Why (and How) You Should Train During Injury Recovery

Why (and How) You Should Train During Injury RecoveryLast week, I wrote about why martial artists should do strength training. One of the reasons was injury prevention by surrounding your joints, spine, etc with muscle for support. It can also help by preventing a worse injury, as I discovered while training at the summer camp last weekend. One of my training partners accidentally pushed my locked shoulder beyond its range of motion while rolling out of the prone subject control position in which I was being held (the arm was supposed to slip out during the roll). Fortunately, the extra muscle support I had from strength training meant that it only caused a minor muscle pull rather than causing joint damage, for which I was relieved. I was still injured, nonetheless, so I had to carefully consider how to proceed.

The First 48 Hours

The first 48 hours are the most important for recovery. This is the period when you should be the most careful and attentive to its care. Heed all the usual recommendations for your injury, and avoid using the affected area altogether. In general, I would avoid most activity unless you’re absolutely sure there is no connection to the injury. Stationary biking, for example, isn’t likely to cause any issues for a wrist injury provided you’re not using the handlebars. But many martial arts techniques use the whole body, so it may not be worth taking a chance. That’s why I decided not to take part in any classes at the summer camp after I was injured. I still had to teach my own class on the second day, which I was relatively sure I could do carefully, but it wasn’t worth the risk to do much more than that.

The Psychology of Injury 

If you have an injury, of course, you should always seek out medical advice and follow it. From what I’ve seen though, many people tend to shy away from physical activity altogether when in recovery mode, even the ones recommended to them by their doctors. There are different reasons for this. One is that once a physical training habit is broken, it’s easy to fall out of training altogether. Another is that the person gets down on themselves and can’t bring themselves to do less than they’re used to doing. Whatever the reasons, it’s important to find the things you can do and keep doing them so that you don’t completely fall off the wagon.

Making Modifications during Injury Recovery

While it may take a little effort to figure out what you can do, it’s a good idea to make the effort so you can get back to your training patterns as soon as you’re able. Start with lower impact cardio or resistance training that make sense given your injury. You might even be able to handle some forms of martial arts training. Solo training is a good idea, or very controlled training with a trusted partner. Be sure to communicate your training limitations with your instructor and training partners and hold yourself to those limitations. Don’t be tempted to do something before you’re ready. As a general rule, it’s better to avoid high intensity live martial arts training activities like sparring and grappling while doing injury recovery training.

After my first 48 hours, I was able to manage doing a kicking workout at home without issue. The next day, I was able to do a HIIT cardio workout combining biking and burpees. I also did a little gentle solo weapon work, taking care when doing movements that involved shoulder activity. Today was my strength training day, and honestly, I was a little hesitant. My shoulder felt mostly fine, but still not back to 100%. I was tempted to just give it a miss for the week altogether, especially since I was going to be flying back to Ottawa to visit family in a couple of days, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would risk falling out of my strength training habit. Fortunately, I was able to still do my pull-ups and overhead presses, along with all the other exercises in my planned workout, though I chose to do so with a little less resistance than usual to be safe.

Confidence is the Reward

While it can be challenging to dust yourself off after an injury and get yourself back on track, it is worth the effort. It helps keep your confidence up during a time when it’s likely to take a dip. Even if you’re not operating at full capacity, the activity helps you maintain your training patterns, and makes you feel better about yourself overall, even if you have to push yourself a little get you moving. The resulting positivity helps you keep your injury recovery efforts up and in no time you’ll be back to normal.

Now over to you. Have you ever gone through the injury recovery process? Do you have any advice or additional comments based on your experience? If so, please feel free to share in the comments.


Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “Why (and How) You Should Train During Injury Recovery

  1. At the very least, show up and watch class. You can learn a lot from watching class. Sometimes I learn things from watching that I would not have learned otherwise. I can observe how different people execute the same technique, and what works (and doesn’t work) for each of them.

    1. That is very true! I try to encourage students to do that if they really can’t train. Watching is good practice when you can’t train.

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