.” Yep, that’s right. Not only do injuries set us back physically, they can also do a number on us mentally. When a person who is used to being physically active six days a week is relegated to, well, nothing, the struggle is real.
So how can you keep from going stir-crazy and even use the downtime to your advantage? Here are a few ideas to keep you sane until you can get back to your regular workout routine.
If you’ve already mastered the art of meditation, then you know the restorative power it can have on both your mind and body. If you’ve never practiced meditation, now is a great time to start. There are a number of apps that will help you find your Zen.
Open a Book
Resist the urge to sit and scroll your social feeds or surf the Internet all day. Instead, pick up a book. We have some suggestions.
Try Something New
Maybe you’ve wished you knew how to knit. Or speak French. Or cook Indian food. There are online classes and tutorials for just about everything. Just start googling to expand your world.
Clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen (everybody has one). Organize your pantry or your closet. Sort old photos into albums or scrapbooks. Completing small tasks can give you the sense of accomplishment you’re missing when you can’t run 5 miles.
Be Mindful About Moderation
It can be tempting to open a bag of chips and dive right in — especially when you’re bored. But when you are unable to workout due to an injury, your body is not burning the same amount of calories as when you are active, so pace yourself. Just because you’re sidelined doesn’t mean your diet has to go off track too. See all the above for ideas on keeping occupied.
Do What You Can
Depending on the type and extent of your injury, you may not have to quit exercising altogether. If you have a knee or leg injury, focus on upper-body strength training. If it’s an arm or shoulder setback, try walking or hiking. Pilates, yoga, swimming, and other exercises that don’t put stress on joints can also satisfy your itch to move. Just make sure you consult your doctor first on what is appropriate for your specific injury and follow the recommended recovery time.
Finally, and most importantly, be patient and allow your body the time it needs to heal. You will not lose all your muscle tone or gain a ton of weight by taking it easy for a couple of weeks. Pushing yourself before your body is ready can lead to more problems — and more time off from your routine. Give yourself permission to take it easy.
Bonny Osterhage is co-founder and small-group trainer at BodyArchitecture Personal Training and Fitness in San Antonio, Texas.